1. #1
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    Default Bachelor's deg worth time and money?

    I have just recently decided to try and persue firefighting as a career. I am currently struggling through my second term as a junior at Portland State University majoring in Physics. My question is, how much will it help having a Bachelors in physics? Would it be much better for me to have an associate's degree in fire science? The school I'm at now doesn't have any fire science courses, so I was thinking of going to a community college with a fire science program instead. No matter what I do, I plan on volunteering right away, and testing. How much training can you usually get as a volunteer?

    thanks in advance,

    Mike

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    Havinga BA is very important, if you can get it, get it! Me personally I would stay away from the fire science degrees, I always see guys on here getting the fire science degrees in order to become firefighters. All I want to do is be a firefighter but I am not majoring in fire science. I am majoring in something else so that if I decide to retire early or god forbid I get hurt on the job I have something else to fall back on, example an accounting degree or a history degree to go teach. That is just MHO but whatever you do, GET A DEGREE!!

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    I recommend that you stay and finish your degree. One, it shows that you're able to start what you finish. And, two, you'll have a B.S.

    When your oral board narrows it down to you, who has a degree, and another candidate who does not, they'll go with you.

    And, plus, a degree in physics can actually be beneficial in the fire service. Not to mention some departments give pay bonuses for having a degree.

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    I have my BA and it was well worth the wait. You should only have about a year and a half until your done with your degree. It might hurt your career if they see that you could not complete your degree. It could raise a flag with them and they might wonder if you will stick with them. Some departments also give preference points for degrees and my department requires a minimum of 60 hrs of college. You can start testing now for practice and it's possible you could test today for a dept. and not get hired there for about 2 years. My advice is get your degree done, you'll always have it then.

  5. #5
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    Default My 2 cents

    Some departments also give preference points for degrees
    I'm not aware of any department who gives preference points for entry level???
    And, plus, a degree in physics can actually be beneficial in the fire service. Not to mention some departments give pay bonuses for having a degree.
    How can this help you as a to get the job? How do you even begin to relate a degree like physics, Romance Languages, Art, Philosophy, Economics, etc. to the fire service? Yes, some department have incentive pay, but you have to have a couple of years in to qualify.
    I would stay away from the fire science degrees . . . accounting degree or a history degree
    Interesting. How do you plan on relating these degrees to the oral board panel to convince them to give you the job over those who have their fire science degrees?
    When your oral board narrows it down to you, who has a degree, and another candidate who does not, they'll go with you.
    This may happen somewhere, but it has not been our experience. The oral board members might not have a degree either. Maybe you can tell us who and where?

    Don't get me wrong. I believe in education. There are going to be those who will hammer that you should stay in school to get this job. That, if you don't you won't come back later get your degree. While a lot of people do. I did. Do those advanced degrees really help you on entry level? They're not required to take the test are they? They can really come into play as you promote up the ranks.

    But the real bottom line here is your goal to be a firefighter? Where are you going to get the most bang for your buck? We have enough chiefs. We need more indians.

    Iíve coached several candidates who have had B.S./BA degrees in Public Administration areas. They have been misguided by counselors that said this would be an asset to get into the fire service. What ends up happening is these candidates show up at an entry-level oral board boasting to the board with their degree. What they donít understand is not many on the other side of the oral board table have this degree. And most of these candidates will never have a chance to use it in the fire service. Can you get hired going the education route? Sure. It happens all the time. Many of our non-medic candidates have been hired across the country.

    An associate sent me this information from a fire officer who instructs Fire Protection and Fire Management programs at California State University Los Angeles. With the subject of wanna-bees desiring to get their BA/BS degrees confirmed what you and I already know about candidates in interviews showing up with BA/BS degrees. And that is they get either laughed out of the room or the interview panel becomes resentful and down goes the interview score! DUH!

    This from a SF candidate: I'm currently on the SFFD H-2 list "4th Generation hopefully SFFD"! I'm also a volunteer firefighter/EMT. My volunteer Fire department requires Paramedic certifications for entry-level firefighters. After graduating from a four year university... I had an administration internship with my volunteer department where I wrote and designed the District's Master Plan and preformed statistical analysis for "time respond" for Fire suppression and medical calls. I also went on ride alongs with the engine, truck and even with the chief himself. I was told by the chief if I went out to get my paramedic license... I would be hired on the spot. Becoming a paramedic is not my cup of tea... it's been beaten in my head as a child "from my grandfather and father" to be a firefighter not a medic... ! All of the paid firefighters like my work ethic and all say they should let me in as a Firefighter/EMT.

    My reply: With all due respect to your family members, the playing field has changed. It must be killing you to see these guys hired and it's not you. Like it or not, understand that 75%+ of calls are medical in nature. Eighty percent of the job offerings are for fire medics. Had you gone to medic school as I encourage candidates to do, gained the valuable in service medic street time, you wouldn't be trying to fight your way into a department as an EMT. You would be wearing the H-3 badge for SFFD (I'm 3rd generation San Franciscan myself) or another department.

    John came in for a coaching session after not being able to pass any oral boards. He was one of those candidates who I think was misguided into a Public Administration Degree. During his coaching, he kept trying to come back to his degree. I finally told him, "Screw you! You want to come into my oral board and try to hammer me with a degree you may never use?" Youíre applying for a snotty nose rookie position as a firefighter!" John dropped his head and said, "Maybe thatís why I canít get through any orals."
    John ended up going to paramedic school (which he should have already done instead of the B/A degree). Although he mentioned the B/A degree in his oral board answer "What have you done to prepare for this position" he focused on his personal life and paramedic experience. He got his badge!

    I believe in education. If you want to get a Public Administration, Engineering or any other degree as a career track, great. Donít think it will be the key to get into the fire service. It could hurt you.

    I look for the shortest distance to the badge. If I were starting out, I would run to paramedic school. It looks like Pennsylvania College of Technology could accomplish the goal and you would be near home.

    Yes, you can get on without it. I have candidates all the time who get a badge without being a medic. But for the time spent and with more than 80% of job offerings being fire/medic, the odds are better.

    Many departments have educational incentive programs where they will pay you to go to school. I took advantage of this program and received an additional 5% pay. This 5% was included in my retirement.

    From another candidate:

    With all due respect to all that was said, speaking as a volunteer firefighter who has a 4 year degree, I would say that getting your BA or BS for a firefighter job is not a good way to go. I got my BS, and $100,000 later, I'm hoping to work in a job that requires only a technical certification that costs $250. and having the BS with out the tech cert makes me pretty much unhirable.

    Get your paramedic. get your FF1 and FF2. get your hazmat tech. those are what is going to make you valuable to a company. A 4 year degree is worthwhile, but only if you use it. most departments aren't requiring them. some departments will even pay for you to attend college courses. yes, it helps if you want to become an officer or a chief officer. but your going for entry level. your going to have to pass the physical, pass the psych test, pass the written, and pass the oral board.

    Focus on your goal and don't let anything get in your way until you get it.



    "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

    Fire "Captain Bob" Author, Becoming A Firefighter
    http://eatstress.com/firefighterbook.htm

    www.eatstress.com

    888-238-3959
    Last edited by CaptBob; 01-10-2005 at 08:57 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Bachelor's deg worth time and money?

    Mike, you are asking three different questions with your post.

    Originally posted by fight4life
    I am currently struggling through my second term as a junior at Portland State University majoring in Physics.
    It sounds like you are having a tough time completing a hard science major - 95 semester hours in physics, chemistry, math and computer science.

    Is becoming a firefighter a way to get out from under your parent's expectation for you to be a scientist or physician? (You are NOT required to answer this - just a question I would ask if we were face-to-face.)

    Originally posted by fight4life
    My question is, how much will it help having a Bachelors in physics? ... Would it be much better for me to have an associate's degree in fire science?
    Not much at all. I am going to agree with Captain Bob - take the shortest path to becoming a firefighter. Understand the hiring process, determine where you want to work and start submitting applications. MOST (but not all) fire science asssociate degrees are more valuable AFTER you are on the job.

    Originally posted by fight4life
    How much training can you usually get as a volunteer?
    Depends on the jurisdiction. Please remember that, for most career departments, your volunteer training and experience are not that highly valued in the pre-employment evaluation.

    This is not a slam on volunteers - just that municipal firefighters recieve certification training AFTER they hired. Volunteering does provide you with an understanding of what the firefighter job entails.

    HOWEVER, if I was the parent paying for college I would prefer that you finish your bachelor degree before becoming a firefighter.

    You appear to be within three semesters to your bachelor degree. You have probably completed all/most of the General Education Requirements. The firefighter hiring process can take a long time.

    My suggestion is that you change your major, maybe keep Physics as a minor, and select a program that provides the quickest way to a PSU bachelor's degree.
    But I am biased -

    Earlier FH thread with same issue: http://cms.firehouse.com/forums2/sho...threadid=63283

    Mike

    Michael J. Ward, MGA, MIFireE
    Assistant Professor

    EMS Leadership/Management
    The George Washington University
    http://www.gwumc.edu/ems/ward.html

    Fire Science Program Head
    Northern Virginia Community College
    http://www.nvcc.edu/home/mward/
    Last edited by MikeWard; 01-10-2005 at 09:38 PM.

  7. #7
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    I agree with Capt. Bob. Education is a good thing to have no matter what; but is it the shortest route to a badge? I did exactly what you are thinking of doing. I received an AS. degree in Fire Protection. I would highlyrecomend this degree, a lot of the guys I went to school with are on the job now, but there are pleanty that are still trying to get a badge. After college I went to Paramedic school. Most everyone that was in our paramedic class,that wanted a fire department job,either has one now or is at the top of hiring lists. You want to also prepare for each step of the hiring process. The written and physical are usualy pass/fail. The interview is where the rubber meets the road and will decide badge or no badge. Good luck to you. This is the best job in the world, if this is the job for you.
    Shawn Clark
    Firefighter/Paramedic
    Tulsa Fire Dept. E-23 "C Platoon"
    I.A.F.F. Local 176
    Tulsa, OK

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    Default Re: My 2 cents

    Originally posted by CaptBob
    How can this help you as a to get the job? How do you even begin to relate a degree like physics, Romance Languages, Art, Philosophy, Economics, etc. to the fire service? Yes, some department have incentive pay, but you have to have a couple of years in to qualify.
    What you earn your degree in is not the point. The point is that you have the discipline to study, set priorities, and budget your time. Physics involves a lot of math. The fire service also requires you to know math. Water pressures, hose calculations, etc.

    And, just for the record, LA City Fire gives you bonus pay starting with your first day at the tower for having a degree, to name one department.

    Interesting. How do you plan on relating these degrees to the oral board panel to convince them to give you the job over those who have their fire science degrees?
    Easy. Earning a degree requires you to work with and cooperate with others, just like you do in the fire service. It requires you to work on and complete projects, just like you do in the fire service. And, it requires you do study and/or train, just like you do in the fire service.

    This may happen somewhere, but it has not been our experience. The oral board members might not have a degree either. Maybe you can tell us who and where?
    Not everything you do in your life has to be fire related. I've spoken to several captains and BC's who said they like to see diversity in candidates. What if you hurt yourself? What do you have to fall back on if all you know is fire?

    Fight4life, you are one year away from finishing. You might as well finish. It usually takes longer than a year to get on with a department anyway.

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    Default Which Path?

    I believe once youíre hired, you quickly forget how hard it is to get this job. Itís a whole lot different on the outside looking in. Yes, education is great, with all the reasons above and more, especially if your planning on promoting up the ranks. But where are you going to get the most bang for your buck to put you in the best position to get that fire job first? The vast majority of candidates we see get hired do not have an advanced degree!

    For sure an EMT and academy under your belt will put you in position because many departments want an EMT because it will make the academy shorter. Having the hands on skills of going through an academy will be a great asset in preparing you to complete the in service academy. Becoming a paramedic will increase the number of tests you can take.

    But if you havenít already noticed there is an army out there with degrees, academies, certificates and every merit badge you can think of. Even with all their shinning diplomas they can end up beating their heads against the wall trying to figure out why they canít score high enough, especially when they see otherís with less credentials be successful, to get to a chiefís oral and be in position to acquire a badge. I believe candidates should discover early if they can put the necessary interview skills together to pass an oral board or no matter what your credentials, you will never, ever see a badge.

    As Steve Prziborowski, Fire Captain - Santa Clara County Fire Department wrote:

    Do what you have to do be more marketable so you can take more tests and have something more to offer a department, but remember that it all comes down to that 15 to 30 minute oral interview. I've seen some awesome candidates with resumes packed full of accomplishments that couldn't sell them self in an interview to even make the top 50%.

    My wife encouraged me when I didnít think I could go to college. Working a regular job with a young family, evenings were the only option then. Once hired on my fire job, I received educational incentive pay to continue. Since I had met most of the requirements for a degree, I added on the fire classes to obtain one of the first degrees in our department. Once I obtained my degree I was able to lock into a 2Ĺ % pay increase. Obtaining 5 units a year increased it to 5% that carried over into my retirement. The department paid me to go. We had a number of officers get advanced degrees through what we referred to as quickie buy a degree programs. They locked in at 7Ĺ %

    Hereís what Iím talking about:

    Are you Prepared?

    Two friends, Dave and Scott were volunteers in their city. Dave had been convinced that he needed to get a degree in order to be hired. Scott told him to stay, become a medic and they would get on. Dave went off for six years, got his BA degree in business and still couldnít get hired. Scott became a medic and was hired by his volunteer department. He now has 6 years seniority, made more than $100,000 each year with OT ($140,000 last year---thatís real money) and enjoys the good life, more toys than you could imagine and has traveled everywhere.

    Guess what? Dave finally figured out he needed to become a medic (yes, he enjoys the medic side) to get hired. He just got hired. Where you ask? The department he was a volunteer for. But he had to figure something else out first.
    Daveís dad is one of the guys I work out with at the gym with. Dave had been trying to get a fire job. He has all the usual credentials. Firefighter 1, BA degree, 3 seasons with CDF, rode ambulance yada, yada, yada.

    He has been testing for over 6 years. His dad gave him a coaching session just prior to his oral for his dream department. Dave had been practicing with a tape recorder. During the coaching session, Dave expressed his burning desire, passion, ďmy life won't be complete until I get a badgeĒ compassionate longing, agonizing story.

    One problem. Dave sucked big time! Even after testing for 6 years, he wasn't ready for any oral board. His answers were garbage. This should be no surprise, because most candidates are not ready either. Coaching usually takes about an hour. We ended at 2 hours. His closing was a dog and pony show (I wished this candidate would just end and get out of the room) pathetic mess.

    I asked Dave how he expected to get a badge when he hadn't spent the time to get ready for an oral. He said, like most candidates, (a big clue here), he thought he was. This is what most candidates think. Does this sound like you? Captain Bill Long is an oral board rater. He said you knew which candidates were really prepared. Those prepared candidates caused you to straighten up in your chair.

    The important point to realize is it doesn't take much to improve your situation and separate yourself from the clone candidates. Dave only had a couple of days to review his coaching tape and redial his approach.

    He called me the day after his interview. He sounded like he didn't step on any land mines, wasn't stumped and was able to put it together to make a real good presentation.

    A few days later, there was a message on my recorder. A guy was yelling, Captain Bob, you are the man. It was Dave. He had just received the call that he was going to the Chiefís Oral. His first in the six years he had been testing. Not only was he going to the Chiefís Oral. He was number . . . 2! They were interviewing 30 candidates for 5 jobs. How do you like those odds?

    When you are going for all the marbles, you want to make sure youíre riding the winning pony!

    As my Captain Son Rob says, ďThere's an oral board in your future, you just donít know when.Ē Do you want to be telling yourself ĎI suckí coming out of your next oral and you will do better next time. Or, have that feeling that you knew ĎI smoked ití and it was going to get you that badge?Ē

    Dave got the job. His dad pinned his badge at graduation. Lots of tears.

    "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

    Fire "Captain Bob" Author, Becoming A Firefighter
    http://eatstress.com/firefighterbook.htm

    www.eatstress.com

    888-238-3959
    Last edited by CaptBob; 01-12-2005 at 07:16 AM.

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    Fight4life

    I was in the same situation last year that you are facing now.
    I was getting ready for the upcoming hiring process for our city department. I was looking at getting my Fire Science degree but was only 12 hour short of getting my BS. At the time I had been volunteering about a year. The more people I talked to the more said to get my BS. I finished in December with a General Studies degree (nothing special) but it was a Bachelor's. I took some fire science along the way, FF1, FF2, Driver Op. but I think the Bachelors was the right move. I was hired in June and am coming upon 5 months on the floor (after academy). My department was looking at experience and education as the two most important hiring factors. I found that our early and went with the Bachelors (plus I had voluteered for about 2 years). I would have enjoyed taking fire science classes but I think the BS held more weight so that is the route I took. Most departments are looking for that piece of paper. Out of the 13 in my recruit class only 1 had either no experince or no degree. This is just my experience with my department. If I was you I would start looking at a number of departments and see what it is they are looking for. More towards volunteer (experience), bs, fire science? If you are considering paramedic you could pretty much write your ticket.

    Good Luck
    wfd1045

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    Default Unrelated Degrees???

    How to present your unrelated degrees??

    Q.I have three degrees in law enforcement. Every time I go to an oral board, they seem to target and spend too much time discussing my law enforcement education. What can I do?

    Reply:This is a problem that many candidates face with degrees that are not fire related. The board will see this and follow the rabbit down the hole; spending time having you defend your position. How do you even begin to relate a degree in ďRomance Languages, Art, Philosophy, Economics, etc.Ē to the fire service?

    Donít create the trail. Start listing just your degree on your application, resume and including it in your oral board answer as what you have done to prepare for the position. However, omit the field itís related to, i.e., Bachelor Science Degree (leave off Law Enforcement or any other unrelated degree). Donít bring it up and they probably wonít. A candidate with a finance degree was successful with this approach last week and was not asked what his degree was in. If they do, tell them you learned how to learn. A study from University California at Berkeley showed that two years after graduation, 60% percent of graduates were in fields totally unrelated to their degree.

    An additional question:

    I have been facing the same problem about my degree. One Chief told me to bring up my degree, how I have used it and how it brought me to a career in the fire service. He told me to not let the oral board bring up the degree because once that has happened they have already formed an opinion about it. He told me to include it in my history and tackle the issue before it becomes an issue. For example, you have a degree in Law Enforcement. This has allowed you to work with firefighters from another angle and you see how the fire service is and that is more the career path for you. Hope that is helpful.

    Reply: Have you tried this approach? It might work for you, but it is our experience that once you open the can of worms, itís impossible to close. The explanation of being in law enforcement has enabled you to be around firefighters is pretty weak. Many would agree that firefighters and police officers are cut from a different cloth.

    I still believe not creating a trail they can follow is the best solution. Our candidates who have left off the field from the degree have had few if any problems.

    You can find more on testing secrets in the Career Article section from the Jobs drop down menu just above this posting.

    "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

    Fire "Captain Bob" Author, Becoming A Firefighter and
    Conquer Fire Department Oral Boards

    www.eatstress.com

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    Last edited by CaptBob; 01-13-2005 at 12:32 PM.

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    Default Re: My 2 cents

    Originally posted by CaptBob
    With all due respect to all that was said, speaking as a volunteer firefighter who has a 4 year degree, I would say that getting your BA or BS for a firefighter job is not a good way to go. I got my BS, and $100,000 later, I'm hoping to work in a job that requires only a technical certification that costs $250. and having the BS with out the tech cert makes me pretty much unhirable.

    Get your paramedic. get your FF1 and FF2. get your hazmat tech. those are what is going to make you valuable to a company. A 4 year degree is worthwhile, but only if you use it. most departments aren't requiring them. some departments will even pay for you to attend college courses. yes, it helps if you want to become an officer or a chief officer. but your going for entry level. your going to have to pass the physical, pass the psych test, pass the written, and pass the oral board.

    Focus on your goal and don't let anything get in your way until you get it.
    you know, that sounds exactly like something I would write.......

    if you got 3 semesters till you graduate, I'd say get your degree. to do otherwise would say the two and a half years you spent in college were wasted. remember, most people don't get hired as a paid FF right out of HS or college. there is usually a several monthes or several years wait. what will you do in the interim?

    test everywhere (all over, not just in yoru home area), get on a volunteer department that will pay for your FF schooling. this is where I say exploit your FD to the best of your ability, as in take every course and certification you can. that doesn't mean you should throw them in an interview committee's face, or tout your certs, but rather that you have experience in those areas, and they might not need to teach you from a beginer level.

    but if you are more than half way through, get your Bachelor's, this way if the FF gig doesn't work out, you always have something that you can fall back on.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

    FF/EMT/DBP

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    Default Degree

    This goes back to FireFiftyfive.

    When I first looked into getting a degree in Fire Science I wasn't aware of the difference. Now a Fire Science degree is good. But I looked around and got a B.S. degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technolgy. Which provides not only fire science but safety, arson, industrail risk, and more. Right now until a Fire Department position opens up. I am working as a Safety Coordinator, my degree helped me get the job. But it helps provide you with more options then just fire. Which is always good to have. Don't get me wrong I am not knocking Fire Science degrees. But like I posted elsehwere it depends on what you are wanting in the future.

    Education is great and I think everyone who wants it should get it. Like someone said some departments are getting to require an BS or BA degree to get promoted past a certain level. Some I have heard don't care if it is English or Fire or Wine Making. Its the fact that making some see the effort in getting a degree shows leadership. I don't always agree with that, but some of the powers to be do.

    From what I have heard and seen it will be better to get you IFSAC I and II. Becuase like a few have said a degree might be helpful in the furture but for entry level it doesn't matter.
    Thanks
    DM
    ___________
    "I am telling the truth, I was driving through the warehouse and the wall jumped in front of my fork lift. I honked the horn and it never listened."

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