This is an email that I recieved from a candidate asking about earning his 4-year degree or dropping out and becoming a firefighter.

For the record I want to share with all of you that my parents offered to pay for any college. I knew better (or so I thought) and became a firefighter. I got hired at 20 years old and have never looked back.

If, I had it to do all over again, I would have taken them up on their offer and earned a degree and THEN worried about getting hired on the fire department.

I have removed the name but felt it important to share his email with you.

Chief Lepore,

If you dont mind me asking, what was it like when you took the community college route? How were you able to handle everything without the financial support of your parents?

The biggest concern is that if I continue my BA and wait on the academy and classes, im afraid that instead of getting hired in like four year I will get hired in eight or nine. Plus, the retirement bubble would have past so I see that now is my chance to act fast and get hired. I dont know about your department and how many FFs you want to pick up, but the departments that I am looking into such as Long Beach, LA City/County and Ventura County all are hiring right now. Chief Lepore, to be honest, I just dont want the door to close on me. Thanks again for responding to my post and I look forward to your response.

My reply:
There will always be jobs. While there may be fewer ones due to the retirement cycle, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE JOBS!

I am not content with someone simply getting hired as a is really not that difficult to do. I can assure you that I see people getting hired almost every day.

Here's the deal:
A squared away candidate with a degree WILL ABWAYS BE ABLE TO FIND A JOB. Will others get hired while you are in school. Absolutely. Getting hired is not where it ends. You're in it for the long haul. It's kind of like the tortoise and the hare. While someone may get hired before you, I would love to see where you are both in 10 to 12 years.

This is not meant to downgrade the firefighter position. We desperately need good senior firefighters to teach the ropes to the new kids. This is directed at the candidate who is already in school and to relate my own personal experiences.

Earning your degree is an investment in your future. It makes you smarter, more capable to read and write, teaches you to set a goal and finish a project and opens doors. If I had it to do all over again I would absolutely have gone to a four year school, had fun. learned and then got hired on the fire department.

Paul Lepore
Battalion Chief