Western Illinois University: Macomb Campus
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Law Enforcement and Justice Administration
Why Pursue a Degree in Fire Protection Services?
Often, prospective students, or their parents ask the question; “Many fire departments only require a high school diploma, why should I get a degree in Fire Science?” Sometimes we may also hear; “ I know a firefighter who says, “just get an EMT license and some fire courses, that’s enough”
It’s a fair question. Your future is important and college degrees are expensive and time consuming. So what's the upside? The answer may be more complex than you think,. Below are some factors you may wish to consider.
You have roughly 4 years between the time you graduate and the time that you will meet the typical minimum age requirement (21 yrs. ) to apply for a fire service career. How you spend those years can shape your entire future. It is not unusual for a fire department to have up to 100 or even 200 applicants for each opening. The testing is rigorous and scoring differences between the top candidates and the middle of the pack are often measured in fractions of a percent. With all other qualifications being equal (past job history, criminal record, physical condition, etc.) the person with a Fire Science degree has a definite advantage in landing the job. Although most fire departments only require a high school (or equivalent) education to be considered for employment, they will give greater consideration to the applicant with college courses. Why? Because the person who has taken the initiative to further their education demonstrates that they have the self-discipline to do what it takes. Naturally, if their degree is in Fire Science, then all the better.
Generally speaking, most fire departments offer an educational incentive for members who have a college degree. The increase in earnings can be based on a percentage of your current salary or it may be in the form of a yearly bonus. Earning a degree in Fire Science also provides additional income potential by way of promotion within the fire department. Whenever a firefighter is eligible to apply for the next highest rank, having a college degree is always a huge plus. More and more departments are requiring their officers to have a college degree in order to advance among the ranks. Obviously, the higher the position within the fire service, the higher the salary. Which leads us to the third benefit of a Fire Science degree.
The knowledge that is gained through fire related college courses is invaluable when it comes to being a fire officer. Those officers who have successfully completed the advanced training find that they are better equipped to lead and manage fire personnel. Even more importantly, the safety of the fire crews is enhanced as a direct result of the officer's additional fire training.
As a whole, firefighters who earn a degree have a better chance of advancement within the fire service.
You may likely be very focused on the fire service right now, but life happens away from the department too. Financial and leisure opportunities away from the fire service are important to firefighters raising families . Some job seekers may find that they are physically unable to be firefighters, some firefighters are forced to retire early due to injury. Most fire fighters retire rather early and begin second careers. Regardless of what opportunities, challenges and surprises life holds, an education is always there to serve you.
Other Career Options
Many current and retired firefighters have second careers that require advanced education. Completing a post-secondary education program, a bachelors degree in fire science can open up many more doors of opportunity for those looking for a career in fire prevention, fire safety, fire response, or fire investigation. A bachelors degree in fire science shows determination, dedication, and professionalism, and provides students with irreplaceable skills and knowledge that can save lives in a number of fields.
According to the U.S. Censuses Bureau, the average lifetime earnings of someone with a bachelor's degree is $2.1 million. A high school graduate can expect to earn $1.2 million over his or her lifetime, while a person holding an associate's degree can expect average lifetime earnings of $1.6 million.
Those with bachelor's degrees have higher savings because of their higher incomes, engage in more hobbies, and participate in more leisure activities, according to "Reaping the Benefits," a report by the Institute of Higher Education Policy. The report said college graduates visited art museums three times more than high school graduates, they went to 20 percent more sporting events, and were 20 percent more likely to play sports and exercise. A degree can open new perspectives and horizon's that make life more interesting and rich in experience.