Higher Education's Role In The Fire Service
Have you ever wondered what you must do to become a physician, lawyer, nurse, accountant or engineer? Maybe you already know the answer to these questions, but let's look at their minimum professional qualifications.
To become a physician, you must go to college for four years, then to medical college for another four years and do a residency somewhere. For a lawyer, you must go to college four years, continue on to law school for three years, and then pass the bar exam. To be a nurse you will need a four-year college degree. An accountant must go to college for four years and pass the CPA exam. To be an engineer the same thing-you must go to college for four to five years and pass an exit exam. If the fire service takes its own professionalism seriously, it should do more to promote fire science as an academic discipline to become the fire chief.
Now ask yourself what it takes to become a fire chief. What do you think the minimum professional qualifications should be to become chief? I'm not sure that we have truly identified the minimum qualifications for becoming a professional firefighter, let alone the fire chief.
Why do you think we retrain fire fighters when they transfer from another department within the state? All other professions allow their professional qualifications to transfer with them. If you were an engineer in New York City and transferred to Los Angeles, you would still be an engineer. All of your credentials would transfer with you. If you performed brain surgery in Maine, you could perform the same surgery in New Mexico. The same goes for all the other professions as well. Fire chiefs need to lead the way by recognizing higher education's role and importance for their profession.
Maybe a better question is where are we today as a true profession? The emergency medical services may be moving at a faster pace than the fire service, but the fire service shouldn't stand by and get run over by the train. Before, if you stood by in line long enough your number would eventually come up for promotion. But the expectancy and requirements of the fire service have changed. Since no two emergencies are alike, firefighters face challenges that were unthinkable 20 years ago in our profession. It's hard to imagine that any profession could survive without the need to keep abreast with current technology, innovation, or hazards that would effect its operation.
The Fire Science Technology Program at Volunteer State Community College is working to help firefighters meet the requirements and challenges of the future. Skills to make sound decisions and correct choices are taught in the fire science program. Volunteer State provides critical thinking and problem solving skills not learned in training or on the job. The Fire Science program basically provides a broader base of knowledge about the overall profession of the fire service.
Maybe the next generation of chiefs will step up and increase the standards for what we consider to be America's greatest profession, the American fire service. As a current firefighter in your department, you must ask yourself, are you helping or hindering those wanting to move forward in the fire service? Get in touch with your local community college today about the exciting possibility of increasing your professional standards by pursuing your associate degree in fire science technology.