Some fire districts are requiring recruits to have advanced degrees before becoming firefighters.
It used to be that a high school diploma and some good old-fashioned, on-the-job training was sufficient enough to acquire a job at one’s local fire station.
“An associate degree is the new high school diploma,” said Oswego City Fire Chief, Jeffrey McCrobie.
According to McCrobie, about 30 percent of his 66 firefighters have some type of college degree. He said that the majority of his firefighters with degrees are young because the job market is very competitive and when he was younger many people did not attend college.
McCrobie, however, who does not have a college degree, is split on the issue of whether or not a degree is necessary to become a firefighter.
“If someone achieves an associate or a bachelor’s degree, it shows that they are completely committed to their respective careers,” McCrobie said. “On the other hand, people who want to be firefighters, with or without a degree, still have to go through intensive training and pass a civil service test.”
A civil service test is an aptitude examination that is a prerequisite to many governmental jobs. The exam tests applicants on comprehension and arithmetic.
Many fire stations around the country pay firefighters who have some type of degree more, but McCrobie said the Oswego Fire Department does not pay firefighters with a degree more than firefighters without one.
Community colleges and for-profit institutions around the country have noticed the growing demand to formally educate people who seek to be firefighters. In the past few years, institutions have made an associate degree in fire safety available.
SUNY Rockland Community College offers two associate degrees involving fire safety: fire science technology and fire protection technology. According to Jeremy Cordock, head of student development at SUNY Rockland, their programs work in cooperation with the local fire-training station.
“Our students work right along with professional firefighters to hone in on the skills necessary to become a fire fighter,” Cordock said.
The role of firefighters has become “more complicated in recent years” due to increasing sophisticated equipment according to the SUNY Rockland website.