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This is an interesting question and time and magazine space prohibits a better wording of the question. To make the question as simplistic as possible and "score" the answers/responses I present the following.

Of the 35 respondents:

17 felt some level of college degree should be required in order for a person to reach the level of chief.

11 felt that no higher education degree be required to become a chief.

5 felt that a master degree should be obtained in order to become a chief and

2 sort of kind of said that it depends.

Views: 203

Replies to This Discussion

Leadership vs. Management

It seems that some of this is municipality specific. The size of the department often dictates the daily function of the Fire Chief. In large municipal FD's it seems that the Chief may need to be far more skilled in management, politics and budgeting. Where as small FD's may need a more hands on Chief to truly lead fireground operations. I personally believe a City (town) should determine what their expectations are and use this criteria to interview for the Chief's job. Why require a degree when it doesn't necessarily mean the person is a skilled orator, manager or other? Some people have plenty of paperwork showing their knowledge but cannot do the job. If you want a manager, maybe the degree is more important, but if you want a leader, experience and having done the job tends to earn more respect.
I don't think it is a bad idea but I also feel that a person's experience and training should not be discounted just because they may not have a college degree. A college degree does not make a true leader. If you want an administrator than insist on a college degree. If you want a leader open the evaluation process to someone with training and experience.
Although this question is straight forward the answer is not. Having a college degree is not the cure all end all to being a good Fire Chief. Fact is, when you are in college, you must complete a host of "core" courses that have absolutely nothing to with the fire service. What does college Algebra, Chemistry, Physics, History, and a host of other courses have to do with preparing you to being a Fire Chief? Now, I know, some would argue that these courses make your education better however, I disagree with that. Municipalities should require Fire Chief candidates to be Nationally Certified as Fire Officers, to the highest level your state recognizes, successfully completed ICS 100, 200, 300, 400, 700, 800, successful completion of the Executive Fire Officer program given at the United States Fire Academy and finally, perhaps, having candidates attend college or a course that is equivalent to Personnel Management and Budgeting and the budget process at least, these courses have a direct correlation to the duties to the position of a Fire Chief.

A Fire Chief needs to have good people and communication skills; that is how business gets done. A Fire Chief does not need to know everything, a good Fire Chief knows, understands, and accepts that. However, a Fire Chief does need to have good people around them to help ensure that the department’s goals are reached and to assist in handling any problems that may arise, making sure the issue is addressed and corrected in an effective and timely fashion; a college education does not teach you how to do that.
Adrian Scapperotti said:
Municipalities should require Fire Chief candidates to be Nationally Certified as Fire Officers, to the highest level your state recognizes, successfully completed ICS 100, 200, 300, 400, 700, 800, successful completion of the Executive Fire Officer program given at the United States Fire Academy and finally, perhaps, having candidates attend college or a course that is equivalent to Personnel Management and Budgeting and the budget process at least, these courses have a direct correlation to the duties to the position of a Fire Chief.

I'd just note that the EFO program now requires a BS degree for entry. While I'm not a big degree requirement person, I can personally attest to the value of the "core" classes.
English course that involve lots of writing are valuable learning tools for writing important documents to politicians. Face it, our City hall's are filled with college graduates many of whom will not see the true value of a street smart leader. They only know the academic way, so "speaking on their terms" is a plus.

College math classes also allow you to better understand statistics, and develop ways of measuring cost/benefits. I know after reading through my early AFG grant applications (pre-college writing/math classes) and those since, there is a significant difference, which paid off with 6 successes.

On the the other side w have some firefighters with AS degrees in Fire Science and I've yet to see anything on the true fire side that exemplifies their education over other "non-schooled" personnel. For example: on the hydraulics end, they tend to better understand the theory, but fail to recognize why theories are just that?

I truly believe that education can only benefit the person and the FD, as long as it's balanced with relevant practical experience. But in know way with a degree make the person something they're not. I go back to my final few lines in the first post here: it depends on the FD, the City and the job description.
I am attending the University of New Haven working on a dual Bachelor's degree in Fire Administration and Fire Investigation. Currently, I have over 100 earned credits however, I had to stop attending school because I can no longer afford to pay for college.

I do agree that courses such as English (Reading, Writing, and Comprehension), Budgeting and the budget process will help you do your job especially since in most cities, each department is given a certain amount of money for their respective annual budgets. Personnel Management and Labor Relations courses are essential for understanding some of the issues a Fire Chief must handle on a daily basis however, I fail to see how taking General Chemistry, General Philosphy, Algebra, Geometry, and Religion courses all of which, have nothing to do with Fire Administration, is needed except for, perhaps, keeping people employed by making people pay for these courses.

Perhaps, my disappointment and disapproval is with college’s making these courses mandatory and not designing a curriculum that truly helps to prepare people for the huge responsibility of running fire departments.

A final thought is that a bachelor’s degree does not mean that you are getting the best person for the position; a person’s history in the fire service should never ever be discounted or dismissed simply because they do not have a bachelor’s degree as there are many deserving, talented, and capable people who do not have a formal “institutionalized” education.

Adam Miceli said:
Adrian Scapperotti said:
Municipalities should require Fire Chief candidates to be Nationally Certified as Fire Officers, to the highest level your state recognizes, successfully completed ICS 100, 200, 300, 400, 700, 800, successful completion of the Executive Fire Officer program given at the United States Fire Academy and finally, perhaps, having candidates attend college or a course that is equivalent to Personnel Management and Budgeting and the budget process at least, these courses have a direct correlation to the duties to the position of a Fire Chief.

I'd just note that the EFO program now requires a BS degree for entry. While I'm not a big degree requirement person, I can personally attest to the value of the "core" classes.
English course that involve lots of writing are valuable learning tools for writing important documents to politicians. Face it, our City hall's are filled with college graduates many of whom will not see the true value of a street smart leader. They only know the academic way, so "speaking on their terms" is a plus.

College math classes also allow you to better understand statistics, and develop ways of measuring cost/benefits. I know after reading through my early AFG grant applications (pre-college writing/math classes) and those since, there is a significant difference, which paid off with 6 successes.

On the the other side w have some firefighters with AS degrees in Fire Science and I've yet to see anything on the true fire side that exemplifies their education over other "non-schooled" personnel. For example: on the hydraulics end, they tend to better understand the theory, but fail to recognize why theories are just that?

I truly believe that education can only benefit the person and the FD, as long as it's balanced with relevant practical experience. But in know way with a degree make the person something they're not. I go back to my final few lines in the first post here: it depends on the FD, the City and the job description.
Fire Chiefs absolutely should have a college degree. It goes to credibility and probably not so much in the Fire Station. when the Chief goes to sit down with community leaders that college degree is a piece in the puzzle. Today an Associates Degree should be a bare minimum and we should be continuing to raise the bar as we move forward. Real line experience is a great education, but it is much harder to quantify outside of the Fire Station. As we go forward we should be cultivating the image of the Fire Service and requiring our leaders to have college level education is one of the things we ahould be doing.

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