Baltimore Firefighters Increasingly Expected to Pursue Higher Education

By Catherine Groux
Posted December 03, 2012 02:00 PM

Firefighters are increasingly required to hold a college degree.
Firefighters are increasingly required to hold a college degree.
Hundreds of firefighters in Baltimore, Maryland, may soon head back to the classroom to land advanced positions in their departments, The Baltimore Sun reports. In the past, on-the-job experience helped these professionals advance, but now, many local departments are emphasizing the importance of earning a college degree. 

Today, many Baltimore-area fire departments require battalion chiefs to hold an associate's degree, while deputy chiefs must earn a bachelor's. This shift to education-focused departments is expected to be phased in over the next seven years, giving firefighters who want to move through the ranks time to earn degrees.

"It's not your father's fire department anymore," James S. Clack, a college graduate and chief of the Baltimore City Fire Department, told the Sun. "In order to prepare the next generation of leaders, they've got to get formal education in addition to their experience in the field."

Charlie Crowther, an associate professor of fire science and emergency management at Florida's St. Petersburg College, told Inside Higher Ed that this is becoming a national trend, as many firefighters are finding that a college degree is necessary for job advancement.

"The upper echelon in most of the fire companies around the country sees the value and they promote it," said Crowther, who holds a master’s degree in public safety administration.

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