New education requirements send Baltimore firefighters back to school

New education requirements send Baltimore firefighters back to school

New education requirements send Baltimore firefighters back to school

In order to join a fire department, individuals typically have to hold a high school diploma, pass a series of tests, complete extensive firefighter training and meet several other requirements. While most firefighters are not expected to have completed a bachelor’s degree program, more departments are requiring individuals who wish to advance their careers to earn this undergraduate credential, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

This is now the case for Maryland’s Baltimore City Fire Department, where an effort is underway to increase current workers’ level of education, as well as the educational standards of the department on the whole, The Baltimore Sun reported.

“It’s not your father’s fire department anymore,” Chief James S. Clack, a college graduate, told the news source. “In order to prepare the next generation of leaders, they’ve got to get formal education in addition to their experience in the field.”

In the Baltimore City Fire Department, tenure tended to outweigh academic credentials when it came to giving promotions. This is set to change over the next seven years, as candidates for advanced positions are being asked to take college courses and pursue additional training.

From Clack’s perspective, it is important to provide current members of the department with a chance to rise through the ranks and get a leg up over outside applicants.

“We have to get our folks ready to assume leadership positions in the future, so that we are promoting from within,” Clack told the news outlet. “If we don’t prepare our folks, they’re not going to be in these positions, which I don’t think is healthy for the department or the city. … I think we should be growing our own leaders.”

Despite the Baltimore City Fire Department’s good intentions, there is opposition to the new education requirements. Michael Campbell, president of the Baltimore Fire Officers Association, thinks asking firefighters to go back to school is “ridiculous,” going so far as to say they cannot fight fire with a book.

While the BLS states that many fire departments like to see firefighters earn bachelor’s degrees in subjects like fire science or public administration, Inside Higher Ed reported that non-fire-related credentials are also becoming more desirable. Individuals who possess strong critical thinking, public speaking and grant writing skills could be valuable assets to a fire department.

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