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Experience vs. Education for promotion?

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  • Experience vs. Education for promotion?

    I believe fire science and education in the fire service are essential to being a well rounded firefighter. As a 15 year veteran firefighter I have been passed over for promotion because of added college requirements. I know I'm never to old to learn something new. We have guys who join the fire dept.with college degrees in fire science. Some of these guys have never held jobs before. They've been going to school their whole lives. In two years they become eligible for promotional exams. Some have fought little or no structure fires. This is a concern for me. How does 15 years of firefighting experience equate to college education with little or no firefighting experience as far as eligibility for promotional opportunities? Sometimes I think all my 15 years gets me is a good vacation pick. Is education everything in "the new fire service"? I'm going to school. The rules have changed twice for my promotional chances. What will be required next? Will they promote from outside the fire dept.? Anything I've ever gotten I earned. I just want be eligible to take the drivers test.

    [This message has been edited by joejoe33 (edited 05-20-2001).]

  • #2
    Excellent post joejoe. That is a topic of discussion among many of the people eligible for the captains exam in my department.

    I think you hit the nail on the head, education alone does not make a good officer. But, neither does some of the other things that get some people promoted (I will let you figure those out yourself). I have seen firefighters who fall into the category you mentioned, who could not handle a hoseline, or tie a basic knot if they had to. For what ever reasons they made it into the job, and have slipped through the cracks, probably hiding out at the slow stations.

    Like you said, the degree is important, but it is no good without experience to go with it.

    Keep the faith brother, your day will come.

    Good Luck, Be safe


    • #3
      I think experience, time in grade, common sense, being respected by your peers, and job performance are the most important promotion qualifications. I think anyone who has served as a FF for a certain number of years (let's say 5 for the sake of arguement) should be eligible to take a promotional exam. I have no problem awarding some points to the exam score for fire related college degrees but that should not be the only criteria. Give me someone with 15 years real job experience any day over a 2 year college grad.

      One thing for sure, promotions should be earned and not given because of politics.


      • #4
        A college education doesn't mean squat if the person can't apply it on the job. For that matter, experience is in the same boat. I think it takes the right type of person to have the natural ability to apply what he/she has seen and learned in their life. The question is how do we find a fair enough promotional system to get these people where they need to be? There are people that WANT to learn and there are the people that think they HAVE to learn to get ahead.


        • #5
          This discussion has taken place a few times in these forums. I will say that training in the essentials of firefighting are important. Schooling in the fire science area is also important but it should not be the end all.

          To many systems rely on individuals that have degrees and schooling up the wazoo and couldn't make an effective decision to save their souls but it will never replace experience. I'll take a firefighter with 15 years firefighting experience any day over some college educated individual with only a minimal amount of experience.

          Inexperience is a dangerous quality in this line of work. It also prevents us from being aggressive at times. I would have to say that any individual should have at least a minimum of 10 years fighting fires before being considered for a firefighting officers position.

          This will not be well received by many in these forums but there is one thing you can't do, and that is fight fires out of a book. Again I'll state that training and schooling is an excellent asset but experience is what gives you the ability to make quick effective decisions without hesitation.

          Politics are taking over most promotional systems at an alarming rate. You can use the tools in the books to an extent, but these books give you lessons that are tried under controlled circumstances. If you always fight fires from the book, eventually you are going to make a mistake that can cost you and your crew. The other side of the coin is that you may be hesitant to make an effective decision immediately.

          I'll catch a lot of flak over this but I believe in experience as a MAJOR factor when considering promotional opportunities.


          • #6
            I'm for the most part with everyone else. I'm a firm believer in the education/experience mix. As its been said before, you can't get far with just a college education on the fireground, and experience can't always carry you with overall supervisory duties (station duties, personnel problems/conflicts, and other general management duties) While I don't feel you should have to have a degree, I do feel that with the newer generations of firefighters, and the direction that the fire service is heading to, that some college courses, or prescribed management/leadership courses should be required, or count in some form of positive manner. Years ago it was us blue collar guys taking fire and police tests. Today its a different world, with different generations. I noticed it first in the military with newer Marines under my supervision, and I still see it. My generation learned more, and more complex things then my parents, and now the younger generations are doing that to me. I've worked for Lt's who were god on the fireground, but would fall apart on EMS scenes, or in the station because they had no conflict resolution or management experience, and I've been on the other side with you guys who could manage like the best of them, but shy away at making a decision on scene. But I've always been the happiest, and most content with a Lt. before I got promoted who had a mix.

            The above is my opinion only and doesn't reflect that of any dept./agency that I work for, deal with, or am a member of.


            • #7
              Here in New Jersey the NJ Dept. of Personnel administer the promotional tests for the majority of the Fire Depts in the state. Seniority counts for 20% of your final grade for a maximum of 15 years credit. I wouldn't have a problem giving some extra points to someone who holds a degree, but if these degrees are worth the time, effort, and money spent to obtain them, then maybe the holders already have an advantage on the written portion of the test.


              • #8
                Education is important...so is experience. My department is civil service, with the promotional exams given by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Human Resources Division.

                According to our contract, you have to have a minimum of 5 years on the job as a firefighter before you can take a promotional exam. Having a degree, EMT certification and special licenses can give you a few extra points under training and experience.

                Firefighters: Today's heroes protecting everyone's tomorrows!
                Captain Gonzo


                • #9
                  Experience + Education = Officer.

                  An officer should have both. Our department doesn't have this problem yet, because we are to small and our officers never change.

                  Why don't departments adopt some system like the military uses. You can't go from Private to Lt in one step. It takes years of experience and many hours on course. So, why not open the Officer Exams up to everyone that can meet the requirements, let's say:
                  - 5 years as a FF (or more);
                  - FF level 1;
                  - What ever medical level you train to;
                  - Call volume (it could be possible to work 5 years and never see a structure fire);

                  If they pass the exam, they get placed into a position like 2nd Lt. They work under the LT. or Capt. of the company in order to gain experience as an officer. They can be IC at the lesser calls, command the attack teams, or be in charge of a sector. This would allow higher ups to see if they can do it. It might even filter out those officers that go on a power trip once they get some bars on their shoulders. If they get a positive rating from the Lt. or Capt. they work under, and can pass another exam based on the IC system and station policies then they get the full rank.
                  If however, they don't get a good rating, or fail the exam, higher-ups can decide if they should stay in the 2nd Lt. positon and try again, or be moved back to firefighter.

                  I guess it would be sort of like an officer probationary period.

                  Like I said above, my department hasn't grow large enough to worry about this, so if I am so far into left field that I am in the parking lot, sorry.


                  • #10
                    I have 28 years experience as a volunteer and at the time 18 as a career firefighter. I was a Captain. In the 10 years as a Captain I had over 300 working days as an acting Battalion Chief. When the B.C. retired and there was an opening I applied. Part of requirements read..."experience and education equivalent to an associates degree in fire science." I had 45 semester hours towards a degree and applied using that and my on the job experience as "equivalent" The chief turned me down saying..."not qualified" and not equivilant. I asked "her" what was equivlant and she did not know and could not/would not tell me. Do you greive?? I think not....never get promoted.... I said...."so you are telling me you put me in the position 3 out of 5 wokring days and I am qualified to act but not get paid?" Yes was her answer....Here is a person who has never been on a fire truck....never managed a fireground incident, never put on turnout gear(except to maybe keep dry)....never managed a fire station. She got to her position from being a civilian in a position that was upgaded eventually to a deputy chief position. Then she applied for a chiefs job and got it... Come on folks wake up....she may have a degree...but she can not spell Incident Command... I applaud and respect those who have achieved a level of higher learning...but it is not a sole fact to consider for promotion. On the job experience should be #1 considerations

                    Hence my profile reading...."former" career fire fighter.

                    [email protected]


                    • #11
                      [QUOTE]Originally posted by firefighter26:
                      [b]Experience + Education = Officer.

                      Let me add one variable to this equation... + a personality. Hey some people just are not officer material.

                      I see posting here arguing the 2 extremes....either experience or education is not going to be the right answer. The conclusion I see everyone is migrating toward is both, as ff26 stated.

                      As for SOP or guidelines...what make sense to me is just this:
                      1. Look at your call volume/membership and 'guestimate' a minimum for # of yrs. in the department (5 for example)
                      2. Look at the requirements to be a basic fire fighter and go to the next level. If it is a FFI to start then to be a 1st level of officer (Lt for example) make the minimum a FFII.
                      3. Officer development and incident management courses I see a must. We will now be responsible for managing so why not require some formal training in this area.
                      4. Use common sense. Don't make the position too elite for you setting so only 2 people qualify. Give the newer 'guy' something to strive for.

                      This is a very good post but know there is not one universal answer.. =)

                      Keep Safe!


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