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Education Level of Chief's (Fire Poll)

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  • Education Level of Chief's (Fire Poll)

    What is the formal educational level of your fire chief

    Ph.D./Masters 8.1%

    Bachelors Degree 20.0%

    Associates Degree 10.4%

    Some College, No Degree 16.7%

    No College 32.2%

    Don't Know or N/A 12.7%

    Total votes: 1449

    This is the result of the latest fire poll on the home page. Does this bother anyone? What are your thoughts and opinions on the education of Fire Chiefs TODAY (in 2001) considering issues such as generation X, standards and regulations, increased use of technology and the changing dynamics and demographics of the fire service in general?

    The information presented herin is simply my opinion and does not represent the opinion or view of my employer(s) or any department/agency to which I belong.

  • #2
    The first thing that bothered ME about it is the fact that there is no menton of technical/trade school education here at all. Think how much a building contractor who happens to be a volly chief brings to building inspections...

    But anyway...speaking as the only officer in my company who even has a college degree (actually, I have two), I'll put it simply: I want chief officers who have the experience, training and leadership ability to successfully command firegrounds and manage people. At work, I'm Director of Research for a consulting firm and my Chief is an auto mechanic. On the fireground, I'm a Lt. with 12 years of total service and a pretty good firefighting background, while he's a seasoned vetran of over 35 years, almost 20 of them as Chief. On that fireground, my Masters degree doesn't mean squat compared to his fireground knowledge and experience. I can go on about our Deputy (a career firefighter), Assistant (a construction foreman), etc., but you get the idea.

    What we need to worry about when we choose officers is what people have shown they are capable of, not necessarily about what spiffy documents they can hang on the wall. Traning and certification are certainly part of the picture, but not nearly the whole picture. I'm perfectly happy on the fireground when I report in to that auto mechanic for an assignment, because I know that he has what it takes to manage the scene in such a way that we'll get the job done and everybody will get home in one piece...and that's really what it's all about.


    • #3
      Bob, as always I respect your reply. While i wholeheartedly agree with is your point that training and certification are invaluable, however what are everyones thoughts on the subject when Chiefs are dealing with alot more today than just fires, specifically personnel managment, understanding and complying with standards and keeping with the times. I think that there is sometimes a close link with education level and resistance to "new" things or comprehension of matters off the fireground. Just some thoughts. Do we think an education is a good piece of the puzzle that makes a Fire Chief when it is solved?

      The information presented herin is simply my opinion and does not represent the opinion or view of my employer(s) or any department/agency to which I belong.


      • #4
        MG -

        You make a good point, in that "...Chiefs are dealing with alot more today than just fires, specifically personnel managment, understanding and complying with standards and keeping with the times...", however it's not necessary that the Chief be an expert in all aspects of the operation, or even most of them. That Chief needs to be a good personnel manager and a good leader, that's certainly true. He/she also needs to have the technical knowhow and experience on the fireground to successfully command any incident that comes along.

        As for some of the other functions that are necessary, that's why the Chief has his/her support staff. My company provides a perfect example...as a career firefighter, the Deputy is perfect as a training officer, as the point man on standards issues, and as the primary person to initially evaluate equipment purchases...he sees more of what's out there in these areas than the rest of us. The Asst. is good with kids and works out in the community all the time...great for fire prevention, PR and special events. He also keeps the books. The Capt. is a general contractor and one Lt. is an electrical contractor...buildings, grounds, supply, etc. are all taken care of without anyone else needing to get involved. In addition, they come up with a lot of low-cost solutions to otherwise expensive problems because they have a real sense of what can be built and what can be bought (For example, just last week, the Capt. solved an otherwise $3,500 pump valve derailment problem on our engine with a few dollars in hardware and about 1.5 hours of free labor in the station). As the other Lt., and having my business background, the administrative duties, financial planning, and other related functions logically fall to me. Various firefighters also bring skills to the table. In this environment, it's not necessary for the Chief to be concerned with all of the details of these functions, just to be aware of and, ultimately, sign off on, what the rest of us are doing within our respective functional areas.

        Again, it really comes back to leadership ability and the necessary experience to successfully command incidents. Those are the core capabilities that the Chief needs to have. Everything else makes him/her that much more effective, but a good manager/chief will know how to make use of his personnel to his best advantage to get everything done.

        As far as a link between education level and willingness to innovate...we can probably all point to specific examples both in support of and against that theory. I'm really not convinced by my own experience, however, that education = innovation in any structural sense.


        • #5
          MG, I understand your concern, but I'm in agreement with Bob here. I don't think a piece of paper makes a good Chief/leader. One is not taught leadership skills in college. All college does is show a person the, usually out-dated, basics of a particular field. It doesn't teach them how to apply those supposedly learned skills. One of the best Chief's we ever had in the department, barely finished high school. Other Asst. Chief's with multiple degrees, including BS in Fire Science for two of them, didn't make it all the way up to the position of Chief. It's not about what's in the book, sure, you need to have the basic knowledge, but the true leadership skills only come with experience and, in my personal opinion, a natural talent to work with people. Nobody will please all of the people all of the time, but you have to come to a well rounded solution that comes as close as possible. If this reads as disjointed as it seems while I'm typing this, I apologize, it's been a long day, but I think you get the gist of my opinion on this. For the record I am a college graduate also.


          • #6
            Thanks for the replies, I understand perfectly where you are coming from. This is why I posted the topic. I am looking for insight from all of you guys and I am glad you provided some.

            The information presented herin is simply my opinion and does not represent the opinion or view of my employer(s) or any department/agency to which I belong.


            • #7
              What Bob has described is the classic volunteer leadership set-up. The office of Chief is given to the most experienced and best leader, but the duties of the office are done by a melting pot of people with skills that fit these tasks. My Chief is an Advanced Certification holder in the volunteer ranks in The State of Texas. He also holds a Master Peace Officer certification and is a Certified Fire Marshal. He has over 30 years in the fire service for experience, but never spent a day in college. He obtained his certs. though trade schools. Our Asst. Chief does all of the book keeping, I do the people and pr. stuff, and the other District Chief does all of the political business. We all do our part and together make an ideal "Chief Officer"

              SERVING FOR PRIDE
              PROUD TO SERVE!


              • #8
                Although I agree with the argument that there is really no substitute for experience, I also believe that a Chief officer needs the higher education. Our chief does not have a lot of fire ground experience, but he is an effective manager. He is able to present ideas and justifications to our board of supervisors, he keeps up to date with current issues such as FLSA, Circuit Court rulings, events going on in congress, and many legal proceeding which are underway. Having the ability to understand the ramifications of these issues and how to effectively implement them to the best of our advantage is more important to me than his actual firefighting experience. He delegates that type of expertise to the lower level officers, deputy chiefs, battalion chiefs, and captains. These are the people that really need the street knowledge. By the time that the chief is able to get on the scene, operations are set, priorities are established, and the command system is in full operation. Yes, some basic fire ground knowledge would be beneficial, but I would rather have him fight our political, safety, and financial battles. And trust us to do a good job on the fire ground for him. Take care....



                • #9
                  I agree with MOST of the above replies. (Bob, you really hit the nail on the head!) What makes our chief a great chief is something called "Common Sense"!! A college degree does not provide that!!

                  God is our Fire Chief;
                  Jesus is our Incident Commander.


                  • #10
                    I can't say i've read much of the above posts but i will say, being a cheif doesn't have to do with college degree. Personally i'm in college, but anyway, you can have the highest educated person on your department, and they may not be a good cheif, but then you can have the poorest educated, but say he has spent his whole life in the dept, knows how it works like the back of his hand. I guess my point is that a Good chief must be able to take on the responsibility, be able to lead his men, learn things that are needed, know what to do and when to do it. I'm not saying Chiefs can't be Ph.ds, All i'm saying is a Good Chief is a breed in its own, that education is only a small part of it.

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