The Impact of a cOllege Degree R

Document Sample
The Impact of a cOllege Degree R Powered By Docstoc
					                                        College Degree Impact   1


                      Executive Development

     The Impact of a College Degree Requirement on Internal

                    Candidates for Promotion

                          Steven Belau

                City of Rochester Fire Department

                      Rochester, Minnesota

                            July 2005
                                        College Degree Impact     2

                       CERTIFICATION STATEMENT

     I hereby certify that this paper constitutes my own

product, that where the language of others is set forth,

quotation marks so indicate, and that appropriate credit is

given where I have used the language, ideas, expressions, or

writings of another.

                           Signed: ________________________________
                                         College Degree Impact    3


     The problem was the Rochester Fire Department (Department)

had not quantified the effect of a college degree requirement

for promotion on the availability of an internal candidate pool

for chief officer promotions by the year 2009.    The research

purpose was to determine if internal candidates have, or are

pursuing the required degree.   Using the Descriptive Method,

questions relating to college activity and any impact the

college requirement has on members eligible for promotion were

answered using a survey.   The results of the research showed

that 43% of currently eligible internal candidates have a

degree, but only 14% have the required degree, which

demonstrated an insufficient number of internal candidates to

fill anticipated vacancies.   Recommendations for additional

research were made.
                                         College Degree Impact        4
                         TABLE OF CONTENTS


Abstract                                                          3

Table of Contents                                                 4

Introduction                                                      5

Background and Significance                                       6

Literature Review                                                12

Procedures                                                       16
Results                                                          19

Discussion                                                       27

Recommendations                                                  32

References                                                       35

Appendix   Survey Questionnaire                                  38


Table 1           Chief Officer Ages                             20

Table 2           College Degrees                                22

Table 3           Degree Requirement and Decision to Promote     24

Table 4           College Degree Pursuit Limiting Factors        26
                                       College Degree Impact       5

     The Impact of a College Degree Requirement on Internal

                     Candidates for Promotion


     “All must recognize that professional status begins with

education” (Clark et al., 1966, p. 15).   With these words,

written in 1966 as a statement of national significance by an ad

hoc committee of fire service members assembled to examine the

fire problem at the Wingspread Conference on Fire Service

Administration, Education and Research, the fire service began a

serious and systematic change in inertia.   Just showing up for

work everyday at the firehouse would no longer be enough to be

promoted to the most important positions.   However, lack of

interest in pursuit of higher education by firefighters poses

serious problems to professional development (Bercik, Connealy,

Lowe, & Mooney, 2004).   Many fire departments have established

educational requirements for promotion to chief officer

positions (e.g., Weir, 2001; Diaz, 1993).
     The research problem is that the Rochester Fire Department

(Department) has not quantified the effect of a college degree

requirement on the availability of an internal candidate pool

for chief officer promotions by the year 2009.

     The purpose of this research is to determine whether

Department members have the required college degree or are

pursuing the college degree required for promotion to chief

officer positions.

     Using the descriptive method, the research seeks to answer

these questions:
                                        College Degree Impact       6

     1.    How many chief officer position vacancies are

anticipated over the next five years?

     2.    Do Department members eligible for chief officer

promotion have college degrees, and if so, what types?

     3.    Are any Department members eligible for chief officer

promotion currently pursuing college degrees in fire science

(the degree required for promotion)?

     4.    How many credit hours have been achieved towards

degree completion by members pursuing college degrees?
     5.    How does the college degree requirement affect a

member’s decision to seek promotion?

     6.    Are there any factors limiting members from pursuing a

college degree?

                    Background and Significance

     The City of Rochester Fire Department (Department) is a

full service, paid department serving the City and the four

surrounding townships.   Ninety-three persons are employed in the

Department.   There are three civilian employees, four fire

prevention bureau specialists, a chief, a deputy chief, and

eighty-four shift personnel.   The shift personnel compose three

shifts.   An assistant chief supervises each shift.   There are

six companies, (four engines and two ladders).    A captain

supervises each company.

     The Common Council of the City of Rochester created a Fire

Fighter’s Civil Service Commission (Commission) pursuant to

Minnesota Statute Chapter 420.   The Commission is composed of

three citizens from the community.   The mayor appoints
                                        College Degree Impact         7

Commission members.   Commissioners serve a term of three years

and may serve successive terms.    The purpose of a civil service

commission is to promote efficiency in government service

through elimination of political patronage in employment

decisions (Klingner & Nalbandian, 1985, p. 13).   Minnesota

Statutes Chapter 420 requires a civil service commission to

promulgate rules that govern selection, retention and promotion

of employees in the classified service.    The Commission

classifies each position within the Department based on the

knowledge, skills and abilities required for the position.      The

Commission develops entrance and promotional requirements in

terms of education, training and physical agility.   The

Commission conducts an examination process for each position

within the Department.   The statute further requires the

Commission to establish and maintain eligibility or promotional

lists from which candidates for the various positions are

selected.   Each list is valid for two years from the date the

list the Commission certifies said list.   As vacancies occur,

the Commission submits the top three names from the eligibility

list to the Common Council of the city.    The Common Council then

selects a name for appointment.

     In 1989, the Commission determined that a college education

was important for the positions of chief, deputy chief, and

assistant chief.   The Commission felt that higher education was

important to increasing the professionalism of the Department,

that it would provide an opportunity for renaissance, and expand

the worldview of chief officers.   Fire departments can be highly
                                        College Degree Impact      8

inertial organizations and the Commission hoped that the

additional perspectives developed through college education

would facilitate evolution.   The Commission adopted a rule

requiring an associate’s degree in fire science by September 1,

1998 for position holders promoted after August 20, 1990.     At

the time the Commission adopted the rule, none of the

Department’s members had college degrees meeting the

requirements of the new rule.   The Commission believed that the

eight-year period would provide current Department members

desiring to promote ample time to complete a college degree.
     The Commission wanted college-educated persons in the upper

level management positions.   Promotion from within the current

membership of the Department has been the rule.   The Commission

intended to place college-educated persons in chief officer

positions through application of the new rule requiring persons

promoted to chief officer positions after 1990 to possess a

minimum of an associate’s degree in fire science or its

equivalent by September 1998.   After September 1998, applicants

for the promotional examinations would have to have the required

college degree.

     In promulgating the rule, the Commission did not consider:

     1.   The long-standing selection process used to hire

personnel at the entry level of fire fighter (the pool from

which promotions are made) was not designed to select persons

with an academic interest.    The process used was intended to

select practically oriented, common sense holding, and

physically capable order takers.
                                        College Degree Impact       9

     2.   There may be an inertial perception that persons

without college degrees had been performing the duties of the

promotional positions for years with apparent success that

represents reality to Department members.   This perception may

erode Department members’ understanding of the Commission’s


     3.   Members otherwise eligible for promotion may regard

the cost/benefit ratio of paying for a college education in

order to take an exam for a position that the member might not

get, as adverse.
     4.   The duties and benefits of the promoted positions

might not be attractive enough to overcome the adverse

cost/benefit ratio in number three above.

     5.   The potential exists for total defeat of the rule’s

goal through utilization of college programs which are not

regarded as legitimate academic disciplines.

     6.   Degree granting programs that do not appear to be

scholarly create the risk of eroding the legitimacy of the

rule’s intent.

     There have been past impacts on the Department.     A deputy

chief promoted under the new rule was required to have an

associate’s degree by September 1998.   The deputy chief had made

no effort to attain the requisite degree.   The Fire Chief

(Chief) advised the Commission of the pending collision between

the deputy chief and the Commission’s rule.    Department members

made an argument asking that college degrees submitted under the

rule be from approved colleges offering the National Fire
                                      College Degree Impact         10

Academy fire science curriculum.   The Commission decided that a

fire science degree from any accredited school would suffice.

     The Commission rebuffed efforts by the affected deputy

chief to obtain a modification of the rule to eliminate the rule

or grant additional time for obtaining the college degree.    The

Commission specifically drafted a new rule to allow removal of

an officer who fails to comply with the college degree rule.

     The Commission also affirmed their commitment to the

college degree rule mandating completion of the degree by

September of 1998.   Two immediate vacancies in assistant chief

positions would remain subject to the college degree rule.    The

Commission conducted an examination for assistant chief.

Numerous highly capable Department members who did not have

college degrees did not apply for the exam.   Two qualified

candidates with a degree as well as five other candidates who

did not have college degrees sat for the exam.   The deputy chief

took the examination for the lower position and achieved the

highest score.   The second highest finisher on the assistant

chief examination did not have, nor had started, a college

degree either.   The college degree is not a factor considered in

the examination process.   The promotions became effective in

June 1998.   The two new assistant chiefs had three months to go

from high school diploma holders to college graduates.

     Both of the new assistant chiefs used a distance-learning

program.   The newly appointed assistant chiefs received their

associate degrees by the September 1, 1998 deadline.
                                      College Degree Impact         11

     The issue presently impacts the Department.     It is the

belief of the fire department administration that very few

members have obtained the required college degree.    The

administration notes that a large number of officers are

eligible to retire which will create vacancies in chief officer

positions (Leland, 2004, p. 7).   A lack of candidates meeting

the college requirement creates an immediate problem given the

anticipated retirements within two years of chief officers.

     The issue will impact the Department’s future if

insufficient numbers of qualified internal candidates are

available to fill promotional positions.   This would require a

seismic shift in organizational dynamics if external candidates

were needed to fill line leadership positions.    The character

and nature of the membership may suffer as well if opportunities

to promote are lost.
     The administration of the Department is contemplating the

elimination of the college degree requirement.    This response is

problematic in itself in that higher education is rapidly

becoming the standard for executive fire officers (see USFA,

2005).   Abandonment or reduction in emphasis of the college

degree requirement carries the potential of a loss or reduction

in effectiveness and legitimacy of fire department leaders

(Clark et al., 1966; Latin, 1992, p. 2).

     This research is directly related to the United States Fire

Administration operational objective of responding appropriately

in a timely manner to emerging issues confronting the fire

service (National Fire Academy, 2003, p. II-2).    The importance
                                      College Degree Impact        12

of higher education in fire service leaders is rapidly becoming

an established expectation.   It is imperative that the fire

service take the actions necessary to address this developing

matter.   Fire departments must analyze their memberships and

develop the required plans to develop their internal customers

into candidates able to meet contemporary challenges.

     This research is also specifically related to the major

goal of the Executive Development Course of the National Fire

Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program, understanding and

managing organizational culture and change, found in Unit 7 of

the Executive Development Course Guide starting on page SM 7-1.

The college degree requirement for promotion to chief officer

positions in the Rochester Fire Department is a huge cultural

change.   The Department must make extensive use of the practices

and techniques contained within this unit to facilitate the

transitioning of its personnel with leadership potential from

practical task performers to theoretical and strategic thinkers.

Higher education is part of this process.

     The researcher will use the descriptive research method as

delineated on page 14 of Module 2 of the January 2004 EFOP

Applied Research Self-Study Course student guide.

                         Literature Review

     The National Fire Protection Association standard, NFPA

1021 Standard for fire officer Professional Qualifications, 2003

Edition does not include a college degree or higher-level

academic studies among the recommended qualifications.   Annex A

of the document suggests that the authority having jurisdiction
                                        College Degree Impact       13

may require college degrees (National Fire Protection

Association, 2003, p. A.1.1).    However, as early as 1967, Hilton

F. Jarrett wrote:

     If the fire service is to meet the technological and social

     challenges of the present and future, some of its members,

     especially those who are or will be in the executive

     positions, will need a broad knowledge base for making

     decisions.     This implies college-level preparation.   (p.

The National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program

currently requires an associate’s level college degree and soon

will be requiring a bachelor’s degree for admission (USFA,

2005).    The three items seem to suggest a variance in importance

of college.   Mr. Jarrett (Jarrett, p. 16) and the participants

in the Wingspread Conference (Clark et al., 1966, p. 10) foresaw

the importance in the fire service of the knowledge, skills and

abilities that accompany higher education.    The National Fire

Academy has been a leader in acting whereas the National Fire

Protection Association is maintaining a middle ground, which may

be reflective of the fire service in general.    The general body

of research suggests that college education is important and

needed.    Diaz (1993, p. 18) notes that higher education improves

the level of service provided by a fire department.    He goes on

to conclude that formal education is actually required to

prepare current fire officers for promotion to executive levels

and to improve their competence (Diaz, p. 19).    Cochran (2001,

p. 13) asserts that fire service managers need college degrees
                                       College Degree Impact      14

for credibility and to be deemed “true professionals”.    Latin

(1992, p. 4) opined that the fire service has not done an

adequate job training or even of informing future fire

executives of what they must achieve to be successful leaders.

Hill (2000, p. 13) concluded that chief fire officers need a

minimum of a bachelors degree in a fire science or

administrative discipline.   He feels that such a requirement

strengthens the local fire department, the fire service

generally, as well as the individual (Hill, p. 13).   Another

author notes that attitudes towards higher education are

evolving with more and more people obtaining college educations

(Hollas, 1994, p. 2).   Weir (2001) describes a phased in

approach to a college prerequisite for promotion to chief fire

officer positions, which was generally regarded within the

subject department as successful.   This appears in contrast to

the experience in the Rochester Fire Department.   Moore (2002)

explored the concept of requiring a college degree for entry

into a fire department.   He concluded that critical thinking

skills are important to fire service leaders and the best way to

assure a viable pool of candidates was to require a college

degree of any applicants.    He also noted a divergence in the

opinions of his survey population; although a majority agreed

with the proposition that a college degree provided important

and necessary skills for supervision and management (Moore,

2002, p. 16), a majority also opposed requiring a college degree

for promotion.   This finding is somewhat analogous to the

situation presently under examination in the Rochester Fire
                                       College Degree Impact       15

Department.   Of particular interest was the work of Steven

Achilles (2003) who examined why larger pools of internal

candidates were not developing for the chief officer positions

in his department of study.   He found a large number of factors

such as residency requirements, lack of overtime, scheduling

changes and increased workloads for chief officer positions were

viewed negatively and outweighed any positive attributes of the

job.   Perhaps this offers insight into the findings of Moore

(2002) as well as a possible alternative explanation for present

conditions in the subject department of this research project.

Parks (1996, p. 15) identified a lack of incentive as a cause

for no or limited action in pursuit of college degrees.

Crawford (2002) discussed the perspective of city managers and

administrators on the importance of a college education.    Higher

education was identified as one of the positive characteristics

by city managers (Crawford, p. 21).   Fire department promotional

programs should include provisions to allow interested members

to pursue college degrees at accredited colleges (Carter &

Rausch, 1993, p. 145).   College degrees should develop a core

set of capacities or abilities.   Policymakers want critical-

thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills developed

(Miller, 2003, p. 5).

       The literature review provided a great deal of background

information on college degrees in the fire service.   A number of

the articles explored the prevalence of college degrees among

department members.   Other articles and books identified the

importance and increasing trend of college degree requirements.
                                       College Degree Impact        16

Additional references provided information on motivational

considerations in acquisition of college degrees as well as

possible de-motivators.   The entire literature review has

influenced the research project by providing a greater depth of

understanding of the questions being posed.    This additional

understanding will be useful in analyzing the outcomes of the

research as well as discussing the implications of the data.

Furthermore, the literature review will provide significant

background for developing recommendations.

     The researcher reviewed the Fire Civil Service Commission’s

rule on college degree requirements.     The research questions

specific to this Applied Research Project were also reviewed.      A

series of questions were then developed with a specific focus on

college activities.   The questions were designed to acquire data

strictly relevant to the research questions so information

meaningful to the purpose of the research would be collected.

Too broad a series of questions would distract from the research

purpose and dilute the ability to address the research problem.

A series of nine questions was selected.    The mechanism chosen

to ask the questions was a survey instrument.

     After choosing the questions and mechanism for asking the

questions, a target population was selected.    Present occupants

of the position classification of captain were chosen for

sampling.   Developing data on college degree activity in the

rank of captain provides information on the immediate issue of

near-future candidate pools for anticipated retirements.
                                       College Degree Impact        17

Captains have the required time in grade for promotion whereas

firefighters and motor operators do not.   The selection of

current captains as the sample population was therefore based on

the practical implications of all those contained within the

sample population are otherwise qualified for promotion.

Sampling of the rest of the Department membership is discussed

in the Recommendations section.

     The survey instrument was submitted to the assistant chief

and the fire chief for review and approval.   After approval was

obtained, the survey was distributed by U.S. Mail to the home

addresses of each of the captains in the Department, with one

exception.    One Department captain does not list his address

publicly.    His survey was hand delivered to him at his assigned

fire station.   Each mailing included a stamped return envelope

addressed to the researcher.   No means of identifying the survey

respondent was used.    A cover letter was included which

indicated the researcher’s name, survey authorization, the

purpose of the survey, instructions on completing the survey

with an estimate of the total time required to complete the

survey, that the summary results would be related to the fire

chief and that confidentiality and anonymity would be


     Two electronic mailings were sent to remind members of the

target population to complete and return their surveys at their

earliest opportunity.   The survey population was encouraged to

participate, but nothing in the initial survey mailing or the
                                       College Degree Impact         18

follow up e-mails was designed or intended to suggest that

participation in the survey was mandatory.

     Limitations of the procedures used included a number of

factors.   Participation in the survey was voluntary; therefore,

there was no way to assure full participation by the target

population.   Veracity of responses is also a limitation.   The

survey was anonymous which may in some circumstances provide

cover for a participant who for reasons unknown may choose not

to answer the questions accurately.   The anonymity of the survey

also precludes the use of documentation to support any answers

in the survey, which can be a useful crosscheck technique.     The

importance of the anonymity of the survey to placing

participants at ease was believed to outweigh the potential risk

of inaccurate replies.   Another limitation of the survey is the

inability to identify and correct any confusion over the

questions.    In this survey, the questions were primarily of a

yes/no or single word answer variety and the two open-ended

questions at the conclusion of the survey were of a

straightforward nature intended to minimize the confusion risk.

Finally, the survey was applied to a finite population.     The

finite population is of a size that achieving a 95% confidence

level in the responses being representative requires all but one

of the members of the target population to return the survey.

In the absence of 100% return of the surveys, it may be possible

for results to be skewed depending on the percentage of non-

returns and how the persons who did not return a survey would

have answered.
                                        College Degree Impact     19

     The first research question of the Applied Research Project

attempted to quantify the number of chief officer vacancies

anticipated over the next five years.    This question was

answered by comparing the retirement eligibility dates with the

birthdates of the current position holders.    All other questions

of the Applied Research Project were addressed using the survey

method described above.

     Of the nineteen surveys distributed, fourteen were


     Question one of the research explored the anticipated

vacancies in chief officer positions over the next five years.

There are six chief officer positions in the Rochester Fire

Department.   The current age of the six current position holders

ranges from forty-four years of age to fifty-nine years of age.

Table 1 shows the current age and age in five years of the

current position holders.
                                   College Degree Impact      20
Table 1

Chief Officer Ages

Officer              Current age          Age in five years

    1                     59                         64

    2                     57                         62

    3                     57                         62

    4                     50                         55

    5                     49                         54

    6                     44                         49
                                      College Degree Impact        21

     Therefore, to answer the first research question, there are

four chief officer vacancies predicted within the next five


     In response to the second question inquiring into the

prevalence of college degrees and what type of degrees they are,

six of the fourteen respondents report having a college degree.

The responses are shown in Table 2.   Forty-three percent of the

respondents reported having college degrees.   Two of the

fourteen respondents reported having a college degree in fire

science.   Of those reporting a college degree, 33% have a fire

science degree.
                                           College Degree Impact     22
Table 2

College Degrees

Type              Major

BA                History

BS                Recreation Administration

BS                Industrial Engineering

BS                Fire Science

AA                Fire Science

AA                (undesignated, but reported not in fire science)
                                        College Degree Impact       23

     The third research question asked if any of the captains

were pursuing degrees in fire science.    None of the respondents

replied affirmatively to this question.

     The fourth question examined the number of college credits

among those without a college degree.    Four of eight respondents

reported college credits ranging from twenty five to one hundred

sixteen college credits.    A fifth respondent replied that he or

she was unsure how many college credits he or she had “so it’s

not many”.
     Research question five sought to determine if the college

degree requirement affected the decision by the captain to seek

promotion.   The responses are listed in Table 3.   Sixty-four

percent of the survey respondents stated they would take a

promotional test for chief officer if there were no college

degree requirement.   Of the two respondents who meet the college

degree requirement, one stated yes he/she would take a

promotional exam if there were no degree requirement and the

other respondent did not answer the question.    Three of the

other four non-fire science degree holders replied they would

take a promotional exam for chief officer.    The fourth

respondent in this sub group replied “no” to the question.      Five

of eight (63%) non-degree holders stated they would take the

promotional exam for a chief officer position if there were no

degree requirement.   The other three in this sub-group stated

definitively they would not take a promotional exam for a chief

officer’s position (37%).
                                     College Degree Impact       24
Table 3

College Degree Requirement and Decision to Promote

“If there was no college degree requirement for chief officers

would you take the test for promotion to a chief officer


YES          9

NO           4

No reply   1
                                      College Degree Impact          25

     The sixth research question sought to identify any factors

limiting members from pursuing a college degree.   These

responses are shown in Table 4.   Of the eight respondents who do

not have a college degree, 38% reported that there were no

factors limiting them from obtaining a college degree.     Another

38% reported that time was a limiting factor.   Twenty-five

percent stated that the pursuit of a college degree was not a

priority for them and listed that as a limiting factor.

     Of the non-fire science degree holders, one respondent

opined that the fire department needed to decide what the

requirement was going to be in citing on going discussions about

changing the rules.   Another respondent from this sub group

cited an unwillingness to return to school as a limiting factor

and the remaining two non-fire science degree holders did not

list any limiting factors.
                                        College Degree Impact        26
Table 4

College Degree Pursuit Limiting Factors

Collegea     Majorb         Factors listedc

BA           not fire       Department indecision on requirements

BS           not fire       none indicated

BS           not fire       unwillingness to go back to school

BS           fire           none indicated

AA           fire           none indicated

AA           not reported   none indicated

116 credits                 time & purpose

50 credits                  not a priority

few credits                 not a priority

30 credits                  time/family; cost/benefit

30 credits                  no limiting factors

none                        no limiting factors

none                        no limiting factors

none                        perceived value & time
    College indicates college degree attained or extent of college

work in the absence of degree completion.
    Major identifies whether the college degree is the required fire

science degree or a degree in another field.      Specific majors

were not listed to maintain confidentiality of responses.
    In this column, “none indicated” means there was no reply to the

survey question, whereas “no limiting factor” means the

respondent specifically replied “no” to the question of whether

there are factors limiting his or her pursuit of a college

                                      College Degree Impact        27


     The research produced a number of interesting results.

Achilles (2003, p. 28) found that a number of disincentives for

promotion to chief officer existed for internal candidates in

his study population which manifested itself as limiting the

number of internal candidates seeking chief officer promotions.

This is in contradistinction to the information developed in the

instant study.   Sixty-four percent of the survey population

indicated they would test for a chief officer position if the

college degree requirement were not present.   This finding

suggests that in the Rochester Fire Department, a required

college degree in fire science is perceived as a barrier by

internal candidates who would otherwise seek promotion.

Achilles (p. 33) also cites financial incentives as an important

consideration in confronting internal candidate pool

development.   Only one (7%) of the survey respondents in the

Rochester survey indicated that cost was a factor limiting his

or her pursuit of a college degree.

     Bercik et al. (2004, p. 88) note the numerous obstacles

that stand between full time employees and college education.

Major factors cited by Bercik et al. include personal time

commitment and expense.   The Rochester research showed that only

38% of the respondents actually reported time as a factor

inhibiting pursuit of a college degree.   This may be due to the

availability of distance learning fire science programs, which

are known to be available to Rochester fire department members

and have been successfully completed using non-committed on duty
                                        College Degree Impact       28

time, which reduces the impact on personal and family

considerations.    Surprisingly, only one respondent cited the

cost versus the benefit of the college degree as a factor

limiting pursuit of a college degree.    Given the significant

expense of a college class ($1500-$2000, personal communication,

Kris Jungels, 2005), it is unknown why this factor was not

considered significant by the majority of the non-fire science

degree holders as an impediment affecting their decisions to

pursue a college degree or chief officer promotions.    Bercik et

al. also point out cultural barriers within fire departments

that serve to diminish “subordinates’ educational efforts” (p.

88).    Over 50% of the survey participants in the Rochester study

said either there were no limiting factors to their pursuit of a

college degree or that a college degree was not a priority for

them.    This may reflect the cultural influences contained within

the Rochester Fire Department.    Further study on the question of

organization cultural influence is warranted.    Cochran (2001, p.

17) also found that sufficient incentives were essential to

inspire fire department members to pursue higher education.

        Jarrett (1967, p. 15) pointed out that professional

development of the fire executive requires college education.

Despite the large body of evidence developed continuously since

his observations, it is apparent that in the current study

population, that view, although it may be accepted (this was not

part of the study, and so therefore, no conclusions are made or

offered) the data show that it is not adopted.    None of the non-

fire science degree holders is presently engaged in pursuit of
                                      College Degree Impact         29

the requisite fire science degree.   The lack of current college

degree activity in the study population, which does not have the

requisite fire degree, may reflect the mixed signals received

from the organization.   These include the absence of a

significant tuition reimbursement program, on going discussions

of alternative paths to promotional exams bypassing the college

degree requirement, and a possible perception of ambivalence

towards the college requirement by fire department leadership.

It would be of interest in further research to assess the degree

to which members of the study population as well as the fire

department administration shares the conclusions of Cochran,

Crawford (2002) or of Weir (2001) that college educated chief

officers are essential to successful fire department

     Moore (2002, p. 16) found that fire department members in

his study generally agreed a college education was important for

successful supervision or management, yet in the same study

population, less than half felt that college education should be

considered in the promotional process.    Moore (p. 16) theorizes

that the contradiction is because most of the respondents do not

have a college degree or significant college time, yet they

still want to be considered for promotion.   The Rochester study

findings are analogous in that a large percentage of the survey

participants are interested in promoting to chief officer

positions, but none of the participants without a fire degree is

making any effort to obtain the degree.

     The researcher interprets the results of the study as:
                                        College Degree Impact         30

        1.   Three of six (50%) chief officers are eligible for

retirement now.    One chief officer will be eligible for full

benefit retirement within five years.    One additional chief

officer will be eligible for early retirement with reduced

benefits within the next five years.    Sixty-seven percent of

chief officers will be eligible for retirement in five years or

less.    Based on the survey results, there will be insufficient

internal candidates to fill the chief officer vacancies over the

next five years given the current educational requirement.      The

survey showed there are two internal candidates who possess the

required fire degree.    The five members of the surveyed group

who did not return the survey may have the required degree.

This would alter the above interpretation.
        2.   Members of the surveyed group do have college degrees.

Forty-three percent of the surveyed group has a college degree.

Fourteen percent of the surveyed group has the currently

required fire degree.    The types of degree vary widely (see

Table 2).    Hollas (1994), Crawford (2002), Miller (2003) and

others cite the value of a college education as providing a

basic set of advanced intellectual capacities that provide

increased opportunities for problem solving, critical thinking,

strategic planning and communication.    If the core value of

college is expanding one’s ability to think, then it is possible

that the current college degree requirement is too restrictive.

It is possible or even likely that the college degree holders in

disciplines other than fire science possess the same higher
                                       College Degree Impact       31

education based skills and abilities as those who possess the

fire science degree.   This is an area for further research.

     3.    None of the surveyed group is presently working on a

fire science college degree, (or any other degree).   It is again

possible that the five members of the survey group who did not

return the survey would alter the conclusions if their

information were known.    This result shows that no additional

internal candidates for promotion to chief officer will be

generated from the survey population given the current

educational requirement.
     4.    Table 4 shows the number of college credits earned by

non-degree holders in the survey population.   Opportunities

exist for these members to obtain a required college degree.

Suitable motivation must be identified to make this possible

however.   The absence of any current activity by these members

suggests insufficient incentives are available.

     5.    In the survey 64% of the participants stated they

would take chief officer promotional exams if there was no

educational requirement.   Excluding survey participants who have

the fire degree, two-thirds of the remainder of the study group

said they would take a promotional exam for chief officer.     This

highly suggests that there would be more than enough internal

candidates for the anticipated vacancies.

     6.    As indicated above, a very surprising result was the

relative absence of expense as a factor limiting members of the

survey group from pursuing the required college degree.   Only

one survey respondent tangentially mentioned expense in a
                                      College Degree Impact        32

reference to cost of degree versus benefit.   Also somewhat

unexpected was the expression of there being no limiting factors

at all or, a null response in 42% of the responses (excluding

the two survey returns indicating the required fire degree had

been attained) to the question on factors limiting members from

pursuing a college degree.   The researcher had hoped additional

insight could be obtained into whether or not there were

limiting factors to attaining the required college degree.

     The implications of the results are that the Rochester Fire

Department does not have sufficient numbers of internal

candidates to fill anticipated chief officer positions.    The

results provide an opportunity to address the issue.   The

results bring into objective focus that which has been

speculated on.

     •    The survey should be extended to the ranks of

firefighter and motor operator.   This will further quantify the

number of college degrees present among the department

membership and facilitate decision-making by assessing the

college degree impact beyond the immediate term.

     •    A review of the purpose of the college degree

requirement should be undertaken.   The review should identify

the characteristics and capabilities desired in college

graduates as they relate to fire service management and

                                        College Degree Impact         33

     •       A mechanism for deciding on the merit of continuing

the restriction on the major course of study for the required

college degree should be developed.

     •       The cultural values within the Rochester Fire

Department concerning higher education should be studied.       The

perception of the value of higher education should be assessed,

in both the rank-and-file and the fire department management.         A

plan for alignment of the determined cultural value on higher

education and the current perception of the value should be

     •       Evaluation of the merit of requiring a college degree

for entrance to the Rochester Fire Department should be

conducted.    Other fire departments have implemented such a

requirement.    The benefit to such a requirement is it transfers

the burden of financing the education to the employee and

removes it from the residents of the jurisdiction.

     •       Consideration of alternative methods to qualifying

internal candidates for chief officer examinations should be

undertaken.    Any alternative methods should be sensitive to the

perception of fairness by providing some method of providing

credit to internal candidates who have obtained the required

degree in the expectation that there would not be an option.

     •       Examination of departmental priorities could possibly

result in increased resources being allocated to a tuition

reimbursement program, which would increase the potential for

internal candidates to seek the required college degree.
                                        College Degree Impact      34

     •       Additional research into the viability and

desirability of establishing a cooperative effort between the

Greater Rochester Area University Center and the Rochester Fire

Department to develop a fire science degree program locally

should be undertaken.    The benefits of such a program would be

symbiotic.    Fire department members could achieve college

degrees important to their vertical and horizontal mobility.

The University Center and the community benefit from increased

higher educational opportunities and enrollment.
                                       College Degree Impact      35


Achilles, S. E. (2003, August). Are we discouraging company

     officers from becoming chief officers? (LRC 36234).

     Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy.

Bercik, R., Connealy, C., Lowe, B., & Mooney, L. (2004, April).

     Stop wasting time and pursue your college degree.

     Firehouse, 29, 87-90.

Carter, H. R., & Rausch, E. (1993). Management in the fire

     service (2nd ed.). Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection

Clark, W. E., Favreau, D., Gratz, D., O'Hagan, J., Royer, K.,

     Schick, L., et al. (1966). Statements of national

     significance to the fire problem in the United States.

     Wingspread Conference on Fire Service Administration,

     Education and Research, I, 15.

Cochran, K. J. (2001, April). Evaluating higher education

     requirements in the fire service (LRC 32055). Emmitsburg,

     MD: National Fire Academy.

Crawford, B. A. (2002, December). Seeking the top job:

     considerations for those seeking the position of fire chief

     (LRC 16431). Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy.

Diaz, R. L. (1993, September). A study of educational

     requirements for the position of battalion chief in fire

     departments across the U.S. (LRC No. 23323). Emmitsburg:

     National Fire Academy.
                                        College Degree Impact     36

Hill, J. L. (2000, January). Chief Fire Officer Qualifications

     (LRC 30732). Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy.

Hollas, R. (1994, December). College education: a requirement

     for promotion? (LRC 25162). Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire


Jarrett, H. F. (1967 September 2). The Wingspread Conference: a

     challenge to action (SP-2937). Santa Monica: System

     Development Corporation.

Klingner, D. E., & Nalbandian, J. (1985). Public personnel

     management context and strategies (2nd ed.). Englewood

     Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc..
Latin, O. (1992, January). Command staff executives need a

     college degree (LRC No. 19297). Emmitsburg, MD: National

     Fire Academy.

Leland, J. (2004, February). Continuing a legacy-succession

     planning for the Rochester fire department (LRC 37249).

     Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy.

Miller, M. A. (2003, September-October). The meaning of the

     baccalaureate. Retrieved from The California Higher

     Education Policy Center Web Site:

Moore, J. L. (2002, May). The implications of requiring a

     college degree for entry level firefighters in the Delhi

     Township Fire Department (LRC 36799). Emmitsburg, MD:

     National Fire Academy.
                                     College Degree Impact        37

National Fire Academy (2003, September). II-2,5,e. In Executive

     Fire Officer Program applied research guidelines (Rev.

     ed.). Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire Academy.

National Fire Protection Association (2003). Standard for fire

     officer professional qualifications (NFPA 1021). Quincy,

     MA: National Fire Protection Association.

Parks, J. S. (1996, May). Increased educational requirements for

     fire officers (LRC 27178). Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire

U.S. Fire Administration. (n.d.). USFA training & education EFOP

     selection criteria. Retrieved May 15, 2005, from

Weir, C. J. (2001, September). Baccalaureate prerequisite for

     promotion to chief fire officer positions in the City of

     Fort Lauderdale (LRC 32292). Emmitsburg, MD: National Fire

                                           College Degree Impact     38


     This is a confidential survey authorized by Chief Kapler.

The intent of the survey is to assess the impact on internal

candidates of the current fire science college degree

requirement for chief officer promotional examination.       The

purpose of the survey is to determine how many captains have

college degrees and if any have the degree currently required by

the Civil Service Rules for promotion to chief officer

positions.    The summary results will be made available to Chief


  1. Do you have a college degree?

  2. If yes, is it an Associates or Bachelors?

  3. If yes, is it in fire science?

  4. If not in fire science, what is the degree title or major?

  5. If you do not have a college degree, are you working
     towards a fire science degree?

                If yes,
             (a) How many credit hours have you completed so far?

             (b)   What year do you plan on completing the degree?

  6. If you are enrolled in college currently, what is the
     degree you are pursuing (bachelors, associates, masters,
     other and degree major)?

  7. If you do not have a degree and you are not currently
     enrolled in college, do you have any college credits, and
     if so, how many?
                                  College Degree Impact         39

8. Are there any factors limiting you from pursuing a college
   degree, and if so, what are they?

9. If there was no college degree requirement for chief
   officers (assistant, deputy, and chief) would you take the
   test for promotion to a chief officer position?