Firefighters and other emergency personnel can complete a college degree over the Internet, offering them the advantages of completing courses around their often erratic work schedules. West Texas A&M University in Canyon is offering fire and emergency services personnel an opportunity to take on-line courses and complete a bachelor of applied arts and science degree in Fire Management Administration.
The program was developed collaboratively by TEEX’s Emergency Services Training Institute, WTAMU and an advisory board from the Texas Fire Chiefs Association. The web site, which went online Feb. 15,2001, provides information on admission into the program, required courses and program contact information. After completing the degree plan, students will have the necessary skills to assume managerial positions within the fire service, said Tom Sturtevant, a program manager with ESTI.
“One unique aspect of this degree program is that the major area of emphasis is on administration and management. Students in this program will learn skills necessary to assume managerial positions within the fire service. These skills will allow graduates to interact effectively with law enforcement, public works, city councils, mayors and county government personnel,” Sturtevant said.
“We have been fielding a lot of inquiries from fire personnel who want to know more about the program. Fire and emergency personnel in Texas have a significant interest in this area of study,” Sturtevant said.
To develop the most appropriate classes for the degree, members of the advisory board identified 21 skill areas required for mid- to upper-level managers within an emergency service organization. ESTI and WTAMU staff members cross-referenced the 21 skill areas with current WTAMU courses. The courses were then evaluated and selected to form an innovative on-line degree program.
The Fire Management Administration program is designed as a bachelor’s completion program, so students must have already completed an associate’s degree or 66 credit hours from an accredited college or university. Those wanting to enroll must also have served a minimum of five years within the fire and emergency services field.
Sturtevant said taking on-line courses is different from regular classes and those applying should be aware of the difficulties and expectations of learning through distance education.
“People tend to procrastinate, which can make taking on-line courses difficult. Success increases when a student develops a schedule to complete course work and then sticks to that schedule. We ask prospective students to submit a writing sample discussing the advantages and challenges of taking on-line courses to help them better understand the differences,” Sturtevant said.