What is your long-term goal in the fire service? To become chief of your department? To move up to a senior position in a metropolitan department? To become the state training director? Any one of these goals will require some prerequisite background qualifications, which may include at least a bachelor`s academic degree. Today, even becoming a staff officer in a trade organization requires more than a GED.

Many fire service personnel have obtained or are in the process of obtaining an associate`s degree from the local community college. This is a good first step to reaching that ultimate goal, but don`t stop there. Achieving an associate degree is only halfway to the goal–the hard half–and you now need to finish the last half. An easy way to get those last academic hours for a bachelor of science degree is to enroll in the National Fire Academy Degrees at a Distance Program (DDP).

The DDP is an independent-study program in conjunction with seven accredited colleges and universities across the country. Each school services a geographic region and offers a bachelor`s degree with concentrations in fire administration/management and fire prevention technology.

Attendance at classes on the school campus is not required. Rather, an interactive dialogue between the student (you) and a faculty member is maintained through written assignments, telephone, and even e-mail exchanges. A proctored hometown final exam completes each semester`s work. The course subjects are all fire-related topics and are written primarily by senior fire service leaders. They include Incendiary Fire Analysis and Investigation, Fire-Related Human Behavior, Fire Dynamics, Political and Legal Foundations of Fire Protection, to name a few. Specific course offerings vary each semester, but all of the courses in the DDP program are available at least once every two years.

Ambitious students may take two courses per semester, but if you have a family and must intertwine a work schedule with these classes, one course per semester will get you to your goal within two to three years. Can you enroll in a DDP course without a degree commitment? Absolutely! These courses certainly can satisfy a professional development requirement or fulfill that desire to increase an understanding in a specific discipline.

Tuition and book fees vary by school, so it`s best to contact the regional school in your area to find out more information about the DDP. The schools and the regions they serve are listed below:

Cogswell College

Phone: (800) 264-7955, ext. 105

Region: AZ, CA, NV

University of Cincinnati

Phone: (800) 836-5377 or (513) 556-6583

Region: IN, MI, MN, ND, OH, SD, WI, FL, GA

University of Memphis

Phone: (901) 678-2754

Region: AL, AR, KY, MS, TN, SC, LA

Western Oregon University

Phone: (800) 451-5767 or (503) 838-8483

Region: AK, CO, HI, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY

University of Maryland

Phone: (800) 283-6832 or (301) 985-7788

Region: DE, MD, NJ, NC, DC, WV, VA

Western Illinois University

Phone: (309) 298-2496

Region: IL, IA, KS, MO, NE, NM, OK, TX

Empire State College/SUNY

Phone: (800) 847-3000 or (518) 587-2100, ext. 300

Region: CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, PA, RI, VT

For general information on the DDP program, contact Ed Kaplan at the National Fire Academy, (800) 238-3358, ext. 1127 or (301) 447-1127; e-mail:.

Make your goals more than just dreams. Make them a reality. Enroll in the Degrees at a Distance Program. Registrations are now being accepted for courses starting this fall.

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