College Program in New Jersey
“Professional status begins with education.”
“A systematic and deliberate educational program leading to a broad knowledge base which is acceptable to the academic community is the surest approach to professionalization.”
These statements were developed at the Wingspread Conference in February 1966 at Racine, Wis., in an effort to disseminate information pertaining to the national fire problem.
Eight years have passed since the Wingspread Conference but the sharp call to action has not been forgotten. Here in New Jersey we have accomplished the main theme of the conference through the development of a degree program in conjunction with the Department of Higher Education of the State of New Jersey.
At present there are seven community colleges in New Jersey offering associate degrees in fire science. They are Essex, Somerset, Union, Passaic, Atlantic, Mercer and Camden Counties. One college, William Paterson College, a state college, offers a baccalaureate in public safety administration for fire science students.
The fire and safety science curriculum is designed to provide full-time fire fighters with the opportunity to earn an associate in science degree and to continue toward a baccalaureate degree. This is accomplished through the double-tracking system of scheduling courses to conform with the fire fighters’ working schedule. A typical course of study, such as the one at Essex College, is shown in the table.
The four-year program leading to a bachelor of science degree in public safety administration at William Paterson College of New Jersey is designed to provide a solid foundation in this field as an academic area of study.
Credits for degree
Requirements for the degree include 30 credits in the public safety area, 30 credits of liberal studies, and 60 credits of electives, both free and guided.
Among the courses in the public safety administration major are the following fire science courses: Principles of Public Safety Administration, Organization and Management of a Fire Department, Community Relations, Arson Detection and Fire Investigation, Advanced Strategy and Tactics for Modern Fire Suppression and Control, Transportation of Hazardous Materials, Seminar in Public Safety Problems, Introduction to Criminology, White Collar Crime, Fire Fighting During Civil Disorders, and others. Courses in Police Science and Corrections are available as electives.
Several fire departments have set up incentive programs to motivate fire fighters and to compensate them for the personal hardships in their longterm course of study toward a degree.
The Town of Cranford has an incentive plan that pays a bonus for college credits and an additional bonus for college degree attainments. Cranford also pays 80 percent of the registration and tuition costs.
The City of Clifton’s pay scale has risen so high in recent years that the City Council has requested the State Department of Civil Service to require applicants for the fire department to have completed at least two years of college before taking a civil service examination for positions.
The Department of Civil Service set a precedent this year when it authorized Hillside Township in Union County to make one year of college a prerequisite for taking a civil service examination to be a policeman.
Typical Course of Study
Clifton pays up to $1320 for 66 college credits at $20 per credit. City Manager William Holster said that the higher pay should command at least some college training. He added that men seeking promotion to captain should have at least two years of college and for all higher ranks, a full college degree.
The City of Paterson provides additional compensation for members of the fire department completing programs of higher education leading to a degree in public safety administration pertaining to fire science. As part of their regular salary, uniformed members are paid $22.50 for each credit hour earned toward a degree in fire science at an institution of higher learning. Such additional compensation cannot exceed $2500 for any calendar year. Also, all members of the department are reimbursed for all monies expended for the purchase of required textbooks. After reimbursement, the books become the property of the City of Paterson. At the present time, there are 112 Paterson fire fighters attending college.
The baccalaureate degree program at William Paterson College has been recognized as a model among the nation’s institutions of higher education. It is unique in its attraction of students from a great many occupations and walks of life. This has not come about overnight, but from t wo years of intensive study by the Fire Advisory Board of William Paterson College, which includes Professor William E. Cusack, Dr. James Gallo, Assistant Fire Chief William J. Comer of the Paterson Fire Department, Battalion Chief Robert Miller of the Newark Fire Department, and Chief James Thompson of the Wayne Fire Department.
The advisory board members are constantly striving for the upgrading of the fire service through training and education, always maintaining a high standard of excellence.
There is presently a plan for volunteer and paid fire fighters to attend courses through a continuing education program established by the college. Future plans call for the college to sponsor and coordinate county fire school training, where fire fighters will receive instruction from competent men in the field and also obtain credits for certain courses to be applied toward fire science degrees.