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Partnership with County Fire Department Offers New Fire Science and Leadership Degree Program for Firefighters

The Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS) and Howard Community College (HCC) have partnered to offer firefighters and paramedics a new academic program that provides an affordable and accessible path to an associate degree in fire science and leadership. Firefighters and paramedics will have the opportunity to gain higher levels of education to achieve compliance with the department’s recently implemented leadership, education, assessment, and development requirements and advance their careers.

“We owe it to our firefighters and paramedics to provide them with educational pathways that equip them to compete and better lead in an ever-changing economy,” said Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman. “Most corporations and government agencies have educational requirements to hold positions of leadership.”

Howard County Executive Kittleman, Howard Community College President Kathleen Hetherington, and Fire Chief John S. Butler participated today in a ceremonial signing of the memorandum of understanding between Howard County, Howard Community College, and the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. The event took place immediately following the first program information session for the new degree program, which is open to interested firefighters and paramedics. Additional information sessions will be held throughout the month.

“Howard Community College is committed to educating the workforce of Howard County,” said Dr. Hetherington, president of Howard Community College. “Our new partnership ensures firefighters and paramedics have the best and most affordable higher education to successfully lead the department into the future.”

Starting in 2016, firefighters and paramedics will need to earn 45 college credits for promotion to the rank of lieutenant and an associate degree for promotion to captain. Through the new partnership, firefighters and paramedics can receive up to 40 college credits for many of the training courses that they already take as part of their departmental certification, and 20 additional credits can be earned by taking core academic courses taught at HCC. The program’s course curriculum emphasizes fire science technology, firefighting competencies, and organizational leadership.

“Public safety is changing rapidly and there's an increasing expectation of professional development and formal education,” said Fire Chief Butler. “In the past, a firefighter could climb the career ladder most often through experience and training. A degree wasn’t typically a requirement. This is a cutting-edge degree program that will produce graduates who will effectively progress the profession to better serve our community.”

While several community colleges have partnered with other fire departments in Maryland, the Howard Community College program is distinct for its focus on both fire science and leadership and for its alignment with a new trainee’s start of service in the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. On day one, the trainee can enroll at HCC and begin their college degree while training to be a firefighter. The new program links the concept of firefighting and leadership with actual hands-on training through a combination of classroom instruction, online distance learning, and out-of-class course work.

All new college academic programs must undergo review by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Howard Community College received approval this fall to start courses this coming spring semester, which starts January 30, 2016.

Through the new partnership, Howard Community College will provide all HCDFRS firefighters and paramedics with the in-county tuition rate, regardless of place of residency.

For more information about the program courses and requirements, visit

Photos to accompany this release are available online at:

Media Contacts:
Elizabeth Homan (HCC), 443-518-4073,                                                               
Jackie Kotei (HCDFRS), 410-313-6039,

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