Do You Need a Masters Degree to be a Chief?

I know this blog entry might upset some of my colleagues with advanced degrees. Maybe I am jealous that I don’t have an advance degree (I have BS and I am glad I have it). It took me 14 years to achieve my undergraduate degree from Hahnemann University, now Drexel and I am very proud that I accomplished this goal.  It did open doors and I received interviews based on the degree.

A degree gives you credentials and credibility, but does it give all the knowledge and skills to be a Chief in EMS or any public safety officer position? What does the advance degree give you? It does provide someone with more knowledge and  maybe advance skills. I have over 30 plus years in a leadership role, because I don’t have an advance degree, I am not now qualified to apply for a chief’s job? Reading job postings lately (for fun only, I love my current job as a chief) that states a Master’s Degree is required I would have no shot. I ask why?  I think with my work history, accomplishments and my leadership abilities I should at least be given a chance?

So why does an employer now require an advance degree for an EMS Chief?  Is the reason because it looks good on paper? Is it because EMS is a business, so a MBA is a must?  Where does chemisty, fit and leadership come into play? One of the best books I have read on leadership and people was Stephen Covey’s 7-Habits of Highly Effective People. Nothing I can recall in the habits said anything about a degree. Listen education is knowledge and power, but you need to be able to talk and communicate with people too. Spreadsheets and sitting behind a desk does not make you a good leader or Chief. Developing programs, growing an organization,  knowing operations, leadership, relationships, dealing with politics and relating to employees are just as important.

I am firm believer that education is important and getting a college degree is a must. I encourage all my staff to go back to school and help arrange their schedules to do so. It can open doors, studies say you can make more money with a degree (don’t look at Bill Gates as an example). In EMS does someone with an advance degree right out of school a better choice than a person with years of experience as a leader? Employers think so today and I think that is a mistake.

I have had the opportunity to sit on numerous interview panels during my career.  Some candidates have had advanced degrees and others without. The advanced degree candidates have the book and behind the desk experience, but lack the field and people experience.  The non advanced degree candidates lack the business side.  To me the people skills are the most important and are difficult to learn as the book side and spreadsheets are easier to achieve.  Only if we could combine the two, which there are leaders out there that have both capabilities and I know lots of them.

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