Associate of Applied Science degree will prepare the next generation of firefighters

PETOSKEY—North Central has announced a new degree program that allows graduates to become cross-trained in firefighting and Emergency Medical Services (EMS).  The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Fire Science degree will be available beginning Fall 2022. 

The two-year program prepares students with essential, hands-on firefighting education and training and includes additional courses in Emergency Medical Services.  Graduates will be well-rounded first responders who will rise to the top of applicant lists at fire departments statewide, according to Jim Cousino, North Central’s dean of Career and Technical Education. 

“Our graduates can walk out of here with their Firefighter I and II certification and their EMS license up to paramedic.  That puts them at a huge advantage over the competition,” Cousino said.

Salaries for combined firefighter/paramedic positions in Michigan range from $50,000 per year up to $80,000 per year with bonuses, Cousino said.  He expects the program to appeal to individuals looking to start a career in firefighting as well as those wishing to advance their career in specific areas, such as fire inspection and investigation or fire command and administration.

To be licensed by the Michigan Fire Fighters Training Council, all firefighters must complete Firefighter I and II certification through a Fire Academy at a Regional Training Center, a designation North Central has held since 2017.

All courses will be taught by local instructors with direct experience in the field.  Many classes offer an online option, so students only need to come to campus every third weekend for in-person trainings.

Equally beneficial is the ability to ladder North Central’s new Firefighter Certificate of Development, a one-year degree, into the new associate degree program, according to Vice President of Academic Affairs Stephen Strom.

“This program is a perfect example of the benefits derived from ‘stacking’ credentials,” Strom said.  “Our goal is to provide a clear pathway to a career without limiting students’ possibilities.  They can either climb the professional ladder through these stackable credentials or pause their education to enter the workforce when it best fits their lives and careers.”

Through articulation agreements with Kirtland Community College and Northwestern Michigan College, North Central also offers an Associate of Applied Science in Law Enforcement, which allows students to attend a state-certified police academy, graduating with both an associate degree and Michigan Council of Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) certification. 

Cousino expects some students to pursue both a law enforcement and fire science degree to become “tri-trained” in police, fire and EMS, making them even more marketable to departments statewide.

Firefighter in conversation, smiling

Credit for prior learning is helping local firefighters like David Mendoza continue their education when it works with their lives and their careers.  Read how in North Central's Aspire magazine.