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The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is responding to an industry need with two new fire science-focused degree options—allowing professionals in the field to continue their education to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

A new emergency management emphasis is being offered as part of the fire and emergency response management (FERM) bachelor’s degree program, and a new fire and emergency administration and management (FEAM) emphasis is being offered within the master’s degree in public administration program. Both programs are fully online and accepting new students.

The first of its kind in Wisconsin—and developed by fire chiefs—UW Oshkosh’s online FERM bachelor’s degree program prepares students for leadership positions in fire departments and emergency response agencies. With the introduction of a new emphasis, students in the FERM program now are able to select courses that lean specifically toward emergency management topics, such as disaster operations, the role of technology in emergency management and emergency risk reduction for communities. Students also have the option of selecting an emphasis and coursework that covers topics specific to the field of fire service.

The program, run through the Division of Online and Continuing Education (OCE), admits students with a technical college degree or previous experience as a firefighter or EMT and helps them climb the ranks to lieutenant, captain, battalion chief and executive chief.

“The FERM degree builds upon previous professional and educational experience and is designed for people who are already working in fire and emergency response professions. This responsive program offers access to continuing education, which will ultimately help grow a needed area in our regional workforce,” said Charles Hill, executive director of the Division of OCE.

In partnership, the UW Oshkosh public administration department and OCE are also offering an online, targeted fire and emergency administration and management (FEAM) emphasis within the Master of Public Administration program.

“The fire and emergency administration management emphasis of the MPA program is for students who want to specialize and master specific knowledge and skills for effectively leading fire and emergency services organizations,” said Anna Filipova, associate professor and chair of the public administration department. “These courses are taught by instructors who not only are scholarly in their particular field of study, but also may have significant hands-on experience and/or are currently working as fire and/or local government administrators.”

A recent study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that job growth for firefighters and leadership positions within the fire industry is projected at 7 percent from 2016 to 2026. The study also found that postsecondary firefighter education is increasing in importance, marking an industry shift that formally required only on-the-job training and certification.

“Developing new programs that meet actual job demand is something that speaks to our mission,” Hill said. “We have regular conversations with industry leaders, and our partnerships with fire chiefs in Wisconsin lead us to build these programs.”

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