The fire service was not originally part of the career plan for Richard Medlin. However, the flexible work schedule and camaraderie that is the fabric of the profession are what initially drew his interest. Fourteen years later, he could not imagine doing anything else. “Helping others, including your own, is a great feeling that I would not trade for anything,” says Medlin.

Learning Something New

Medlin, a member of Santee, CA Local 4373, just east of San Diego, realized that even a 14-year veteran could learn something new. He decided to return to school to earn his bachelor’s degree in fire science online at Kaplan University.

“A bachelor’s degree had a lot of personal motivation on my part, but the degree will also help me in future professional endeavors,” says Medlin. He understands that earning his college degree could help him take advantage of career opportunities within his profession now, and beyond.

Overcoming Challenges

Fire fighters are accustomed to overcoming challenges — it’s part of the job. But when Medlin decided to return to school, he faced several obstacles, such as time and money.

“Having a full-time career offers little to no extra time, not to mention family and personal activities that I enjoy doing,” he explains. “One of my biggest educational challenges was managing my time.

In true fire fighter fashion, Medlin found a way to manage his schedule more effectively, which included setting aside hours each day to complete assignments and coursework. That, combined with Kaplan University’s flexible online schedule, helped keep him on track each term, and throughout his entire degree program.

In addition, Medlin’s prior work experience and the tuition reduction offered by Kaplan University to IAFF members made his return to school much easier. “The tuition and transfer benefits of being an IAFF member are incredible,” he says. “The ability to use on-the-job experience for credit, outside certifications for credit and IAFF tuition discounts are really what drove me to continue my education with Kaplan University.” ​\

Impact on Career Advancement

Continuing education is extremely important, especially as it relates to advancing within the ranks to management positions such as captain and battalion chief. Many departments now require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in order to be considered for promotion. Staying ahead of this trend could make the difference when it comes to career advancement.

“I believe my education will be required for me to be promoted in the future, when I decide to take that leap,” Richard says.

Meeting Your Needs

Continuing education is extremely important, but equally important is finding a school and program that meet your specific needs and goals. For Medlin, Kaplan University offered the right mix of flexibility, support and experienced faculty.

“I would recommend Kaplan University to a friend, and have already done so,” he notes. “The professors are veteran fire service professionals who understand what it’s like to be a fire fighter and a student.” He says the online format and degree plan are set up in a way that makes earning a degree “very doable, both in terms of time and cost.”

If you’re considering a return to school, explore your options and select a program that meets your specific requirements and goals. Returning to school is a big decision — and a big commitment — but it’s one that can pay dividends on a personal and professional level now and in the future.

Through an exclusive education alliance with Kaplan University, IAFF members and their immediate family are eligible for a significant tuition reduction on undergraduate fire science degree programs. Medlin took advantage of this opportunity and is now one of many fire fighters who have successfully returned to school and earned a degree.

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