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QCC’s Smoking Hot Fire Science Program

April, 2019
  • QCC Fire Science grad with fire truck
    A QCC Fire Science graduate
  • Firefighters demonstrate rescue techniques
    Westborough firefighters demonstrate rescue techniques.

Since the early 1990s Quinsigamond Community College has quietly and effectively been helping to make the areas that we live and work in safe through graduates from its fire science program. In fact, recent data of QCC’s fire science graduates showed 75% were employed in Massachusetts. Today firefighters, while not required to have a degree must be well-rounded in order to compete in today’s workforce. QCC’s fire science associate degree program prepares students for a career or promotion within fire and emergency service organizations as well as careers in the private sector.

According to Program Coordinator Michael Gonyor, career paths for today’s firefighters can run the gamut from traditional firefighters, fire investigation, fire inspectors and fire engineers, to jobs in the insurance industry or even the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Fire science also offers students the foundation to enter into emergency services. At QCC, basic emergency medical technology is part of the curriculum.

“I highly suggest the students take the EMT certificate course and 95% of them end up taking it,” he said, adding that many continue on and earn their paramedic technology certificate.

The fire science program at QCC is unique, according to Mr. Gonyor. In the early 2000s the program became aligned with the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) initiative, a network of emergency services-related education and training providers. The college’s program is now aligned with a national standard.

“Not every school is aligned with FESHE,” he said. “FESHE makes sure you have up-to-date subject matter in the industry. By going to a FESHE school you learn the same as the other schools. When our students leave here and are ready to transfer to a four-year school, there’s no question of what they’ve learned, everything transfers easily.”

However, what makes the program truly special is its instructors. Each instructor in the college’s fire science program also works within the fire science industry.  Mr. Gonyor works as a part-time firefighter in Southbridge, and all of his staff at QCC are currently different types of firefighters within the state. This direct workforce experience is a unique benefit to QCC students.

“Helping a student get set up in a profession is what we do best, since we live it and breathe it. If we don’t know someone, we know someone who knows someone. Some of our instructors are chiefs, fire officers, firefighters (with specialties such as hazmat).  We also have someone who is a fire inspector in the Fire Marshall’s office,” Mr. Gonyor said. “We are subject matter experts and have contacts that can help point students in the right direction.”

One of the aspects of the program Mr. Gonyor is most proud of is the personal touch that he and his staff offer students, helping them to differentiate fact versus myth within the industry. One change within the industry is the addition of more women in the industry. Historically the profession has been male-dominated, Mr. Gonyor said; however, QCC is seeing more female fire science students.

“We’ve been able to connect female students with other female firefighters in the profession,” he said.

Industry Experts

As industry experts who are in the field, the QCC fire science instructors offer more than lessons in a book.  They can substantiate and give credence to what the students are learning because they have done it.

“This means something to students,” Mr. Gonyor said.

Every 10-weeks the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy graduates a new set of cadets and while they have the basics to begin a career in firefighting, unless they continue their education, they will lack a competitive edge that, in many departments, can mean bonuses, stipends or other incentives.

“A degree makes you a better-rounded employee and makes you more marketable,” he said. “There becomes a point in your profession where you really can’t be considered for a promotion until you have a minimum of an associate degree. You have to be adaptable to what’s going on because it’s not just firefighting anymore it’s everything.”

To learn more, visit QCC’s Fire Science Program

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