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Achieving Work-Life Balance as Both Firefighter and Student

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If you’re currently employed and considering going back to school to complete a fire science degree online, you’re in good company. In 2020, 74% of part-time students and 40% of full-time students were employed, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.1 Enrolling in a continuing education program allows you to stay at your job while pursuing a degree.

Tackling Challenges of Going Back to School

All adults returning to school may face logistical challenges, such as cost and family commitments. You may be concerned about issues like working full-time with changing shifts, how long it would take to complete your degree, or how to adapt and balance your new student/work/life existence.

But over the past few decades, the landscape has changed. Fire Service positions require white-collar skills, such as prehospital care and chemistry in hazardous materials.” A degree in fire science can give you a decided advantage if, for example, you’re aiming for a line of promotions.

Completing your bachelor’s degree will increase your knowledge, skills, and abilities in far greater areas than just your chosen area of experience, like Fire Science, but also in areas such as Ethics, Human Behavior, and Writing. What’s more, it can increase the likelihood of gaining job offers and/or promotions upon graduation.

Maintaining a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Before you enroll in a degree program, take the time to examine why you’re determined to complete your degree. Think about what the return on your investment will be. What are your end goals: to obtain job security? To earn more money? Be offered a better or different position? Are you a lifelong learner who naturally invests in professional knowledge and education? The answer to this question will These are all excellent reasons to go back to school.

Next, consider how to make it all work. “Firefighters typically work 24-hour shifts.” Their schedules make it difficult to attend traditional college programs, which is why it’s important to “find a school that works with your schedule.”2 Online class flexibility allows you to do this; much of the work can be done according to your own schedule — even if that means studying when you have some downtime during a shift at the station or while the kids sleep at home.

Time management skills, such as getting organized and planning ahead, will greatly help. Compared to life as a firefighter, “attending class…is very predictable.” Use this to your advantage. Once you have your class schedule, plan when you’ll have time to work a shift, spend time with family and friends, and get your homework done. This may mean sacrificing time spent watching the game to study for a test or write a paper. These sacrifices will allow you to achieve your educational goals and be in a better place in the future.

Consider the sacrifices of those around you. Going back to school means there will be times you’ll be giving up time spent with family and friends and requesting schedule changes at work. It’s important to secure the support of your family, co-workers, and boss. Be considerate of everyone else’s time by giving the people in your life advanced notice as often as possible. Also, be flexible — you may need to make accommodations and last-minute changes.

Lastly, try to be self-reliant and hold yourself accountable. If you’re not allowing enough time to get your class work done, figure out what you need to do to make it work. Be prepared to deal with setbacks, too. Going back to school may be frustrating at first, but with patience and perseverance, you have the ability to figure out how to do it, even if it takes longer than you originally anticipated.

An Education in Fire Science

If you’re looking to complete a fire science degree, consider enrolling in the online Bachelor of Science in Fire Science at Anna Maria College, one of the first schools in the country to be awarded Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) recognition. In addition, the curriculum was developed by distinguished and knowledgeable faculty to comply with International Association of Fire Chiefs professional development recommendations and National Fire Protection Association standards. For more information about Anna Maria’s online B.S. in Fire Science, contact us today at 877-265-3201 or visit


  1. National Center for Education: College Student Employment:
  2. McNabb, M. (2010) How to go to school while working a firefighter shift schedule:

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