Your Educational Journey, Part 2

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By Brian V. Bovyn, CEM, Adjunct Faculty, Emergency Management Program, Frederick Community College, Frederick, Maryland

In Part 1 of this two-part series, Frederick Community College was discussed as an excellent “ramp agent” toward completing one’s baccalaureate degree in support of the CEM certification requirement. While FCC facilitates a very good associate degree level emergency management curriculum, a CEM candidate does not specifically require a bachelor’s degree in emergency management; the major can be any major. For those candidates interested in pursuing a four-year degree in emergency management, the FCC Associate of Applied Science in Emergency Management is a significant first step.

I’m sure you’re asking, “How do I get from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree?” Well the answer is simple; it’s time to go back to school. There are many quality BA and BS degree programs available to CEM® candidates; the trick is finding the one that is the right fit for you.

Identifying a Major

The next step in the process is to identify a major. What would you like to study? As previously mentioned, the CEM® certification requirement does not specify a degree in emergency management. It can be any major, as long as it’s a baccalaureate degree (four-year or equivalent program, usually 120 credits). The educational institution also must also be regionally accredited by the U.S. Department of Education (or its international equivalent). See accrediting bodies and institutions that have earned accreditation. You may select the college or university by region or program area. The CEM Commissioners frequently check the accreditation status of many institutions that candidates are claiming in support of their CEM application.

Factors in Selecting a College or University

Many factors should be considered when choosing a college or university: cost, course delivery methods, accessibility, faculty, curriculum, major, future employment, professional goals and more. Some students thrive in an environment that is predominantly classroom-based instruction (lecture), while others are self-directed independent adult learners (who may thrive with little or no faculty intervention). One is not necessarily better than the other. It is just a matter of what is the best fit for you.

Self-Directed Independent Learning

One institution that caters to self-directed independent adult learners is Thomas Edison State College, in Trenton, N.J. Thomas Edison State College is one of New Jersey’s 12 senior public institutions of higher education and one of the oldest schools in the country designed specifically for adult learners. The college offers associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in more than 100 areas of study. Thomas Edison does offer a bachelor’s degree in homeland security and emergency management, requiring 120 credits. If the CEM candidate brings a completed associate degree into the baccalaureate degree program, the candidate should be able to complete the remaining 60 credits in two years or less. This can vary, depending on the student’s time constraints.

Thomas Edison offers a wide variety of course delivery methods, including:

  • guided study,
  • online courses,
  • TECEP (course equivalency examinations),
  • Prior Learning Assessment (portfolio validation),
  • Independent Study Courses,
  • e-Pack (online courses, independent study),
  • CLEP/DANTES and Excelsior examination testing,
  • credit transfer from other colleges and universities, and
  • FEMA Independent Study Courses (a limited amount are accepted in lower division 100 and 200 level courses).

Thomas Edison is an excellent college program for those students who thrive on educational delivery with minimal instructional staff intervention. Thomas Edison State College offers excellent degree option programs at an extremely reasonable price. For more information about Thomas Edison State College, go to www.tesc.edu.

What if you thrive in a more structured classroom based learning environment? Not to worry – the Federal Emergency Management Agency maintains a list of colleges and universities that offer emergency management and homeland security themed curricula. There are many excellent colleges and universities that offer traditional classroom-based instruction, distance education courses, or a blended learning approach. The link to the FEMA list of colleges and universities is http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/edu/collegelist/. College and university tuition can vary greatly, so you may wish to use this comprehensive list to shop for your best value.

While it does not matter which college or university that you attend (with the exception of the accreditation requirement) and it does not matter which major you choose, the important thing is to begin the process as soon as it is practical and keep your eye on the prize. The CEM certification is a pinnacle credential in the field of emergency management. With the bachelor’s degree requirement mandated for U.S. CEM candidates and similar requirements being explored for CEM candidates in other IAEM Councils, the time to start working toward your goal is now.

Author’s Note: Thanks to Kelly Saccomanno of Thomas Edison State College Communications Department for contributing to this article.

IAEM Bulletin, June 2011

AEM® and CEM® are registered trademarks of the International Association of Emergency Managers.

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