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Interested in furthering your education or earning a Degree? Where do you start? Here are some tips.
There are several paths you can follow to reach your goal of higher education.  There are several paths that can lead to success; there are also some that can cause unnecessary detours. 
First you need to decide which degree you would like to get.  Then you need to decide the direction and/or method you want to take to get it.  There are several different options available to take college courses.  It is important that you decide which is right for you, your schedule, and your goals.



There are multiple accrediting bodies/agencies for colleges and universities.  To simply ask whether a school is accredited is not enough.  Colleges and universities across the country rely on regional accreditation to know that a standard level of education is being met.  In order to have the most options available to you, it is recommended that you choose a school that is regionally accredited.  Regionally accredited schools will generally only accept credits from other regionally accredited schools.  This is important to note for several reasons. First, never make the assumption that the degree you are currently pursuing is the only degree you ever want.  You don't want to find out when you decide to pursue an advanced degree that the credits you earned will not transfer and you have to start all over. Second, never assume that you will complete your degree where you start.  You may have to relocate or you may not like the school or program you have chosen.

Online vs. Traditional Environment

There are traditional classes where you sit in the classroom and there are online courses of different types; those in which you follow a schedule and those which are self paced classes.  One roadblock for traditional classes is the work schedule.  If your schedule allows you to attend traditional classes or if you know of someone else in the department attending college that may also need standby time that you can coordinate schedules with, you can attend traditional classes.  This gives you the student-teacher exchanges that can't be replicated outside the classroom.  Taking online courses for the first time may be difficult for some.  It may be advisable to take online courses at a local college to become familiar with the online format while still being able receive assistance in person if necessary.  There are some websites and companies that you can purchase material to study a specific course and take a challenge test or CLEP exam and get credit for the course.  Do thorough research and see which is best for you. 
Once you have chosen a school, it is time to apply.  You will need to supply them with transcripts from high school or other colleges you may have attended.  Some people may have attended college a long time ago and think that the courses they took are too old.  This is not always the case.  You may also be able to receive credit for a college course for some training courses that you have taken previously.  You will need to provide them with a certificate and this will be the decision of the academic advisor.  You may need to take a placement test if you have never attended college.


Financial Aid

There are several different ways to acquire your college degree and all are at different costs.  Are you aware of all the programs available to you if you are attending college?  If you have been in the military, you may be entitled to money from the government through veteran's education benefits.  Check with the college that you register with.  Did you know that as a certified firefighter in the state of Texas, you are exempt from the payment of tuition and lab fees?  That's correct; you can attend and earn college hours at a reduced cost.  According to Education Code chapter 54, section 54.208 certified firefighters in the State of Texas are entitled to a limited tuition and fee exemption at some of the state colleges in Texas. 
There are several colleges in Texas which offer the Fire Science curriculum.  Del Mar college offers these courses locally and there are several others that offer online classes.  There are also colleges that offer degrees in Emergency Management and Public Safety.

Reaching Your Goal 

Do thorough research and find the program that fits you the best. Overloading with classes can be frustrating and lead to failure.  Proceed with moderation.  Take one or two courses to start, and if you can handle more, you can add another class the next semester.  Use the buddy system.  If you are planning to attend school, there may be other members of the department who are also considering it.  If you are in an online program, you may find that discussing classroom assignments and studying with another student will improve your understanding of the material.  Sharing books may also save you money.  Whatever the difficulties, keep in mind the end result will be worth the effort.  Not starting guarantees that you will never reach your goal of a college degree.
Once you complete classes, you can turn in your hours to the department and earn education pay.  See Article V Section 6 of collective bargaining agreement to see what you are entitled to from the department.