Father / Fire Fighter: how taking online classes & credit for career makes the difference


Father, figherfighter, and student at Granite State College.

Mike is a third generation fire fighter in the City of Manchester. Mid-way through his career he knew that if he wanted to ascend the ranks, getting his degree was important.

He took some hands-on courses in Fire Science at a New Hampshire Community College, which were superb, but he wanted a more versatile degree. He looked into Granite State College for an individualized program that would be tailored to his goals.

When my advisor learned that I was a fire fighter during our initial meeting, she asked me to elaborate on my formal training. At that point, I had more than 20 years’ experience traveling across the country attending conferences and classes. I’ve even taught some locally. She asked me to compile all this information, which led me on a path to uncovering all my prior learning that I completed over the years.

Realizing that his experience mattered, and could save him a considerable amount of time and money in his pursuit of his degree, Mike began the process of earning credit for his prior learning.

I had so much prior learning that they couldn’t apply it all at the associate level. I took a few courses to meet the requirements for my A.S. degree and applied the rest of the prior learning to a bachelor’s program. In the end, I was just 8 or 9 classes away from my Fire Service Administration and Emergency Management degree.

As a District Fire Chief in the City of Manchester, Mike’s work schedule is packed. Taking online classes was the best fit for Mike’s schedule. He found that his coursework opened up a lot of doors in his current profession.

Believe it or not, one of my favorite classes was actually Spanish. I can apply it to real life scenarios. Manchester is getting more and more diverse. When I’m out on the street in an emergency management situation, being able to communicate in more than one language is helpful.

When he began his initial search, Mike didn’t know about prior learning options. Today he shares that being exposed to this innovative way of earning credit is what he values most about Granite State College.

They took me in and helped me organize a clutter of certificates and accomplishments. From there, the advisors laid out a plan for me on one, concise document and showed me how attainable my degree was. It’s been a great experience. Without prior learning and the convenience of online classes, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Mike credits prior learning for saving himself a considerable amount of time and tuition money. Following this accelerated degree pathway was especially important for the entire Gamache family.

Throughout Mike’s student journey, there were other family members getting their degree at the same time.

My wife has gone to college for nursing. Two of my kids had overlapping college years, so at one point there were three of us enrolled at a college at the same time. Also, my son is a fourth generation fire fighter in Manchester.

Between tuition payments and busy schedules, time and money were valuable for the Gamache family. It helped make it possible for every member of the family to pursue their goals. It also gave Mike a flexible schedule so he could balance his responsibilities to his family, fire department, and education.