EXECUTIVE FIRE OFFICER MASTER S DEGREE: A PRELIMINARY POTENTIAL MARKET ANALYSIS STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT OF CHANGE

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1 EXECUTIVE FIRE OFFICER MASTER S DEGREE: A PRELIMINARY POTENTIAL MARKET ANALYSIS STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT OF CHANGE BY: Burton A. Clark, Ed.D. National Fire Academy Emmitsburg, Maryland An applied research project submitted to the National Fire Academy as part of the Executive Fire Officer Program. March 1997

2 1 Abstract The problem was that a potential market analysis on the feasibility of an Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Master s Degree program had not been conducted. The purpose of this study was to conduct a potential market analysis on the feasibility of an EFO Master s Degree program. This was a descriptive research project. The research questions were: 1. How many students would apply their National Fire Academy (NFA) credits to an EFO Master s Degree? 2. How many additional courses would students take for an EFO Master s Degree? 3. How much money would students spend on an EFO Master s Degree? The procedures involved surveying a convenience sample of 107 students taking EFO courses during the time period of this study. Their responses to the research questions were tabulated numerically and by percentages. The results were: 70 students would apply their Executive Fire Officer Program credits to an EFO Master s Degree, 39 students would take four to six additional courses, and 34 students would pay $4,000-$6,000. The recommendation, based on this study, was for the NFA to inform any interested colleges or universities that there appears to be a potential market for an EFO Master s Degree. Potential suppliers should be cautioned to go beyond this preliminary investigation to determine the economic feasibility of an EFO Master s Degree.

3 2 Table of Contents Abstract 1 Table of Contents 2 List of Figures 3 Introduction 4 Background and Significance 4 Literature Review 5 Procedures 7 Results 8 Discussion 10 Recommendations 11 References 13 Appendix 14

4 3 List of Figures Figure 1 Number of Courses Willing to Take by Percentage n Amount of Money Willing to Pay by Percentage n69 10

5 4 Introduction The problem is that a potential market analysis on the feasibility of an Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Master s Degree program has not been conducted. The purpose of this study is to conduct a potential market analysis on the feasibility of an EFO Master s Degree Program. This is a descriptive research project. The research questions are: 1. How many students would apply their National Fire Academy (NFA) credits to an EFO Master s Degree? 2. How many additional courses would students take for an EFO Master s Degree? 3. How much money would students spend on an EFO Master s Degree? Background and Significance At the present time an EFO Master s Degree does not exist. According to Clark (1993), there are only four fire-related master s degree programs in the country, all in fire protection engineering. Since 1985, approximately 1200 students have graduated from the National Fire Academy s Executive Fire Officer Program (EFOP). There are approximately 700 students in the EFOP at any given time. The EFOP consists of four three-credit courses and requires four one-credit applied research projects. A total of 16 credit hours at the graduate or upper-level baccalaureate level are recommended by the American Council on Education for successfully completing the EFOP (NFA, 1996a). There is some NFA interest in connecting the EFOP to colleges/universities and exploring other distance education options and partnerships (NFA, 1996b). This study is important to the NFA for two reasons. First, a market analysis will give NFA management quantifiable data to use in their decision making process.

6 5 Second, this information will assist the NFA in any negotiation with colleges and universities that may be interested in creating an EFO Master s Degree program. This Applied Research Project (ARP) relates to the change management model taught in the Strategic Management of Change course. Phase I of the model is analysis, which involves analyzing what changes need to be made (NFA, 1996c, p. 2-3). This project is a measurement of the market potential for an EFO Master s Degree; the results will help determine if a change is needed. The creation of such a graduate degree program would be a significant change for the NFA, the fire service, and the academic community. This research project relates to United States Fire Administration operational objective to promote within communities a comprehensive, multi-hazard risk reduction plan led by the fire service organization (NFA, 2002, p. II-2) by fostering optimal education of fire service leaders to accomplish the objective. Literature Review The purpose of this literature review is to set the theoretical and practical foundation for the study. Three basic questions need to be addressed. First, what are the key questions associated with a potential market study? Second, how has the higher education industry answered the questions? Finally, how have fire service-related master s degree programs answered the questions? First, the potential market is the set of consumers who profess some level of interest in a particular product or service (Kotler & Armstrong, 1991, p. 199). Customer interest must be further defined in terms of the price they are willing to pay and the quantity they are willing to buy (Magrath, 1992; Berry & George, 1978). Ihlanfeldt

7 6 (1978) indicates that the application of marketing principles is just as important to higher education as to any profit or not-for-profit organization. From a theoretical standpoint, the key concept questions for this study are: (a) How many courses are students willing to take, and (b) how much are they willing to pay? Next, the answers to the key questions must be identified for the industry. In this case, the educational industry would be master s degree programs conducted in a distance learning format, because NFA students fall into that category. Based on a review of 15 distance education master s degree programs in three related subject areas -- business administration, public administration, and management -- the average (mean) number of courses required is The mode was 12, 13, and 15 courses. The average tuition cost was $9, (Duffy, 1994). Finally, Clark (1993) could not identify master s degree programs specifically for the fire service. Two programs connected with the fire service were located in Pennsylvania and New York. St. Joseph University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has two master s degree programs related to the fire service: Public Safety Management, and Environmental Protection and Safety Management. Each program requires twelve courses, and the cost is $15, (Program secretary, personal communication, January 20, 1997). John Jay College in New York City has a master s degree program in Protection Management. The program requires twelve courses, and the cost is $7, (Program secretary, personal communication, January 12, 1997). In summary, based on this review, the most common industry standard for the number of courses needed for a master s degree is twelve. The cost is about $11,000 (this may be high because St. Joseph at $15K skewed the average). It is disheartening to

8 7 see so little acceptance of the fire service as a graduate level discipline by the academic community. Procedures Feedback Form A feedback form (Appendix) was developed to gather data on the potential market for an EFO Master s Degree. The basic marketing constructs to be answered were: (a) How many potential customers are there, (b) how much would they pay for an EFO Master s Degree, and (c) how many courses would they take? The feedback form was developed by the author and reviewed by the Executive Development Program Chair for approval to use in the EFO curriculum. In addition, the form was reviewed by an NFA adjunct faculty for question clarity. Approval and clarity acceptance were given (C. Burkell & C. Smith, personal communication, September 3, 1996). The first three questions on the feedback form are for demographic purposes. The last three are to be used to answer the research questions. Population A convenience sample was used for this study. Five EFO classes scheduled to be taught during the time period of this study were surveyed: Executive Development, 11/11-22; Executive Leadership, 12/9-20; Strategic Management of Change (SMOC), 12/9-20, SMOC, 9/9-20 *, and SMOC, 1/ (* This class was surveyed by mail. The author was a member of this class.) The total population for this study was 107. For descriptive research, a sample of 10 percent of the population is considered minimum (Gay, 1987, p.114). For the purpose of this preliminary study, no attempt was

9 8 made to extrapolate the population to all students taking EFO courses or all students who have ever taken EFO courses. Statistical Analysis Descriptive statistics were used to calculate and interpret the data generated from the feedback form. Specifically, the raw numbers and the percentages are reported. Although the quantitative survey responses related to number of courses and amount of money were sequential (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15) on the form, the data was banded (1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15) for reporting. This banding of the data facilitates display and interpretation (Gay, 1987). Limitations and Assumptions This is a preliminary investigation. Several key market research components are beyond the scope of this study. No attempt was made to determine if the respondents were qualified by degree, grade point average, or entrance exam. Next, no attempt was made to determine the size of the potential market beyond the study population. Finally, it is assumed that the respondents answered honestly. Definition of Terms Student - anyone taking an EFO course, regardless if they are, or are not, in the EFO Program. EFO course - any of the three mandatory EFO courses: Executive Development, Executive Leadership, and Strategic Management of Change.

10 9 Results A total of 89 (83% response rate) feedback forms were returned; 58 (65%) were EFO students, and 31 (35%) were not in the EFO Program. Only 83 respondents identified the degree they presently had: 40 associates, 36 bachelor, six masters, and zero doctorates. The same number (83) of respondents identified what degree they plan to achieve: six associates, 28 bachelor, 42 masters, and seven doctorates. A total of 86 respondents answered the question, Would you apply your EFO credits to an EFO Master s Degree? Seventy (81%) respondents answered yes, and 16 (19%) answered no. Sixty-nine respondents identified how many additional courses they would take for an EFO Master s Degree. The largest selection was four to six courses, with 39 responses, or 57%. The second largest selections were one to three courses and ten to twelve courses, with ten responses, or 15% each (Figure 1). Figure 1 Number of Courses Willing to Take by Percentage n69 Number of Additional Courses

11 10 Sixty-nine respondents identified how much money they would pay for an EFO Master s Degree. The largest selection was $4,000-$6,000 at 34, or 49%. The second largest was $1,000-$3,000 at 16, or 23% (Figure 2). Figure 2 Amount of Money Willing to Pay by Percentage n69 Discussion The results indicate that there is a potential market for an EFO Master s Degree for several reasons. First, 70 respondents indicated that they would apply their EFO credits to an EFO Master s Degree. This result helps support the NFA plan of connecting the EFO Program to colleges/universities and exploring various distance education options (NFA, 1996b). The other side of the equation, whether there are schools of higher education interested in such an arrangement, remains to be answered.

12 11 Second, the number of courses students are willing to take appears to match the industry standard. Duffy s (1994) data indicates that twelve courses are the average needed for a master s degree. The St. Joseph and John Jay programs confirm this data. Respondents (n39, 57%) indicated that they would take four to six additional courses for an EFO Master s Degree (Figure 1). The EFOP equals 16 credit hours (4 courses x 3 credits + 4 papers x 1 credit), or five courses (NFA, 1996a). By combining the five current EFOP courses to the four to six additional courses students are willing to take, the total equals a nine-to-eleven-course master s degree program. This is close to the industry standard of twelve. The fact that 30% of the respondents indicated they would take between seven and fifteen additional courses (Figure 1) supports the notion of a potential market being willing to take the seven courses needed to meet the industry standard. The last question related to the amount of money students are willing to spend. Figure 2 shows that 49% are willing to spend $4,000-$6,000, or approximately $1,000 per course. This is close to the industry average of $916 ($11,000/12) per course. The fact that 27% indicated that they would spend $7,000 or more (Figure 2) indicates that the potential market would pay the cost of taking seven additional courses. To summarize, there appears to be a potential market for an EFO Master s Degree. Students are willing to take additional courses and pay for them. The organizational implication for the NFA is the fact that some preliminary data now exists, and any future discussion with colleges/universities can include this information.

13 12 Recommendations Based on this study, the NFA should inform any interested colleges or universities that there appears to be a potential market for an EFO Master s Degree. Seventy potential customers said they were interested in applying their EFOP credits to an EFO Master s Degree. Thirty-nine potential customers indicated they would take four to six additional courses, and thirty-four said they would pay $4,000-$6,000. Any interested school should then be advised to go beyond the scope of this preliminary investigation. The potential supplier must determine the size of the market, the qualifications of the market, and the return on investment needed to make an EFO Master s Degree economically feasible.

14 13 Reference Berry, L. L. & George, W. R. (1978). Marketing the university: Opportunity in an era of crisis. In P. J. Montana (Ed.), Marketing in nonprofit organizations. (pp.159, 171). New York: Amacom. Clark, B.A. (1993, September). Higher education and fire service professionalism. Fire Chief, 37, Duffy, J.P. (1994). How to earn an advanced degree without going to graduate school. New York: John Wiley and Son, Inc. Gay, L.R. (1987). Educational research competencies for analysis and application. Columbus, OH: Merrill Publishing Company. Ihlanfeldt, W. (1978). A management approach to the buyer s market. In P. J. Montana (Ed.), Marketing in nonprofit organizations. (pp ). New York: Amacom. Kotler, P. & Armstrong, G. (1991). Principles of marketing: fifth edition. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, Inc. Magrath, A. L. (1992). The 6 imparatives of marketing. New York: Amacom. National Fire Academy. (1996a). Executive fire officer program operational policies and procedures applied research guidelines. Emmitsburg, MD: author. National Fire Academy. (1996b, November). National Fire Academy FY97 planning and directions package. Emmitsburg, MD: author. National Fire Academy. (1996c). Strategic management of change student manual. Emmitsburg, MD: author.

15 14 National Fire Academy. (2002, June). Executive fire officer program operational policies and procedures applied research guidelines. Emmitsburg, MD: author. Note: This paper was edited to meet APA 5 th addition guidelines and 2002 EFO guidelines with the assistance of Anthony Toby Drabczyk. BAC 9/18/02

16 15 Appendix Raw Data N=89 This feedback form is part of my Executive Fire Officer Applied Research Project. Responding to any or all questions is VOLUNTARY. Thank you for your assistance. Burton A. Clark. Circle your answers. n 89 Are you an Executive Fire Officer Student? Yes (58), No (31) 83 What degree do you have? Associate (40), Bachelor (36), Master (6), Doctor (0) 83 What degree do you plan to achieve? Associate (6), Bachelor (28), Master (42), Doctor (7) 86 Would you apply your EFO credits to an EFO Masters Degree? Yes (70), No (16) 69 How many additional courses would you take for an EFO Masters Degree? How much money would you spend for an EFO Masters Degree? $ $ $ ** Items in bold indicate data collected.

17 16 Banded Percentage This feedback form is part of my Executive Fire Officer Applied Research Project. Responding to any or all questions is VOLUNTARY. Thank you for your assistance. Burton A. Clark. Circle your answers. Are you an Executive Fire Officer Student? Yes (65), No (35) What degree do you have? Associate (48), Bachelor (43), Master (7), Doctor (0) What degree do you plan to achieve? Associate (7), Bachelor (34), Master (51), Doctor (8) Would you apply your EFO credits to an EFO Master s Degree? Yes (81), No (19) How many additional courses would you take for an EFO Master s Degree? How much money would you spend for an EFO Master s Degree? $ $ $ ** Items in bold indicate data collected.

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