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Application of the National Professional Development Matrix

Fire service personnel typically accumulate college transcripts with unnecessary courses and dozens of training certificates in an effort to acquire an associate or bachelor’s degree and/or the next desired level of certification. During this process of professional development, time and money is often wasted as these efforts may be redundant.

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and fire and emergency services professional development community addressed this problem of a stove-piped system by creating national models that integrate training, education, experience and certification. The National Professional Development Matrix (NPDM) moves the models from concept to reality.

The NPDM is a planning tool for use by states, training centers, response agencies and institutions of higher learning to develop a plan for fire service professional development. It is designed for training and certification agencies and academic emergency response programs to assist the emergency services personnel they serve in their professional development planning. The matrix cross-walks Fire Officer I — IV competencies with "national" level courses that include National Fire Academy training courses, model associate and bachelor’s courses, general education courses recommended by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) in its “Officer Development Handbook,” and personal experience. States and fire departments are urged to customize the matrix by adding their own standards, job performance requirements (JPRs) , training and college courses.

USFA encourages states to convene professional development summits comprised of fire departments, emergency response agencies, academic fire programs, associations and other key stakeholders to transpose the "national" officer development competencies to its own JPRs, customize the matrix with training and college courses, and agree to standard documentation that each entity will accept for appropriate credit.

Matrix overview and elements

The matrix XLS 102 KB is a national template that is:

The matrix represents "interoperability" for fire service professional development. The imperative for interoperability of radios and hoses so that they connect and work together is matched only by the need for training, education and certification to do the same.

The matrix is not mandated. USFA facilitated the process by which it was developed, but it has been driven from the bottom up involving major stakeholders in national forums. The matrix is a template by which fire service and training education peers provided the "national" assessments for the end-users, but you are free and encouraged to edit these, as necessary.

Matrix target audiences

Fire Officers: The matrix is built on the IAFC’s competencies prescribed for fire officers. While reference to Fire Officer I – IV is made, the nomenclature used in the IAFC’s Officer Development Handbook is coupled with it: FO I – Supervisory; FO II – Managing; FO III – Administrative; and FO IV – Executive.

Fire Prevention Officers: A professional development committee of the USFA network of state and metropolitan department fire marshals, called Prevention Advocacy Resources and Data Exchange (PARADE), evaluated the matrix and determined that the competencies are as essential to officers in fire prevention as anywhere else; hence, the reference to both at the top of each level.

The PARADE committee, now known as the National Fire Prevention Curriculum work group, also identified three fire prevention-related competencies specific to public education (PUB-01), investigation (INV-01) and administration (ADMIN).

For those not yet officers but planning on becoming one, pursuing your degree and using the matrix to track the competencies addressed will be helpful in your professional development. For example, taking as many recommended general education and fire science courses as possible enables a competency-based approach to one’s degree while preparing for the next level of certification.

Competencies and professional designations

The heart of the matrix is in the IAFC’s Officer Development Handbook as found in the first column.

The second column lists corresponding National Fire Protection Association/JPR standards.

The third column lists correlated Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) competencies.


Column four reflects specific NFA courses that correlate to competencies in the first column.

The fifth column lists Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education courses and collegiate learning opportunities that correspond to the first column competencies.

State and local skills training events that relate to the first column are found in column six.

Professional development “life events”

The final column is left for professional development “life” events that a person may experience to obtain the competencies found in the first column.

Customizing the matrix through professional development summits

States are urged to convene professional development summits to transpose the "national" officer development competencies to its own JPRs, customize the matrix with training and college courses, and agree to standard documentation that each entity will accept for appropriate credit.

The leaders of the state stakeholder cadre are:

Elements of a state professional development plan

In addition to spelling out who should be responsible for learning at each level of certification and/or competency development, a plan should prescribe for all the state’s fire and emergency services degree, training and certification programs the:

Only state fire and emergency services leaders can make this happen. Contact the leaders in your state and urge them to begin the professional development summit process.