While working in fire and emergency services for several years, 38-year-old Brian Canaday decided to pursue a four-year degree to further his education and advance his career. Growing up with love and admiration for the Florida Gators, he fulfilled his dream of becoming one himself via UF Online—the #1 online program for his degree. Set to graduate this May, Brian recently accepted the position of Assistant Fire Chief at the City of Bradenton, Florida.
BECOMING A FIREFIGHTER AND FLORIDA GATOR
Brian discovered his passion for fire and emergency services when he was a young adult exploring various career paths. “I had a couple of friends whose fathers were firefighters in different departments and one inspired me and persuaded me to go to a fire academy,” Brian said. “After fire academy, I got hired really quickly.”
When he first started his degree journey at UF Online in January of 2019, Brian was already a 7-year Lieutenant in fire services. He decided to pursue his Fire & Emergency Services degree to advance his career and set an example for his son. “When my son was born, it inspired me to go back to school,” Brian said. “I always wanted my four-year degree. I didn’t want my son to have an excuse like ‘dad doesn’t have it.’”
While researching and comparing different fire and emergency programs, Brian’s dream of becoming a Florida Gator was reignited. “I grew up a Gator fan and I always wanted to attend UF,” Brian said. “Then I found out it’s the #1 school for the program I’m attending, so I thought that was just another benefit.” With graduation now in sight, Brian emphasized he has “no regrets” regarding his decision to enter the fire and emergency services field and pursue his degree at the University of Florida.
“I have a sense of pride and joy that no one can ever take away from me,” Brian described how it felt to attend UF Online. “I’m getting chills right now just talking about it. I grew up loving the Gators and it makes me proud to be one.”
STUDYING WHILE PROTECTING THE COMMUNITY
As a parent and firefighter, Brian sought a degree program that offered the flexibility needed to juggle multiple responsibilities. “I like how you can control it yourself and it’s self-paced,” Brian described the benefits of online learning. Soon after beginning his studies at UF, his mentors encouraged him to take a competitive test that promoted him to Captain in October of 2019. “I was really busy with my personal life. With a family, I had a lot going on and I wasn’t planning on testing.” However, his educational and career goals aligned when he received several promotions that came with increased responsibility and leadership.
“I’ve always considered myself a natural leader,” Brian said. “While taking the Leadership and Ethics course here at UF, I learned that some people do have that natural instinct to be a leader, but to be a good leader it actually takes a lot of work.” While continuing his studies at UF, Brian became a Battalion Chief in October 2020, where he oversaw the crew and personnel that protected the community. “What keeps me motivated is doing what’s best for them and making sure they go home safe every night to their families.”
“The Fire and Emergency profession is a profession where you never stop learning,” Brian said. “You have to continually evolve and grow in your field. It’s important for professional development to continue education.”
ADVANCING HIS CAREER WITH A FIRE & EMERGENCY SERVICES DEGREE
Combining his years of service experience and his higher education, Brian was recently promoted to Assistant Fire Chief at the City of Bradenton. “I think everything I’ve done with this degree program helped me get to that Assistant Chief position,” Brian said. “It’s very new but it’s exciting. I’m enjoying it.” Brian also accredits UF Online’s supportive faculty and staff for helping him enhance his career opportunities. “All the instructors and professors have been great,” Brian said. “Keith Collins as an advisor has been awesome. He’s always available and responsive to help guide me on the right track.”
Keith Collins was eager to assist Brian throughout his academic journey and took pride in his success. “[Brian] has excelled during his time here in all areas of his life; receiving 3 promotions, balancing his family time, and maintaining an excellent GPA in our rigorous curriculum,” Keith said. “Our program is designed for Career Advancement and Brian’s story is a testament to the success that awaits all future and current Fire & Emergency Services Gators!”
“I think the fire service is moving in a direction where degrees will be required eventually, especially for officer positions,” Brian said. “UF is the #1 program in the country for this degree program and it’ll set them up to succeed. I highly recommend it.”
With graduation just on the horizon, the University of Florida congratulates Brian on his upcoming graduation and recently accepting the position of Assistant Fire Chief at the City of Bradenton. The UF Online community celebrates his remarkable achievements in serving and protecting the community while furthering his education. We thank him for being a part of the Gator Nation and wish him success and happiness along his journey.
EARN A UF DEGREE IN FIRE & EMERGENCY SERVICES
The demand for skilled individuals in the emergency services industry is growing. With a UF degree in Fire & Emergency Services via UF Online, you can earn the managerial skills you need to move up in your career. This program offers three areas of specialization: Fire, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Management, or Emergency Management. With a specific focus in any of these areas, you can enhance your skills to better suit your desired career. Some potential career paths with an FES degree include fire department management, emergency management, private industry safety management, and federal government agencies focused on safety and emergency management. To learn more about the UF Online FES program, visit the degree page or attend an upcoming virtual information session to learn more.