Public Safety Management Career Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a public safety manager. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Public safety includes the protection of citizens from emergency situations, including both medical and natural emergencies. The level of education required for different managerial public safety positions varies from just a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree with certifications.

Essential Information

Public safety management careers can be found at federal, state and local government levels. These jobs focus on protecting the health and safety of communities through emergency management, fire and rescue, emergency medical care and animal control services. The education and certification requirements vary depending on the field however, most of the management careers do require at least a high school diploma.

Career Emergency Management Director Animal Control Worker Fire Chief EMS Director of Operations
Education Requirements High school diploma or equivalent Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Associate's degree
Other Requirements None Firearm use certification Fire academy training/testing; Emergency medical technician (EMT) certification Emergency medical technician (EMT) certification
Median Salary (2015)* $67,330 annually $33,450 annually $72,230 annually for first-line supervisors $94,500 annually for medical and health services managers
Job Growth from 2014-2024* 6% 11% for all animal care and service workers 5% for first-line supervisors 17% for medical and health services managers

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management director responsibilities vary by level of government. A state emergency management director is responsible for coordinating disaster response plans among federal, state and local governments and organizations. Local emergency management directors may supervise the emergency medical and fire departments in addition to local emergency response planning and coordination. Directors prepare for emergencies, such as floods, earthquakes, hazardous material spills, terrorist attacks and hostage situations. Due to the nature of emergency management, directors work long hours on irregular schedules and have frequent travel.

The minimum education requirement for an emergency management director is a high school diploma. In some cases, an associate or bachelor's degree in emergency management or a related field or experience in management, business or public safety, may be required. National Incident Management Systems training provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including courses on the Incident Command System (ICS), is often desired. Some emergency management directors obtain an emergency manger certification from a federal or state-level emergency management agency.

Emergency management directors earned a median annual salary of $67,330 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projected that this occupational group would increase by 6% from 2014 to 2024.

Animal Control Services Manager

Animal control services managers oversee animal shelter operations, supervise staff and enforce regulations related to animal care and keeping. An animal control manager ensures that the animal control department complies with all relevant laws and ensures timely responses to animal-related complaints and emergencies. Animal control services managers should hold a bachelor's degree in a field related to business law, veterinary science or health administration and two years' experience. On-the-job experience is sometimes an acceptable substitute for a related degree. A physical may be required. Additional requirements may include certification in firearms.

The BLS forecasted an 11% employment growth for all animal care and service workers between the years 2014 and 2024. Additionally, the bureau reported that animal control workers made a median annual salary of $33,450 as of May 2015.

Fire Chief

Fire chiefs provide administrative and operations management to fire departments. They ensure adequate staff and equipment are available for fire prevention and fire suppression services. Fire chiefs may be promoted from within the department, says the BLS. Chiefs, like all fire fighters, must pass medical, physical and written examination to ensure their ability to withstand the physically taxing and dangerous conditions. Though the basic requirement is a high school education, competition for fire department jobs has increased and candidates with some postsecondary training or education may have more promotion potential. Fire chiefs may choose to seek an Executive Fire Officer certification from the National Fire Academy; this credential requires a bachelor's degree.

As of May 2015, the BLS reported that first-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers earned a median annual wage of $72,230. The BLS also projected that job opportunities for this group would grow by 5% from 2014 to 2024.

EMS Director of Operations

Directors of emergency medical services (EMS) operations are in charge of operational, financial and administrative concerns related to emergency medical services. Experience as a paramedic is a prerequisite for EMS operations director jobs. Directors may begin their career as an emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic and continue to EMS supervisor, and then to director of EMS operations.

Directors of EMS operations should have EMS supervisor experience or have EMT certification and an associate degree in the medical field. In addition, EMS operations directors need to have training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), pediatric education for pre-hospital providers (PEPP), pediatric advanced life support (PALS) and Incident Command System (ICS). Directors of EMS operations need to show strong leadership, communication and management skills and able to make decisions in a quickly changing environment.

Although the BLS does not have statistics on EMS directors, they provide statistics for medical and health services managers, which include EMS coordinators. The BLS anticipates a 24% growth in the field of EMTs and paramedics and a 17% growth in the field of medical and health services managers from 2014 to 2024. Employment growth in both of these fields is largely due to an increasing elderly population, who are more likely to require emergency assistance and increased levels of healthcare, says the BLS. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for EMTs and paramedics was $31,980, and the median annual salary for health services managers was $94,500.

Emergency management directors, EMS directors of operations, animal control services managers, and fire chiefs are all managerial positions in public safety. The best prospects for employment over the next 10 years are most likely in medical and health service management, due to the much faster than average rate of growth. However, for most management positions, regardless of type or industry, jobseekers generally first gain experience in the very positions they later intend to manage.

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