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Public Safety Professional: Career Profile

A career as a public safety professional requires no formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Public safety professionals help to ensure the safety of the general public. Their responsibilities often include enforcing laws, protecting property, and responding to emergency situations. Many public safety professionals receive on-the-job training and must only possess a high school diploma or GED. Both detectives and firefighters must also complete training academies.

Essential Information

Public safety professionals help ensure the populace's welfare and well-being through their work in the public safety departments of municipalities, counties, states or the federal government. Career options include police detective, firefighter and 911 operator. All three of these options require at least a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Read on to learn more about these opportunities.

Police Detective Firefighter 911 Dispatcher
Education Requirements High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Other Requirements Police academy and on-the-job training Fire service academy and on-the-job training On-the-job training and possible certification depending on state requirements
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) -1% (decline)* 5% (as fast as average)* -3% (decline)*
Median Salary (2015) $77,210* $46,870* $38,010*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Police Detective: Career Profile

Job Description

A police detective is a plainclothes officer who investigates crimes by gathering facts, collecting evidence and questioning witnesses and suspects. Detectives may also participate in raids on locations where they suspect criminal activity is taking place. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), detectives typically specialize in one type of crime such as homicide or sexual assault (www.bls.gov). They work on cases until a suspect is convicted of the crime or it becomes impossible to investigate further. Detectives often work long, irregular hours when investigating a crime.

Requirements

Detectives are promoted from within the ranks of police officers. Police officers need at least a high school diploma or a general educational development (GED) certificate. An officer must complete training in a police academy before beginning work and may get further on-the-job training. Police departments may also encourage officers to further their education through professional training or by pursuing degrees in criminal justice or police science.

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS predicted that between 2014 and 2024, job openings for detectives and criminal investigators were expected to decrease by 1%, which was slower than the average for all professions. The BLS says bilingual applicants with college degrees or experience in military law enforcement may have an edge. In May 2015, the median salary for detectives was $77,210, according to the BLS.

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Firefighter: Career Profile

Job Description

Firefighters may be called upon in many types of emergencies, not just fires. Most calls to fire departments involve medical emergencies, according to the BLS. They also respond to auto accidents and incidents involving hazardous materials spills. Firefighters are at high risk of injury and must wear heavy protective clothing. Firefighters spend time on duty living at the station house. Their work hours are unusual. For instance, a firefighter may be on duty for 24 hours, and then be off work for 48 hours.

Requirements

A high school diploma or GED certificate is generally required. Many firefighters earn 2- and 4-year degrees in fire science at community colleges. New hires train for a few weeks at a fire service academy, then continue on-the-job training during a probationary period with their departments. Most fire departments require firefighters to earn certification as emergency medical technicians. The firefighter must be physically fit and pass regular drug tests.

Job Outlook and Salary

The number of jobs for firefighters was expected to grow by 5% from 2014-2024, the BLS reported. The expected job growth is attributed in part to the conversion of many volunteer firefighter positions to paid jobs; however, getting a job may be tough. Firefighting jobs are sought after because they require only a high school education, and many offer retirement with a pension after 25 years of service. The median salary in May 2015 for a firefighter was $46,870, according to the BLS.

911 Dispatcher: Career Profile

A 911 dispatcher, sometimes called a communications operator, answers calls from the public in emergencies, evaluates the situation and routes the proper response personnel to the scene. A dispatcher may work in a large call center and handle requests for help in all types of emergencies. The dispatcher maintains logs of all calls in a computerized database.

Dispatchers must exercise good judgment and remain calm when talking to callers. Because sensitive information is involved in the work, a dispatcher must be discrete.

Requirements

A 911 dispatcher must have at least a high school diploma or GED certificate. The dispatcher will need to complete several months of training after being hired. The Association for Public Communications Officers International (APCO) says there is no national certification program, but dispatchers in many states must acquire certification from professional associations and keep it updated.

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS said employment in this field was anticipated to decrease by around 3% from 2014-2024. The consolidation of dispatchers into large call centers may mean fewer jobs in some areas. The BLS reported that the median salary for a 911 dispatcher was $38,010 in May 2015.

Police detectives, firefighters, and 911 dispatchers are all public safety professionals who work to protect lives and property. A high school diploma or GED is typically the only required education for initial career entry, though both detectives and firefighters need to complete training academies before beginning work. On-the-job training is common to all positions.

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