Individuals interested in a formal education in public safety can earn a bachelor's degree, graduate certificate or a master's degree in this subject. Degree programs teach students seeking public safety or law enforcement careers essential leadership and organizational skills for crisis and emergency management. Some programs offer areas of concentration or specialization in specific areas of public safety, such as policing or fire safety.
Further training could be required depending on which profession a graduate pursues. Positions can be sought in law enforcement, healthcare, security firms, government agencies or law. Graduate programs can prepare students to pursue administrative positions in this field. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for entrance to an undergraduate degree program in public safety. Applicants to a master's degree program must first have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, public safety or a closely related field. Any applicable professional experience may also be looked upon favorably.
Programs last 1-4 years or more, depending on the program level.
Bachelor's Degree in Public Safety
Undergraduates can earn a Bachelor of Business Administration or Bachelor of Science in Public Safety and Security. Degree programs focus on fundamental theories and practices of public safety and crisis management. Students develop skills necessary to be leaders in crisis situations like natural disasters or terrorist attacks, and examine public safety from a legal, operational, logistical and community standpoint.
A bachelor's degree program in public safety typically includes general education requirements in communications, math, science and the arts. Lectures and classroom discussions cover essential skills and topics intended to train students for careers in public safety. With technology, criminal justice, human resources and communications coursework, students prepare themselves to handle emergencies at the local, state and federal level as well as take leadership roles in law enforcement and related security matters. Students take classes like:
- Sociological and psychological factors in terrorism
- Fundamental concepts in public safety
- Public safety ethics
- Assessing risks to public safety
- Interrogation and interview techniques
- Introduction to criminal law
Certificate in Public Safety
Graduate certificate programs in public safety expand on the logistical, operational, investigative and community factors relevant to assessing risk, developing action plans and managing natural or man-made crises that affect the public. Some programs allow for specialization in a sub-field of public safety according to students' interest and experience, like fire and emergency services or police work. Certificate programs can often be completed in 1-2 years.
While some programs prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree, this isn't required by all certificate programs in public safety. Students may also be expected to have relevant work experience.
Students may have some flexibility in tailoring the program to meet their needs if they have specific educational or career goals. Course topics typically include:
- Cyber-crime and public safety
- Advanced concepts in public safety administration
- Leadership skills in law enforcement management
- Financial administration in public safety
- Methods and applications in alternative dispute resolution
Master's Degree in Public Safety Administration
Master of Science in Public Safety Administration or Justice and Public Safety programs incorporate leadership, critical thinking and analytical skills along with management, criminal justice, risk management and public safety concepts to prepare graduates, some of whom are working public safety professionals, for career or academic advancement. Programs may offer students the opportunity to concentrate in homeland security, criminal justice or judicial administration.
Graduate programs allow students intense, focused study in essential topics of public safety administration as well as practical application in a professional environment. A capstone project or final comprehensive exam may be required for graduation. Graduates who intend to pursue a doctoral degree may enroll in a thesis option. Students take courses covering the following topics:
- Qualitative and quantitative research in public safety
- Leadership and management skills for crisis situations
- Risk assessment and management
- Cultural awareness in public safety
- Legal issues in public safety administration
Popular Career Options
A bachelor's degree is generally the preferred educational prerequisite for entry-level employment in law enforcement and security fields. Graduates of a master's degree program are poised to pursue a number of career options in public safety administration.
Additional training may be required, either on the job or through specialized training at a police academy or similar professional training facility. Popular careers for graduates include:
- Public safety manager
- Police officer or Investigator
- Corrections officer
- Hospital administrator
- Judicial administrator
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that there were 661,330 police and sheriff's patrol officers employed in 2018 (www.bls.gov). Police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a mean annual salary of $65,400 annually in May 2018; police and detective first-line supervisors earned a median annual salary of $89,030. In 2018, the BLS projected an average employment growth rate of 5%, for police and detectives from 2018-2028.
The BLS notes that high turnover leads to good prospects for those seeking employment at local police departments. It expects competition for positions at the state and federal levels because of the improved promotion opportunities and higher pay associated with these jobs.
Bachelor's degree, graduate certificate and master's degree programs are all available to those interested in public safety. They will receive training that will prepare them for a number of careers in law enforcement, healthcare, security, and government.