Public Safety Administration: Bachelor, Associate & Online Degree Info

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Associate and bachelor's degree programs in public safety administration may lead to careers in public safety. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Associate and Bachelor's Degrees in Public Safety Administration at a Glance

If you're seeking a career in public safety, you may first want to research your desired field of interest to determine the basic hiring requirements. Public safety programs range from criminal justice technology and corrections to law enforcement and firefighting. For example, law enforcement positions commonly require that applicants be U.S. citizens 21 years of age or older and have clean legal records. Applicants for firefighting positions must be at least 18 years old.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for firefighters and police jobs are expected to be about 7% between 2010 and 2020, which is below average for all other occupations (www.bls.gov). This may increase the competition for open positions, making college coursework and degrees more attractive to employers.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking a public safety career in the public or private sector Individuals seeking to improve advancement opportunities in their public safety career
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Police officer ($54,000)*
- Firefighter ($45,000)*
- Detective/Criminal investigator ($72,000 - with commensurate experience)*
- Dispatcher ($36,000)*
Same as associate degree options, plus:
- Police supervisor ($78,000 - with commensurate experience)*
- Firefighting and prevention supervisor ($70,000 - with commensurate experience)*
Time to Completion Two years full-time Four years full-time (two years with associate's degree)
Common Graduation Requirements - About 15 courses Associate's degree
- 15 additional courses
- Field experience or internships
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Some Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate Degree in Public Safety Administration (PSA)

If you're seeking a career in public safety, an associate's degree in public safety administration is one possibility. This degree, sometimes offered with specializations, prepares students for careers in law enforcement, firefighting and prevention, emergency management or other related public safety occupation. You may benefit from reviewing hiring requirements for desired positions to determine specific educational expectations, job requirements and suggested areas of preparation.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • These programs introduce students to various public safety career paths.
  • Field work and instruction allow you to meet and network with field professionals.
  • Internships may provide opportunities to develop work skills as well as professional relationships.

Cons

  • Graduates of 2-year programs may not immediately qualify for all entry-level positions.
  • Applicants for government positions must undergo drug testing and background checks.
  • Higher competition for jobs due to lower than average job growth, per the BLS.

Courses and Requirements

Students in associate's degree programs generally learn the skills needed for entry-level careers in public safety. Coursework focuses on developing the knowledge and techniques needed to perform these jobs. Here are a few of these courses:

  • Human resources management
  • Public safety leadership
  • Strategic planning
  • Ethics
  • Psychology
  • Political systems
  • Research and analysis methods
  • Group dynamics
  • Financial strategies and planning
  • Public safety issues

Online Degree Options

There are online programs in public safety available for individuals seeking a non-traditional college program. Students should ensure that these online programs are accredited and that they fulfill the hiring requirements of your desired public safety employer. Online programs may not provide the hands-on training that some employers may require, so students may need to pursue opportunities to develop these necessary professional skills.

Stand Out with This Degree

Because public safety positions require a higher level of physical skills, students who want to stand out may consider beginning a physical regimen of training to be better prepared for the demands of the job. Students may want to pursue internships and other opportunities to get hands-on training and experience. Familiarity with technology may also be beneficial. Developing strong oral and written communication skills may be advantageous to long-term career growth.

Other Degrees to Consider

If you're interested in a public safety career, you may want to consider pre-professional programs for specific career paths. For example, there are 2-year programs available that focus entirely on law enforcement training or fire science that prepare you for their respective entry tests. These programs may be more widely available than a general associate's degree in public safety administration and are offered at many community colleges.

Bachelor's Degree in Public Safety Administration

Students seeking a bachelor's degree in public safety administration generally fall into two categories: students beginning their bachelor's degree program and mid-career professionals who have a 2-year degree and are seeking a bachelor's degree for advancement opportunities.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Some programs are designed for working public safety professionals to prepare them for leadership and management positions
  • Bachelor's programs allow students to seek federal jobs that require 4-year degrees.
  • These programs give job applicants an advantage because of the job competition.

Cons

  • Completing these programs if you're a full-time professional may be challenging because of time commitments.
  • Completing a 4-year degree program first may be unnecessary for the career goals of some individuals.
  • Some public safety jobs are expected to grow at a below-average rate and may be limited by public funding.

Courses and Requirements

Courses generally cover a range of topics related to this industry and the specific types of work involved. Students gain leadership and management training. Subjects range from law and public administration to crisis management theory and leadership skills. Coursework may include topics such as:

  • Public safety administration
  • Government funding of agencies
  • Organizational theory
  • Public safety policy
  • Public relations
  • Homeland security incident management
  • Ethics and the law

Online Degree Options

You may find a few bachelor's degree programs available online. These are practical for mid-career professionals who have completed an associate's degree and want a bachelor's degree to improve their advancement opportunities. These programs may focus on a particular type of public safety career or on management principals common to the industry.

Stand Out with This Degree

Mid-career professionals seeking to complete a bachelor's program may want to apply for educational funding from their employers. This type of recognition not only saves the student money, but reflects an employer's belief in the applicant's competence and promotion potential. Students completing a 4-year degree before embarking on a public safety career may want to take opportunities to develop both work experience and professional connections.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Oklahoma City, OK

    Oklahoma State University

  • Blue Ash, OH

    University of Cincinnati

  • Paducah, KY

    West Kentucky Community and Technical College

  • Orem, UT

    Utah Valley University

  • Juneau, AK

    University of Alaska Southeast

  • Fairbanks, AK

    University of Alaska Fairbanks

  • Juneau, AK

    University of Alaska

  • Orrville, OH

    University of Akron Wayne College

Featured Schools

Keiser University

  • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin
  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

West Kentucky Community and Technical College

Utah Valley University

University of Alaska Southeast

University of Alaska Fairbanks