Public Security Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a public security program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Public Security: Degrees at a Glance

Public security degrees are often referred to as homeland security degrees or public safety degrees. The field of public security covers several different areas of study, including preparation for police work and homeland security roles. Program titles may fall under one of these areas and focus on specific aspects of public security.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), growth in the policing sector is expected be seven percent, which is below average compared to the whole economy in the years 2010-2020. In the same time frame, job growth for emergency management directors is predicted to be in line with the rest of the economy, at 13%.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in starting or developing a career providing for the safety and security of the public Individuals looking to develop skills in preparation for a career in security or complete a bachelor's degree to qualify for promotion
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - Police officer ($54,000)*
- Emergency management specialist ($53,000)*
- Police supervisor ($78,000)*
- Emergency management director ($57,000)*
Time to Completion Two years, full-time Four years, full-time or two years after associate degree
Common Graduation Requirements Roughly 30-40 credit hours - 120-130 credit hours
- Internship, field experience or similar requirement common
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma or associate degree
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

Associate in Public Security

An associate degree program in the field of public security can prepare students to begin their careers serving and protecting the public in a number of roles. This program can help qualify students for positions having to do with terrorism response, law enforcement and emergency management. Some programs focus on one specific area within public security, and students may want to research programs carefully to make sure that it's match with their career goals. Students may also use these programs in preparation for transferring to a 4-year program.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Your studies can prepare you to enter police academy training with the goal of becoming a sworn officer
  • These programs can help you develop an understanding of the theoretical and practical aspects of public security issues
  • Public security degree programs can incorporate aspects of police training with disaster management

Cons

  • Individuals who do detective and police work have a high rate of illness and injuries, compared to other workers across the country in 2011*
  • Public security programs that are not attached to police training programs may not offer the same opportunities for career networking and development in that field
  • Positions at the federal level often require completion of at least a bachelor's degree program for consideration

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

The courses offered in individual public security programs may vary somewhat and include aspects of both criminal justice and emergency response management. Programs typically award the Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Business Administration. These programs may effectively prepare students for a variety of roles, but commonly are related to law enforcement training. Additionally, not all 2-year programs are designed with transfer students in mind, so careful research and communication with the school may be necessary.

Common courses in these programs include:

  • Communication for criminal justice
  • Criminal investigation
  • Criminal justice leadership and organization
  • Criminal justice principles
  • Homeland security and disaster preparation
  • Law and jurisdiction: federal, state and local
  • Security administration
  • White collar criminal investigation

Online Degree Options

Some public security associate programs are available online. These formats are generally considered to be beneficial for working students, as asynchronous and distance delivery can assist in scheduling. Nonetheless, online programs are not a good fit for all students due to the lack of the structure common with a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom. Similar to campus-based programs, studies who pursue online studies can expect to cover topics related to public security.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you are looking to stand out in a public security program, you may want to take advantage of internship opportunities and the chance to form professional relationships with mentors who have experience in the field. Some programs may require internships, and even in those that don't, you may want to approach teachers and program leaders to see if there are internships available. In programs where basic computing is not a requirement, you may want to spend some effort in developing these skills, as they may be useful in both communication and data analysis.

Bachelor's in Public Security

A bachelor's degree program in public security, such as the Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement Operations or B.S. in Public Safety and Emergency Management, prepares students to begin work or to advance to leadership positions in the emergency management or law enforcement fields. These programs train students in skills and processes that allow them to both plan for crises and work with others in disaster-related situations. They give context for decision-making and a deeper understanding of the ways that security operations are organized and led, with an eye to infrastructure protection, support and recovery.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can prepare for public security careers where a bachelor's degree is useful or necessary for promotion
  • The planning skills learned in a bachelor's public security program can be applied in risk management situations across multiple fields
  • Programs can give students access to respected professionals in their field for career networking opportunities

Cons

  • A bachelor's program is a significant investment of time and money for mid-career working professionals
  • Consideration for federal jobs is generally considered highly competitive
  • Public sector job availability may be partially dependent on political funding considerations

Courses and Requirements

The courses required for a bachelor's degree in the field of public security, especially at the bachelor's level, focus on disaster preparation and management. As the bachelor's degree is more relevant than the associate degree for many leadership positions, attention is paid to planning for critical situations, not just reacting to them. Students study the theory behind disaster planning and the correct procedures for both immediate response and aftermath. Such topics might include:

  • Disaster preparation, relief and recovery
  • Emergency management and hazard mitigation
  • Emergency management practices and principles
  • Emergency strategy and planning
  • Managing casualty recovery
  • Terrorism in context and perspective

Online Degree Options

Because of the flexibility found in most online programs, these bachelor's degree programs are popular with working professionals in the public safety sphere who are looking to expand their career advancement options. These programs can be especially useful for mid-career professionals seeking to earn their bachelor's degree in order to compete for promotion. Online programs in public security areas, such as homeland security and public safety, will also offer similar training to those available on campus.

Stand Out with This Degree

The professors and teachers in your program are not just a source of knowledge, but can become a source of both references and contacts in the job search. For that reason, developing close professional relationships with them can be to your benefit. In programs that require capstone projects, you may want to take care in selecting a topic that is not only interesting, but also relevant to your career goals. Capstone projects can provide an opportunity for in-depth research on a specific topic, and you may benefit from selecting an area of study in conjunction with mentors and advisors who have a greater understanding of the field.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • AAS in Public Safety and Security
      • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
      • Associate: Fire Science
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
      • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. Criminal Justice
      • A.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice
  • Vincennes, IN

    Vincennes University

  • New York, NY

    CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

  • Blue Bell, PA

    Montgomery County Community College

  • Sioux City, IA

    Western Iowa Tech Community College

  • Online Programs Available
    9. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AS in Science in Criminal Justice

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Associate: Criminal Justice
  • AAS in Public Safety and Security
  • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Which subject are you interested in?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. Criminal Justice
  • A.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Vincennes University

CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Montgomery County Community College

Western Iowa Tech Community College