What is Public Safety?

Public safety is an essential element of a healthy and secure society. It involves the prevention, protection, and response to various public threats and hazards. 

Public safety agencies often coordinate with each other to respond to natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and severe weather. Similarly, people working in the public safety sector may respond to human-caused events like public disturbances, accidents, terrorism, and cyberattacks. 

Public safety administrators and those in public safety leadership positions also work together to provide strategic planning and guidance in an effort to protect citizens and the community. 


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 Who Are Public Safety Professionals? 

Public safety professionals are individuals working to protect public health and safety. These professionals often come from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines, such as law enforcement, emergency management, firefighting and rescue services, emergency medical services, public administration, public health, and public policy.

Public safety professionals typically have specialized training in their respective field. For example, a police officer often receives training about how to enforce laws within their jurisdiction and state. Firefighters receive training on how to properly use fire-suppression tools and investigate fire incidents. 

Similarly, emergency medical services technicians are trained to provide life-saving medical aid to people. Emergency managers learn how to coordinate resources in preparation for and response to a disaster.

In addition, there are public safety professionals who oversee public safety administration. For instance, public administrators are often responsible for overseeing public safety organizations and implementing contemporary public safety practices. These responsibilities often also include implementing emergency response and public safety education programs for the public. 

These public safety officials typically coordinate with other agencies, including law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, and emergency management agencies. They also ensure that public safety protocols are followed and enforced in order to keep the public safe. Public safety professionals are united in their goal of providing public service to their community and helping to keep people safe. 

In addition to specialized training, public safety professionals often develop and maintain strong working relationships with other public safety leadership in order to coordinate resources to benefit the community. They also work with community members to ensure the public is aware and engaged with public safety management practices. 


Why Study Public Safety?

Studying public safety can be an invaluable experience for those wanting to make a positive difference to their communities. Those interested in public safety may want to learn about how to protect citizens and become better prepared to respond to an emergency. With the knowledge gained from studying a public safety degree, individuals can be empowered to help those around them, create safe environments, and even save lives in the process.

Working for public safety agencies is an honorable endeavor. As a professional, you will likely have the opportunity to protect and serve your community. 

Some public safety professionals will advocate for citizens who are in need. Others may work to ensure the safety and well-being of community members. 

Additionally, those working in public safety management roles often provide valuable education, training, and community initiatives to the public. Public safety management responsibilities may include advocating for public safety law implementation and providing information to citizens about what to do during an emergency or hazardous situation. 


What Online Public Safety Degrees Does APU Offer?

The University offers several online public safety degree options to choose from, depending upon the student’s professional interests.

Criminal Justice Online Degree Options

  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice (BA): In this online bachelor’s degree program, students will learn about U.S. law enforcement, criminology, investigations, law, and community relations. This criminal justice major explores criminal behavior and investigations as well as stress management for professionals working in the law enforcement agencies and police departments.
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice (BS): This criminal justice bachelor's degree is designed for individuals interested in digital forensics and how to apply scientific methods and data analysis to the law. Students will gain a solid foundation in digital forensic science and how it applies to crime and law enforcement investigations.
  • Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MA): This degree offers an advanced exploration of criminal law, security, and terrorism. This criminal justice online degree focuses on teaching the professional skills needed for public safety leadership, often within the criminal justice field. Concentrations in this program include business administration, emergency management and disaster management, or general.

Emergency Management

  • Bachelor of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management (BA): This online bachelor program teaches the all-hazards approach to disaster management, covering all the emergency management phases including prevention, mitigation, disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. This program offers adult learners the opportunity to learn from expert faculty – many who have emergency management career experience – about risk assessment, public safety planning, and crisis management stemming from both natural and man-made disasters.
  • Master of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management (MA): The mission of this advanced emergency management degree is to prepare students to be leaders in emergency protecting the public during emergency situations. Students will learn the theory, operations, and best practices to manage crises. 
  • Master of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management and Homeland Security (Dual Master's Degree): This online public safety degree evaluates the relationships among agencies at the local, state, and federal level. Students study concepts of emergency management and disaster prevention while exploring the functions and techniques within the Department of Homeland Security.

Fire Science Management

  • Bachelor in Fire Science Management (BS): The mission of this public safety bachelor's degree is to learn fire behavior, suppression methods, protection, fire safety, and fire prevention. This fire science degree program aims to prepare students at the journeyman level for a career in fire service and to become a leader in fire protection and response activities within fire departments.

Homeland Security

  • Bachelor of Arts in Homeland Security (BA): Students who feel deeply committed to safeguarding our nation and communities may want to pursue a bachelor's degree in homeland security. This public safety bachelor's degree program examines both past and evolving homeland security concepts. Students will gain comprehensive knowledge in critical infrastructure protection, intelligence, risk management, border security, and homeland defense.
  • Master of Arts in Homeland Security (MA): This public safety program aims to help students develop an advanced understanding of homeland defense, terrorism, intelligence, critical infrastructure protection, and more. This advanced online degree in homeland security aims to build leadership skills and knowledge of homeland security measures.

Security Management

  • Bachelor of Arts in Security Management (BA): In this bachelor's degree program, students explore global terrorism issues, physical security, and legal and ethical matters. This online bachelor’s degree program will help students identify organizational security risks, mitigation strategies, and preparation for recovery procedures. Students will also examine losses from criminal activities, natural disasters, and security breaches facing society.
  • Master of Arts in Security Management (MA): In this advanced degree, students will gain a greater understanding of asset protection, loss prevention management, and overall security program evaluation often done by security directors. Students will also learn how to develop security plans and protect data and other organizational assets.

Public Administration and Public Policy

  • Master of Public Administration (MPA): In this public safety administration degree, students will gain a broader understanding of the goals and challenges associated with being a public administration leader and a better understanding of public safety management. This public administration degree online program examines the field from a planning, organization, management, and analytic perspective, while building students’ knowledge of administrative theory, as well as program and policy process.
  • Master of Public Policy (MPP): This public safety administration degree provides a comprehensive examination including public safety research, data analysis, critical thinking, and action. This degree is designed to help students further their understanding of policy at the local, state, and national levels to sharpen your risk analysis and risk management capabilities. 


Public Safety Career Resources


Preparing to Rise Through the Ranks in Law Enforcement

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Earning a promotion in law enforcement requires some planning and preparation. Law enforcement promotions are highly competitive, and it is essential to have a plan in place.
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Recruiting and Hiring the Next Generation of Police Officers

By Dr. Nicole Cain
The law enforcement industry is experiencing a limited pool of police department applicants. In this article, we will review how law enforcement leaders can adapt their hiring efforts to attract new generations.
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Criminal Justice Degrees and Using Real-World Experience

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
In this article, Dr. Jarrod Sadulski reviews why criminal justice degrees are beneficial for those with law enforcement experience.
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Additional Resources

See a list of additional resources for public safety professionals.

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Frequently Asked Questions

American Public University public safety degrees embody our motto "Educating Those Who Serve." Our online education courses are taught by experienced faculty who are dedicated to educating the next generation of public safety leaders. Our faculty members are highly credentialed and often have public safety leadership experience in their respective fields, including criminal justice, emergency management, homeland security, and public administration. 

We offer flexibility and convenience to our students, which is especially beneficial for working professionals. American Public University lets you learn on your own time, in your space. When you learn online you can: 

  • Work on your own time on scheduled assignments, which is known as "asynchronous" learning. 
  • Log into a website to find your assignments, test scores, messages, and forum discussions. 
  • Interact with other students who share your interests, regardless of their location.
  • Learn from expert professors located across the country, bringing unique perspectives from their fields.
  • Use our mobile application to study on the go.
  • Increase your comfort level with online technology.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that protective service occupations, which includes individuals who work in public safety organizations, is projected to grow 2% from 2021 to 2031. Some of those occupations include:

  • Correctional Officers and Bailiffs: Correctional officers oversee those who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms.
  • Fire Inspectors: Fire inspectors examine buildings in order to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met.
  • Firefighters: As part of fire services, firefighters control and put out fires. They also respond to emergencies involving life, property, or the environment.
  • Police and Detectives: Police officers protect lives and property as part of the criminal justice system. Detectives and criminal investigators gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.
  • Private Detectives and Investigators: Private detectives and investigators search for information about legal, financial, and personal matters.
  • Security Guards and Gambling Surveillance Officers: Security guards and gambling surveillance officers protect property from illegal activity.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [Protective Service Occupations, accessed February 2023] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/home.htm

BLS salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Public safety leaders should be responsible, reliable, and strongly committed to serving their community. Students who are interested in pursuing a public safety leadership career should possess a few key skills. 

One of the most important skills within public safety administration is being able to work collaboratively with other professionals. Other important skills include problem solving, critical thinking, oral and written, communication, interpersonal skills, and teamwork. These individuals are often well organized, too. 

For most public safety leaders and those in public safety management, it is helpful to be able to handle stressful situations calmly and with confidence. Professionals working in public safety administration must understand safety protocols and procedures, be well-versed in current public safety legislation, and remain up to date on relevant industry news. 

Working in public service can be a satisfying experience. By working in public service, you may have the chance to apply your skills and education to make a difference by serving the public’s best interests. 

Many public safety professionals find public service provides them satisfaction from doing meaningful work. Fortunately, there are numerous options to consider within the public service and public safety fields. 

In addition to collaborating with other public safety students in the classroom, American Public University offers several student organizations. Public safety students may be interested in joining:

  • Criminology Club: The purpose of this organization is to share and expand our knowledge of criminology and the criminal justice system. This club will provide students with opportunities for academic and social interaction and access to criminology and criminal justice research and current organizations. 
  • Fire Science Club: The purpose of this organization is to provide an open forum where university members can discuss fire science, build a network of professionals, and promote academic and professional success.
  • Homeland Security Network: The purpose of the Homeland Security Network is to provide field-specific networking, and academic and professional resources to support national safety and security.
  • The International Association of Emergency Managers: The International Association of Emergency Managers chapter is the largest student chapter directly affiliated with the International Association of Emergency Managers. The association strives to further the cause of emergency management in its community to increase awareness among its members.  

Discover all the student organizations at American Public University

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