Public safety administration offers many career options that allow you to make a meaningful and positive impact on your community. As a public safety professional, you may work in law enforcement, fire prevention, emergency management, or the state or federal government, protecting the public and preventing threats from harming people and society.

These professions are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 7% to 8% growth for police officers and detectives, firefighters, and emergency management personnel between 2016 and 2026. As current public safety administrators reach retirement, a new generation of leaders gain opportunities to prepare agencies and organizations for the future. A public safety administration degree allows you to become one of those leaders.

Should I Get an Associate Degree in Public Safety Administration?

Ideal public safety administration degree candidates think quickly, perform well under pressure, and are dedicated to serving others. Students who are diligent, hard working, and committed to the principles of public safety succeed in these programs.

Students can choose between an online or on-campus program. The flexibility of a public safety administration degree online appeals to students with full-time jobs or family obligations. On-campus programs are typically more attractive to recent high school graduates.

Regardless of whether you pursue a public safety administration degree online or on campus, you'll learn many skills, such as foundational knowledge of public safety and security and how to develop and execute emergency action plans. You'll also learn how to use critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to ensure public safety across many settings.

Getting an associate degree offers numerous perks beyond classroom education. Students network with peers and instructors, which may provide job opportunities in the future. These programs also typically have personnel to help you secure internships and find a job after graduation.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Public Safety Administration?

A public safety administration degree affords many career options that enable you to support the health and safety of communities in different ways. Some graduates go into firefighting or fire prevention, while others focus on emergency medical services or law enforcement. The path you choose depends on your interests, skills, and the focus of your program.

Deputy Chief, Police Department

Reporting directly to the police chief, these professionals supervise law enforcement officers, detectives, and administrative staff within a police department. They may also help hire, train, and terminate staff and implement programs to improve public safety and community relations.

Median Annual Salary: $80,635

Deputy Fire Chief

This supervisory role oversees the operations of fire departments, including the delivery of disaster response and emergency medical services. They may hire, train, evaluate, and terminate staff while ensuring maintenance, construction, and training tasks are completed. These professionals prepare teams to respond to emergencies quickly and effectively.

Median Annual Salary: $91,516

Emergency Management Specialist

These professionals prepare and coordinate responses to various emergencies and disasters. They oversee teams of paramedics, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and engineers. They may issue evacuation orders, open makeshift public shelters, conduct damage assessments, and implement disaster response plans.

Median Annual Salary: $57,862

Fire Inspector

These officials play important roles in fire prevention and public safety, inspecting facilities for potential hazards. They must know state and local safety regulations and ensure individuals, businesses, and organizations meet relevant standards. Fire inspectors also review plans for new construction or renovation projects to make sure they meet fire codes.

Median Annual Salary: $41,225

How to Choose an Associate in Public Safety Administration Program

To narrow your search for a public safety administration degree, review several factors within each program. First, consider how long it will take to complete your degree if you attend full time or part time. If you plan to work while attending school, you may want to enroll part time. Not all programs allow this, so you should check with the department to review your options.

You should also visit each program's website and review the curriculum. Do the classes interest you? Will you learn skills to advance your career goals? Cost represents another key factor. Create a budget, taking into account savings, income, and financial aid, as well as potential housing, transportation, and supply costs. Compare each school's rates against your budget's requirements.

Next, consider the learning format you prefer. An online public safety administration degree provides schedule flexibility, while an on-campus program gives you a more traditional college experience. If you plan to live close to a campus, research the local cost of living and job opportunities.

Associate in Public Safety Administration Program Admissions

The application process differs between an online and an on-campus public safety administration degree. Because distance learners are self-directed, online programs typically have more stringent admission requirements. All programs require basic materials, including contact information, educational history, and a personal essay. Some may ask for letters of recommendation and a resume.

Apply to at least three programs to increase your chances of admission. Start by researching numerous schools and narrow your list to around six options. Then, pick your top three from that group and move ahead with the application process.

Admission Materials

  • Application:Applications require contact information, a personal essay, and one or more letters of recommendation.
  • Transcripts: You must submit transcripts from all prior learning. Some schools may fulfill transcript requests for free, while others charge a fee between $5 and $10.
  • Application Fee: Schools typically charge application fees between $20 and $50. Some schools waive this fee for students with demonstrable financial need.

Educational Paths for Public Safety Administration Associate Programs

Once you earn your associate public safety administration degree, you may wish to enroll in a bachelor's program. According to a recent article in Inside HigherEd, many firefighting professionals need a bachelor's or master's degree to qualify for higher-paying jobs. In many cases, you can earn this degree with two more years of study.

Public Safety Administration

Pursuing a bachelor's degree gives you access to greater career options within fire departments, law enforcement agencies, emergency response agencies, and other public and private organizations. Students advance their knowledge and learn how to take on leadership and administrative roles.

Criminal Justice

Meant for those pursuing law enforcement careers, these programs focus on the justice system, the role of technology and forensic science in solving crimes, and the U.S. corrections system. Students also learn about criminal justice theory and how prosecutors and court officials work with police officers and detectives.

Fire Science

This bachelor's degree offers education on how firefighters and public safety officials can prevent fires and respond to emergencies and natural disasters. It prepares individuals to take on leadership roles within fire departments while focusing on fire inspection, emergency medical services, and the proper handling of hazardous materials.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Public Safety Administration Program?

The cost, length, and course offerings of a public safety administration degree online and on campus vary by school and format. This section provides general insight into what to expect with regard to these factors, but you should research each prospective school for more specific information.

Courses in an Associate in Public Safety Administration Program

The courses required to get a public safety administration degree online or on campus vary by school. However, most programs offer a similar set of core classes. Below is a sampling of courses you can expect to find within most public safety administration programs.

Principles of Public Safety Administration

This introductory course explores public safety issues while examining the history of the field and current and future trends. Students also review public policy and its influences. Key topics include best practices, management functions, and risk management.

Planning for Public Safety

Students explore strategic planning processes for public safety agencies and organizations, including effective resource allocation, risk reduction strategies, emergency response plans, and budgeting. The course also covers how these plans are implemented during crises.

Public Safety Ethics

This course examines legal and ethical issues affecting public safety. Students learn to develop personal codes of ethics while advancing their careers. Topics include common ethical issues, political considerations, and ethical expectations for public safety administrators.

Leadership in Public Safety

This course covers leadership skills for public safety managers and supervisors, including communication, cooperation, and knowledge dedication. Students also learn how to evaluate management in a public safety setting and explore leadership theories, styles, and practices.

Public Safety Decision Making

Students learn how to make quick, important decisions, which requires a sound process to gather facts, determine action steps, and communicate with stakeholders. The course also covers concepts like root-cause analysis, critical success factors, and key performance indicators as they relate to effective decision making in public safety situations.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Public Safety Administration?

The time it takes to complete a public safety administration degree online or on campus depends on several factors, but most full-time students graduate in two years. Attending part time lengthens the time to completion. If you foresee your personal life being too busy to attend full time during particular semesters, make sure your program allows credit flexibility.

Conversely, you can expedite your studies by enrolling in a public safety administration degree online and taking more credits per term. Doing so allows you to move into career opportunities faster and reduce education costs.

How Much Is an Associate in Public Safety Administration?

While the cost of an associate in public safety administration varies, students pay an average of $200 to $500 per credit, according to U.S. News & World Reports. This translates to $12,000 to $30,000 for a two-year, 60-credit program.

Besides tuition, the cost of your public safety administration degree depends on additional fees, such as books, housing, and commuting. Online learners avoid housing and commuting costs, but they may incur an additional technology fee per class.

With a thorough understanding of program costs, your budget, and financial aid options, you can ensure a successful pursuit of a public safety administration degree online or on campus.

Public Safety Administration Professional Organizations

Public safety administration students and degree holders enjoy many benefits from joining a professional organization, such as networking with colleagues, continuing education and training, annual conferences, and career services. Members also learn how to become more effective public safety professionals and take on more advanced roles within the field.

National Association of Police Organizations

NAPO brings together law enforcement groups countrywide to advocate for police officers and public safety professionals. The association offers professional development opportunities, organizes conferences and events, and issues an annual award.

National Emergency Management Association

NEMA focuses on enhancing public safety nationwide through advocacy, professional development, and innovative programming. Its members include emergency management personnel, state and local EMS directors, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials.

National Association of Fire Investigators

NAFI facilitates innovation in fire science and investigation, offering training programs to increase community safety. Members include firefighters, fire investigators, engineers, scientists, insurance claims adjusters, and government officials.