Public Safety Organizations in the United States
There are many governmental and private organizations promoting public safety at the local, state, and federal levels in the U.S. These organizations do everything from distributing educational materials to monitoring the weather and reporting severe storms, or regulating products and keeping tabs on consumer behavior. Some of the higher profile public safety organizations are as follows.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): FEMA is part of the Department of Homeland Security, and its main purpose is to coordinate responses to disasters, natural or man-made, that “overwhelm the resources of local and state authorities.”
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: This agency regulates the manufacture and sale of consumer products with inherent safety implications or risks.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA): This organization examines and approves, or does not approve, pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, and substances that are distributed for consumption on a wide scale in the U.S.A. The FDA does its best to police the use of potentially harmful substances like carcinogens and psychoactive materials in everyday products, and enforces labeling laws for dietary supplements and food products.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NITSA): This agency writes and enforces safety standards for automobiles in the U.S. This includes establishing fuel-economy benchmarks and promoting theft-resistance measures.
All of the above organizations are potential employers for someone who has studied public safety and is dedicated to pursuing a career in the field, but there are also non-governmental organizations with public safety oriented missions. Finding work in this field is all about knowing what you’re good at, and finding an organization that needs people who are good at that. The opportunities to work in public safety are diverse, and many roles must be filled by an equally diverse cohort of workers.
What is it Like to Work in Public Safety?
A common description of working as a firefighter is that it mostly consists of boring idleness, punctuated by bursts of extreme activity that requires intense physical and mental preparedness because it may have life-or-death consequences. This is an apt description of public safety work in general. Even at the administrative level, people who work at FEMA or other emergency management organizations spend 99% of their time planning and idling and trying to predict the future so they can be as prepared as possible for what comes next. The other 1% is frantic, unpredictable, and everything goes wrong, and you have to take that as it comes and be able to perform under pressure because lives are literally depending on choices that you make.
The ratio of planning and idleness to extreme action is probably different between different public safety careers, but overall, people who are level headed and can maintain consistent performance in situations that would give most people emotional whiplash are best qualified to work as public safety officials.
List of Public Safety Careers
Because the career options for working in public safety are so diverse, it is useful to know about the specific job titles that exist in the field, especially those that are usually reserved for someone with a master’s degree. These tend to be higher-level leadership or management positions that are more administrative, and less “boots-on-the-ground” than being a firefighter or police officer. The following is a list of public safety career options from the FEMA website.
- On-Call Response/Recovery Employees: These jobs come with a two or four year contract attached, but are still considered non-permanent, and therefore ineligible for the benefits that full-time employment usually comes with.
- Disaster Assistance Employees: These employees are held in reserve in case of an emergency in which a rapid local response is necessary. DAEs are only paid for hours worked, and do not get health insurance, paid time off, or other benefits, because this is considered a non-permanent position.
- Permanent Full Time Employees: This job title is vague and un-self-explanatory because it encompasses a wide range of possible employment opportunities at FEMA. Everyone from managers to mailroom clerks can be considered a permanent full-time employee, and there are detailed instructions on how to apply for full-time work at FEMA at the agency’s website.
What Do You Study in Public Safety Degree Programs?
Learning how to deal with stressful situations and perform well under pressure is a big part of some public safety occupations, and these skills can be difficult to teach in school, but the more knowledge that you have, the more confident you’ll feel in a catastrophe. Some examples of courses you might take in a public safety degree program are:
- Community Relations Theory and Practice: Understanding and communicating smoothly with communities, and promoting a positive perception of public safety organizations increases the effective capacity of said organizations.
- Applied Organizational Behavior: This course mostly teaches upper level management strategies and covers inter- and intra-organizational communications, team building and leadership skills that can help public safety organizations work cohesively in crisis situations.
- Grant Administration and Resource Development: Managing funds and applying for grants to fund new projects are common in private, non-profit public safety organizations. Learning to develop community partnerships and efficiently use funds from various sources with different interests in the service of public safety are the main goals of this class.
Types of Degrees That Lead to Public Safety Careers
Many degrees that lead to work in the field of public safety don’t actually have those words in their titles. Some of these degree possibilities include:
- Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Policing
- Master of Public Health – Disaster Management
- Master of Public Administration – Emergency Preparedness and Response
- Master of Science – Occupational Safety and Health
- Master of Public Services – Security and Safety Leadership
- Master of Public Administration – Emergency Management
- Master of Science – Public Safety Leadership
International Public Safety Opportunities
The skills you’ll learn in a public safety degree program have the added advantage of being applicable all over the world, so if traveling has always been your dream, you can fairly easily take your public safety degree and abilities overseas. Public safety professionals with a more technical or scientific background are likely to find opportunities at non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that deal with water and food safety and disease prevention.
A stint of international work can be a great addition to a resume for people in any profession. The tenacity required to work in another culture, potentially in another language, and still do your job efficiently will be impressive to future employers.
Other Fields Related to Public Safety
A degree in public safety can also be a credential for work in other, related fields. The broad applicability of the skills is a strong feature of the Master of Public Safety degree. Other industries where public safety workers can find jobs include:
- Public Health
- Public Administration
- International Aid/Development
- Urban Planning
Working in the field of public safety will give you knowledge that is needed in many industries, so getting a consultant position in any of the above is a possibility as long as you’ve been continuing to learn while you’ve been working. Consider any job a learning opportunity, and get the most out of it so you can continue to grow your skills and make yourself a more appealing potential employee.
Going Back to School for Public Safety
Returning to school for a master’s degree can be nerve wracking, because it takes time away from other activities, and might even take you out of the workforce for a little while, which means you’ll be earning less or no money. If you’re taking these risks, you need to make sure the investment of time and money will be worthwhile. Attending an accredited online school that will accept transferred credits from your previous education, and may allow you to continue working while taking classes on your own schedule can mitigate the risk factors in going back to school. The colleges listed below all offer accredited online degree programs in various aspects of public safety, and you can get more information on their pricing and scheduling by clicking a link and getting in touch with them directly.