If you want to help people and enjoy work in fields where safety is paramount, then you might take a look at the many ways you can enter a field where public safety is key to smooth operations. You’ll learn that some careers take little more than a high school diploma to enter…but if you want to be in management, you’ll need more extensive education. The following careers are divided into categories that list the most common careers, related careers, and health careers. Note that many of these careers involved various means of transportation, which often requires involvement with Homeland Security. Most links lead to the Bureau of Labor Statistics career descriptions, where you can learn more about salaries, job environments, and similar occupations.

Most Common Public Safety Careers


  1. Correctional Officers: Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time. Correctional officers go through a training academy and then are assigned to a facility for on-the-job training.
  2. EMTs and Paramedics: Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings. All EMTs and paramedics must complete a formal training program. All states require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed, and requirements vary by state.
  3. Fire Inspectors and Investigators: Working in the office and in the field, fire inspectors visit and inspect buildings and other structures to search for fire hazards and to ensure that all fire codes are met. Fire investigators determine the origin and cause of fires by searching the surrounding scene and collecting evidence. Most fire inspectors and investigators have a high school diploma and attend training academies and receive on-the-job training.
  4. Firefighters: Firefighters protect the public by responding to fires and other emergencies. They are frequently the first responders on the scene of an accident. Firefighters must usually have a high school diploma, but some have a postsecondary degree in fire science or a related discipline. Most firefighters must pass written and physical tests, complete a series of interviews, and hold an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification and receive extensive training after being hired.
  5. Police and Detectives: Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators, who sometimes are called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes. Education requirements for these careers range from a high school diploma to a college degree or higher.
  6. Private Detectives and Investigators: Private detectives and investigators find facts and analyze information about legal, financial, and personal matters. Private detectives and investigators usually have some college education. Previous experience in investigative work can be beneficial. Private detectives and investigators need a license in most states.
  7. Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with and monitor offenders to prevent them from committing new crimes. Qualifications vary by agency, but a bachelor’s degree is usually required. Most employers require candidates to pass oral, written, and psychological exams.

Transportation Safety

Transportation Safety

  1. Air Traffic Controllers: Air traffic controllers coordinate air traffic to ensure that planes remain safe distances apart. To become an air traffic controller, a person must be a U.S. citizen, complete an air traffic management degree from a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified school, achieve a qualifying score on the FAA preemployment test, and complete a training course at the FAA Academy. Controllers with previous air traffic control experience, such as from the military, may not need to complete the FAA education requirements.
  2. Airline and Commercial Pilots: Airline and commercial pilots transport people and cargo on a fixed schedule on planes, helicopters, etc. Commercial pilots fly aircraft for other reasons, such as charter flights, rescue operations, firefighting, aerial photography, and crop dusting. Many pilots learn to fly in the military, but a growing number have higher degrees from a civilian flight school. All pilots who are paid to transport passengers or cargo must have a commercial pilot’s license and an instrument rating.
  3. Railroad Conductors and Yardmasters: Conductors and yardmasters coordinate the daily activities of both freight and passenger train crews. Conductors work on the train. Yardmasters work in the rail yard. Employers of conductors and yardmasters generally require a high school diploma and several months of on-the-job training.
  4. Train Engineers and Operators: Train engineers and train operators ensure that freight trains and passenger trains stay on time and travel safely. Train engineers drive trains. Train operators work the brakes, signals, or switches. Many rail companies require workers to have a high school diploma or equivalent although some companies do not have education requirements for rail yard workers. Train engineers and operators are trained on the job through company training programs.
  5. Water Transportation Occupations: Workers in water transportation occupations operate and maintain ships that take cargo and people over water. Education and training requirements vary by the type of job. Most water transportation jobs require the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a Merchant Marine Credential (MMC).

Working with the Public

Canine Unit

  1. Health Educators: Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. A bachelor’s degree is required for entry-level positions. Some employers may require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential.
  2. Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists: Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage or overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and relationships. All states require both mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to have a master’s degree and a license to practice.
  3. Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors help people with emotional and physical disabilities live independently. Most often, rehabilitation counselors must have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling.
  4. Social and Community Service Managers: Social and community service managers coordinate and supervise social service programs and community organizations. Social and community service managers need at least a bachelor’s degree, but many employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree.
  5. Social and Human Service Assistants: Social and human service assistants help people get through difficult times or get additional support. The minimum requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent; but without additional education, advancement opportunities are limited.
  6. Social Workers: There are two main types of social workers: direct-service social workers, who help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives, and clinical social workers, who diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. A bachelor’s or master’s degree is required for most direct-service social work positions. Clinical social workers must have a master’s degree.
  7. Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors: Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors advise people who have alcoholism or other types of addiction. Educational requirements range from a high school diploma to a master’s degree, depending on the setting, type of work, state regulations, and level of responsibility.

Related Public Safety Careers


  1. Forensic Science Technicians: Forensic science technicians help investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence. Educational requirements for crime scene investigators vary by employer.
  2. Gaming Services Occupations: Gaming services workers serve customers in gambling establishments and in a wide variety of services. Most gaming services jobs require a high school diploma or a GED. Management requires a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  3. Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers: Police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers answer emergency and non-emergency calls. Most police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers have a high school diploma or GED.
  4. Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Managers: Property, real estate, and community association managers take care of the many aspects of residential, commercial, or industrial properties. Many employers prefer to hire college graduates. Knowledge of property management is required.
  5. Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers: Security guards and gaming surveillance officers patrol and inspect property against fire, theft, vandalism, terrorism, and illegal activity. Gaming surveillance officers sometimes need additional coursework beyond a high school diploma.
  6. Construction and Building Inspectors: Construction and building inspectors ensure that new construction, changes, or repairs comply with local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications. Construction and building inspectors typically learn informally on the job.

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