Public Safety & Security

The health and safety of the public often is a top priority for any community. If residents do not feel safe and secure, it is less likely they will continue to live and work in that environment.

Public safety and security is monitored and services are provided by a number of different agencies, including police departments, fire departments and emergency medical technicians. Each sector of the public safety and security division serves a specific purpose and is key to a well-rounded public safety and security atmosphere.

Police officers and detectives are responsible for providing crime prevention services within a community when possible. If prevention is not possible, those same personnel are equipped to investigate the crime and help to bring its perpetrators to justice.

Firefighters primarily respond to fires in both the public and private sector. They also are called to the scene of accidents and emergencies to help assist other emergency personnel with the management of the scene and the recovery of victims.

Emergency medical technicians are charged with caring for the sick or injured at the scene of an accident or emergency situation. They also are responsible for stabilizing and transporting any sick or injured individuals to local medical facilities for treatment.

Required Education and Training

The level of education and training required for the public safety and security industry is dependent on the job being pursued.

Police officers and detectives are, at a minimum, expected to complete training through a certified police academy. However, to remain competitive in the job market, and increase the chances for promotion,candidates are encouraged to seek out higher-education degrees.

Both online and traditional programs are available to police and detectives seeking to expand their knowledge. An associate degree program provides an overview of the U.S. criminal justice system, with courses in criminology, criminal investigation, domestic/international terrorism and criminal law. A bachelor degree program places greater emphasis on the areas of correction, crime scene investigation protocol and techniques, forensic psychology, juvenile crime and corrections, law enforcement and homeland security. Having an undergraduate degree will increase job opportunities for law enforcement candidates, as well as increase the chance for promotion within the field.

A graduate degree will focus on the training required to work as an administrator or instructor, as well as for state and federal government-level jobs within the industry. Topics that are explored in an advanced degree program include causes of criminal behavior in various cultures and the factors which attribute to social deviance. Because many law enforcement professionals continue to work while pursuing advanced degrees,online degree programs can be convenient. Traditional classroom settings also are available, as well as hybrid programs which combine both traditional and online courses.

The requirements for becoming a firefighter vary depending on location. Some fire departments require only a high school diploma or equivalent, and will provide on-the-job training to individuals interested in working in the field. Others expect candidates to enter the field with a postsecondary non-degree award or certificate in fire science or a related discipline. Two-year associate degree programs also are available, and can most routinely be found at community colleges and technical schools. Due to the nature of the training, it is difficult to fully complete the requirements fora degree program online.

In addition to formal education and training, fire fighters also can attend training programs conducted by state or federal agencies, which are coordinated through the National Fire Academy.

Emergency medical personnel, such as technicians and paramedics, have a variety of education options and requirements available to them.

Technicians are considered the lowest-level in the emergency medical personnel sector, and often only need a high school diploma or equivalent and certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Associate degree programs for EMTs are generally offered by technical institutes,community colleges and specialized facilities which focus on emergency-care training.EMTs who receive this kind of training can expect to learn the basics of assessing a patient’s condition, as well as methods for responding to trauma and cardiac emergencies.

Associate degrees for paramedics also are offered by community colleges and technical institutes. These programs include all of the basics learned during EMT training, in addition to training in advanced medical skills such as stitching wounds and administering intravenous medications.

Future Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the need for those working in law enforcement is expected to increase by 7 percent between now and 2020. The average annual salary for police officers and detectives was$55,010 as of May 2010. Detectives and criminal investigators typically earn higher average salaries at around $68,000. Patrol officers and sheriff’s officers earn an average of $53,540 annually.

Employment of firefighters is expected to grow by 9 percent over the next several years, with tough competition expected for job openings.The median annual salary was $45,250 as of May 2010. Sixty-seven percent of firefighters in the United States currently are covered by a union contract.

EMTs and paramedics are expected to be in the most demand between now and 2020, with a 33 percent growth rate in the industry.Emergencies such as car crashes and natural disasters have bolstered the need for trained medical personnel who can respond quickly on the scene. The average annual salary for EMTs and paramedics is $30,360 as of May 2010. 

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