Public Safety & Security

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 86 percent of families polled as part of a national survey on children’s health said they feel safe in their communities. Another 11.4 percent said they sometimes feel unsafe and 2.6 percent said they always feel unsafe.

A top priority for any community is the health and safety of its residents. If the general public does not feel safe, it likely will impact their desire to continue living and working there.

It is the primary role of public safety and security personnel to keep residents safe. Police and fire departments, as well as emergency medical technicians, are included in the public safety and security sector. Each plays a role in providing services to a community that are designed to provide protection.

The police are responsible for crime prevention when possible. They also are charged with investigating crime and bringing criminals to justice when prevention is not possible. Firefighters primarily are responsible for the extinguishing of fires in a community. They also may be tasked with controlling traffic and providing assistance at the scene of an accident or emergency. Emergency medical personnel care for the sick and injured. They often are the first responders and are responsible for stabilizing and transporting those in need of care to the appropriate medical facility.

Required Education and Training

The kind of education required for working in a public safety and security position is dependent on the area in which a candidate plans to seek employment.

Police officers and detectives often complete their training through a certified police academy. Because the job market is highly competitive, some officers and detectives also possess college degrees in various aspects of the criminal justice system. An associate degree program in criminal justice provides a solid background in criminology and investigative techniques, domestic and international terrorism and criminal law. Bachelor degree programs focus heavily on the areas of corrections and crime scene investigation, forensic psychology, homeland security and juvenile crime.

While graduate degrees in criminal justice are available, they generally are not required to work in the industry, with the exception of some state and federal law enforcement positions. Those who wish to teach criminal justice also may require a graduate degree.

Firefighters often receive their training through the fire department at which they will work. Some departments require only a high school diploma or equivalent and the appropriate on-the-job training. Others require candidates to enter the field with a postsecondary non-degree award or certificate in fire science or a related area. Associate degrees in fire science also are offered through some community colleges and technical/trade schools. Firefighters also may receive their education and formal training coordinated by the National Fire Academy.

Emergency medical personnel have several options when it comes to receiving training in their field. Emergency medical technicians, for instance, only are required to possess a high school diploma and EMT training certification through an authorized training program. The programs take only a few months to complete. Paramedics are expected to have more detailed training. Associate degree programs for paramedics are offered through a variety of outlets, including most community colleges and trade/technical schools. The programs will teach advanced medical skills such as stitching wounds and administering intravenous medications.

Future Outlook

Demand for qualified public safety and security personnel is expected to increase by 7 percent between now and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The area showing the largest growth potential is that of trained paramedics at 33 percent.

Police officers and detectives earn an average annual salary of $55,010, with criminal investigators earning higher salaries. Firefighters earn an average annual salary of $45,250 and EMTs and paramedics can expect annual salaries of $30,360.

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