Online Associate Degree in Public Safety Administration

Public safety administration focuses on the inner workings of emergency services and other organizations or fields that keep people safe. This broad, growing field offers many rewarding career paths such as disaster cleanup or fighting fires. Public safety professionals typically work in teams and often must manage paperwork and regulations. Earning such a degree after you have already started your career could help you earn a promotion or allow you to pursue a new career.

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Finding the best online public safety administration associate degree requires some comparison shopping. When exploring programs, consider the requirements. Can you schedule classes that work with your existing responsibilities? How much will it cost? Attending an in-state school is generally cheaper, but some online programs charge the same for students regardless of where they live.

Also consider whether you have courses on your transcript that might apply to your degree, and how a given school allows you to transfer credits. Who are the faculty teaching these courses, and how might their knowledge help you? Do they, or the programs, have contacts with potential employers, professional organizations, or certification boards?

There are many factors to consider when starting your online public safety administration associate degree. Begin by looking at multiple schools and asking some honest questions about yourself.

Sample Courses for an Associate Degree in Public Safety Administration

Every online public safety administration degree offers different courses, but all programs try to cover the same core concepts and topics. The names, assignments, and subject matter can vary by program and between semesters, but we've outlined five sample courses that you'll find in many online public safety administration degree programs.

Example Courses

Ethics in Public Safety Administration These courses explore the issues and philosophies which impact personal and professional ethics within the field, with the aim of helping students navigate such issues on the job.
Public Safety Community Delivery Systems These courses explore how public safety services vary in how they interact with and serve the public across different services and municipalities.
Group Dynamics in Public Safety Administration Students learn how to manage groups within organizations by focusing on the strengths and challenges of group dynamics, conflict resolution, decision-making, and organizational effectiveness.
Human Resources in Public Safety Administration These courses cover the challenges of recruitment, training, and evaluation of employees, and usually cover current legal realities of human resources.
Counteracting Terrorism Students explore modern issues and problems in preventing or responding to terrorism.

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

A typical associate degree takes around two years of full-time study to complete and usually consists of about 60 credits. Some programs offer shorter, more intensive classes in order to speed up the process, while many on-campus programs default to the traditional academic year.

Some programs use a system called cohort learning, in which a group of students work together from start to finish, following the same schedule through their entire degree. These programs are usually intensive, with shorter but more demanding courses. Individual pacing is the more common option, allowing students to take needed courses how and when they wish.

Graduates often work for local, state, or federal governments who are responsible for maintaining police and fire services, as well as sometimes maintaining 911 services, hospitals, or ambulance services. Private companies often run ambulance or hospital services and hire graduates with an associate in public safety administration. Nonprofits focused on disaster response or private companies that manage unrelated issues might be interested in such graduates for their administrative skills.

While technical roles may require additional training or certification, a public safety administration degree can prepare you for many fields, as well as for further education, which may be required for certain career paths. For positions that do not require higher education, an associate degree can differentiate you from others and also lead to higher pay.

What Kind of Job Can You Get with a Public Safety Administration Degree?

Graduates can choose from numerous career paths within the public safety sector, including law enforcement, emergency response, and homeland security. Professionals must typically work with the public in high-stress situations and represent their organizations when interacting with the public. Many positions require organizational work outside of leadership positions.

Firefighters

These professionals must work flexible shifts, train hard, and work well as a team. An associate degree can help graduates of fire academies stand out from the crowd with a better understanding of the administrative side of public service.

Police Officers

Working within an extensive bureaucratic system, these professionals must handle paperwork and stay current on laws and regulations. A public safety degree can help prepare officers for the desk side of law enforcement, especially those who wish to rise through the ranks.

911 Dispatchers

An associate degree can help differentiate applicants, and a greater knowledge of public safety can help to better connect people to the public services that best meet their needs. The degree can also lead to promotions and leadership positions.

Fire Captains

These professionals focus on leadership and a fire department's organizational needs. While some employers require fire captains to have a bachelor's degree, graduates with a public safety degree can also rise to this position.

Police Lieutenants

These police officers focus on organizational and managerial tasks. Educational requirements vary by department, but potential lieutenants generally need at least an associate degree.

How Much Money Do You Make in Public Safety Administration?

Occupations and Salary for Online Associate in Public Safety Administration Graduates
Job Title Overall Median Salary Entry-Level Employees Mid-Career Employees Late-Career Employees
Firefighter $49,421 $40,000 $45,000 $61,000
Police Officer $52,327 $44,000 $50,000 $64,000
911 Dispatcher $38,478 $33,000 $39,000 $48,000
Fire Captain $64,449 $44,000 $54,000 $72,000
Police Lieutenant $78,555 $49,000 $61,000 $83,000
Source: PayScale

Licensure and Certification

Licensure and certification varies by public safety field, and many require specific training, such as police or fire academies. If a field includes licensure, it is typically required to work, while certification is often intended to provide additional training. Students should consider pursuing at least one certificate in order to improve their chances of being hired or promoted. Certification is usually offered nationally, but licensure varies by state.

Accreditation refers to a school's qualifications to teach students and grant degrees. For the best public safety administration degree, students should explore an accredited school so that future employers or other colleges will take them seriously. An accredited school has met the requirements of one or more accreditation boards and is allowed to offer degrees.

There are two main kinds of accreditation: regional and national. Regional accreditation is done by a board, such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and focuses on nonprofit state schools. National accreditation is focused on for-profit, vocational, or religiously affiliated schools. Either kind of accreditation is acceptable, but regional accreditation is more common. Schools must share their accreditation information, so research it online when seeking your online public safety administration degree.

Earning an online public safety administration associate degree can be costly, and while some students finance their degree out of pocket, many seek funding. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows learners to get government grants and apply for federal student loans. FAFSA provides access to grants and work-study options, especially for those who need financial assistance. Students can find scholarships through their school's financial aid department and through the list below.

Public Safety Administration Scholarships

Scholarships are monetary awards that help pay for tuition and other costs of your online public safety administration associate degree. Students must meet application requirements, and many scholarships are offered to specific groups, such as criminal justice majors and women.

Online Associate in Public Safety Administration Scholarships

Annuvia Public Safety Scholarship $500

Award requires a 500-word essay about a system or method which could improve public safety. View Scholarship

Indiana Homeland Security Foundation Scholarship Program $2,000

Award is open to students of Indiana schools who volunteer for a public safety organization and maintain a 2.8 or higher GPA. View Scholarship

Richard L. Resurreccion Public Safety Scholarship Varies

Award is open to members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society who have completed at least 50% of a two-year degree. View Scholarship

Chief Michael Maloney Memorial Scholarship Varies

Award is open to residents of New Hampshire with a 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

William A. Cruickshank Scholarship $1,000

Award is open to graduating seniors in a Palm Beach County high school with a 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship

Earning an online public safety administration bachelor's degree is a logical next step for many in this career field. Some students go on to pursue an online master's degree in public safety administration. A bachelor's degree can open up new job opportunities and earning potential. Even if you're already working in your field, earning a bachelor's degree could help you get a pay increase or promotion, and some employers will help pay for school if it means getting a better-trained employee.

Most bachelor's degrees take around four years to complete, but if you already have an associate degree, you can reduce this time by choosing a program for which you have already completed some of the requirements.