Obtaining a degree in public safety opens up quite a few career options. This course of study might not be the most popular, but its relevance and lucrativeness in Canada remain top tier. This article lists the top positions available for holders of this degree while providing an overview of what the field entails.
What is public safety?
Fundamentally, public safety has to do with protecting the general public from criminal activities, chaos, security threats, property damage, and other forms of danger. It involves enforcing relevant laws, protecting lives and properties, and responding to emergencies. This subject matter is not just curative but also preventative. As such, public safety involves identifying threats and eliminating them before they happen.
The responsibility for public safety often rests on the shoulders of government agencies, local departments, or private security organizations.
10 Career paths with a public safety degree
There are several career paths available to persons with a public safety degree, particularly an advanced one. Here are 10 of the top career paths for these individuals in Canada:
- Community Service Officer
- Security Guard
- Correctional Officer
- Emergency Dispatcher
- Police Officer
- Crisis Manager
- CSIS Agent
- Chief of Police
- Occupational Health and Safety Officer (OHSO)
Community Service Officer
These professionals assist police officers in protecting the community, especially with crime prevention. They also do sensitization work, informing the general public about public safety and their own roles in it.
Some other functions associated with a community service officer include crime scene investigation and providing security at special public functions. These officers also carry out clerical tasks such as filling out incident reports.
In a nutshell, the job of a community security officer revolves around supplementing the efforts of law enforcement departments. To qualify for this position, you will need a minimum of a high school diploma and a certification from a special training program. These programs usually cover areas such as:
- Criminal law
- Investigation strategies
- Community engagement tactics
- First aid
Security guards are responsible for protecting people or organizations from security threats. The purview of a security guard position can either be for public or private individuals or facilities. These employees take shifts to patrol and inspect specific locations, buildings, or persons of interest to protect them from danger. Security guards can either be contracted under government parastatals or private security firms.
The primary duty of these officers is to enforce rules and regulations within correctional facilities to maintain law and order. One of the ways correctional officers meet this objective is through disciplinary actions.
For minor offenses, officers may discipline inmates with loss of privileges. Solitary confinement is usually reserved for the most severe violations. Taking these measures is very important as it sends a message to other inmates and dissuades them from breaking the rules. Ultimately, the goal of correctional facilities is to rehabilitate inmates. So, correctional officers help inmates get educational opportunities, counseling, vocational training, etc.
The job of a correctional facility officer might not require a bachelor’s degree in public safety, but it does require a good amount of training, not to mention physical and mental strength.
These professionals stand as the intermediary between emergencies and responses. They answer 911 calls and route them to relevant agencies and law enforcement divisions for a swift response. Below are some of the tasks emergency dispatchers perform:
- They receive emergency or distress calls and contact responding agents.
- They provide over-the-phone medical instructions such as CPR.
- They coordinate the movement of ambulances, emergency units, and law enforcement agents into emergency spots and crime scenes.
- They monitor and operate communication and alert systems for the deaf and hearing impaired.
Firefighters are trained professionals who work to combat fire outbreaks to secure lives and properties. They put their safety on the line to rescue individuals trapped in burning buildings while trying to stop the fire. These public safety officials are often categorized as first responders because they are usually the first to arrive at fire scenes.
Firefighters are not only called upon when a fire has already started. They also respond to potential fire outbreaks. For instance, in a car accident with fuel or gas leaks, these professionals are necessary on the scene since there is a likelihood that a fire could start. There are also post-outbreak responsibilities for firefighters. Generally, the fire department has to investigate the cause of a fire so that they are in a better position to prevent future occurrences.
Because of the urgency of this job, becoming a firefighter requires lots of training and drills. The focus is less on educational qualifications and more on programs that improve firefighting skills. Before going out on field missions, firefighters must be mentally and physically fit to respond effectively in the face of an emergency.
The police force is the first to come to mind when you think of public safety. The primary job of these law enforcement agents is to protect lives and properties within the country. Police officers are always present in any criminal emergency. Depending on the kind of emergency, they may collaborate with other relevant agencies and public safety workers.
Beyond salvaging these emergencies, they also solve crimes and catch the criminals responsible for them. Officers use different techniques and tools, such as body cams, to solve criminal cases.
A police officer’s job also involves patrolling around the city to enforce laws and keep citizens safe. Beyond catching the bad guys, these officers promote themselves as the ‘good guys’ to gain people’s confidence and trust. This is why some officers go about community sensitization programs to inform the populace how they can help keep their society safer.
Since the primary objective of these officers is keeping the people safe, a degree in public safety will come in handy and pave the way for promotional opportunities.
Whether anticipated or not, crises are sometimes unavoidable. Therefore, a lot of organizations and public agencies have crisis managers. These professionals have sound training and an advanced level of education regarding crisis management.
These professionals have the skill to reason, rationalize and proffer immediate solutions on their feet, even while everyone else panics in the face of danger. Crisis managers generally have routine plans for different types of crises. , Their training enables them to implement effective solutions for previously undocumented kinds of emergencies.
Common crises these professionals manage will include fire, violence, and system breaches. From the above information, it is glaring that such a managerial position requires not just a good educational background, like a bachelor’s degree. It also requires experience in handling emergencies and managing people under pressure.
Crimes are not always as simple as stealing from a supermarket or breaking traffic rules. Some are much more intricate, with months or even years of planning. Take, for instance, a gang kidnapping case where the kidnappers grab their victims in one province and then take them to another. With the movement and money trail spread across the country, it will be difficult for the local police department to handle it alone.
Such organized crimes require the attention of special agents with the knowledge and technological resources to solve the case. A good example of an organization employing special agents is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). When criminal cases become too challenging for a province or city’s police department, these special agents may have to take charge. They do top-level and top-secret police work, so the minimum academic requirement is a bachelor’s degree.
Chief of Police
These are veteran police officers tasked with overseeing an entire police department. In most cases, attaining this level requires decades of experience on the job. A public safety degree will undoubtedly speed up your advancement to this administrative position. Police officers must also undergo numerous training programs and certifications before they become ready for this post.
Note that the job of overseeing a police department means you need a good knowledge of every section of it. Whether it is cybercrime or a patrol team, the chief of police requires a sound understanding of all the teams under their control and knowledge of how best to deploy them.
Occupational Health and Safety Officer (OHSO)
An occupational health and safety officer is a qualified professional in charge of controlling and monitoring operational risks and hazards in an organization. They often work closely with the government and other regulatory authorities.
The job requires both training and academic knowledge of environmental safety standards, occupational and emergency safety procedures, labor and environmental laws, and other safety-related issues. Among the responsibilities of the OHSO are the following:
- Making sure that activities within the organization comply with local health and safety regulations
- Advising the management on the industry’s best practices and safety standards to implement
- Performing risk assessment tests and identifying potential safety hazards
- Enabling the establishment of health and safety policies and systems
- Investigating operational safety hazards and proffering solutions
Getting a degree in public safety
As earlier suggested, public safety is a very important profession and requires a combination of skills and training programs. Several college degrees equip you with the tools necessary for a job in the public safety sector.
A bachelor’s degree usually takes about four years to complete, with the first two years dedicated to general courses on public safety and the last two to specialize. As in every other career, the higher your level of education, the more senior the roles you are eligible for. Obtaining advanced degrees like the Laurier master of public safety will set your career on a better trajectory and open up more prestigious job opportunities. A doctoral degree is also an option if you wish to pursue higher research roles.
A public safety degree covers a wide range of courses, including:
- Cross-cultural psychology
- Safety and security planning
- Risk assessment
- Research Methodology
- Public policy analysis
- Grant writing
Some of the more advanced degrees and training programs simulate real-life emergencies, allowing students to practicalize their knowledge.
Other qualifications for a public safety career
Note that some public safety careers do not require a college degree. For example, a GED is acceptable for getting a job as a security officer. Several certifications are also available. Popular ones in this field are the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) Safety Certification, Public Safety Leadership Certification, First Aid and CPR Certification, Public Safety Telecommunications Certification, etc.
These programs are usually very short and often only take a couple of months. More so, you can easily earn more than one to increase your chances of landing higher-paying roles. That said, even in career paths where a university degree is not mandatory, having one makes it easier to attain administrative levels and take up leadership positions.
Public safety is an important concern in Canada, and its implementation falls within the jurisdiction of different career professionals. For this reason, a degree in Public Safety offers numerous career opportunities to select from. Beyond the degrees and certifications, relevant training and experience are often necessary to advance your chosen public safety path.