Online Master's Degree in Public Safety

This guide details some key elements to consider when choosing an online master's in public safety. Individuals can explore the best ways to choose a quality program, career and salary opportunities, and field job growth, as well as explore curriculum like common courses and specializations for the degree. This guide highlights different professional organizations in the field and how students can pay for their program.

What to Know About Online Master's in Public Safety Coursework

Students pursuing their master's in public safety online explore the different areas of public safety, acquiring the skills and knowledge they need for success in the field. Public safety coursework emphasizes promoting safety across communities and workplaces. Typically, students can complete these programs in about two years.

Credit requirements vary by school, but most master's programs require around 35 credits. The same experienced instructors often teach online and on-campus programs. The key difference between online and on-campus public safety programs is that students in online programs enjoy more flexibility.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Public Safety Program?

While course offerings vary across individual programs, there are a number of common courses in many schools with online master's of public safety degrees. We explore some of these below:

Public Safety Law and Civil Liability

Students participate in a detailed examination of the relationship between public safety and the law, working to understand differences and similarities. They also explore the liability involved with public safety professionals.

Public Safety Administration and Management

This course allows students to study different public safety management methodologies, theories, and practices as they work to understand the responsibilities of public safety managers across different industries. The course allows students to understand all aspects of management and administration in the field.

Public Safety Administration Incident Command

In this course, students review the responsibilities and roles of police, fire, and EMS, understanding how the different public safety departments work together to respond to emergency scenarios. The course helps students understand how public safety directors work to arrange complex response efforts.

Ethical Leadership in Criminal Justice

This course focuses on principles of ethical leadership, strategic management, and community involvement within public safety organizations in the criminal justice system. The course reviews students' development of leadership qualities related to difficult questions, including budgetary constraints and risk management.

Criminology and Public Policy

Exploring the relationship between the implementation and development of public policy and criminological theories, this course evaluates different recommendations for policy, noting the impact across public safety organizations.

What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Public Safety Program?

Public safety master's programs encompass a variety of topics. Some programs highlight specialization opportunities that allow students to hone in on a particular area. Specializations enable students to tailor their degree to their personal interests and career goals by focusing on one particular area.

Emergency Medical Services

This concentration allows students interested in pursuing an emergency medical services degree to develop a practical understanding of public safety, public health, and healthcare systems. During their program, students cultivate management, leadership, decision-making, and analytical skills, learning how to solve common problems in EMS agencies.

Executive Police Administration

Students pursuing this concentration explore the organizational strategies and structures to support systematic uses of problem-solving techniques and partnerships to decrease crime. They work to build their public administration skills and cultivate a strong foundation in the police administration field.

Executive Fire Administration

In this concentration, students gain a practical understanding of the managerial, technical, and public policy aspects of community risk reduction and fire administration. Coursework includes budgeting and finance, emergency services operations, and public policy.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Public safety master's programs require different final projects across colleges and universities, including research projects, capstone requirements, and thesis options. Students following the thesis option in their master's program work with an advisor or faculty member to conduct research leading to a lengthy final essay, exposing a new finding based on research skills they developed during their program.

Research projects and capstones allow students to conduct their own research to explore new concepts about a particular area. Students demonstrate their findings with the theories and skills they developed during the course of their master's program.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Public Safety Program?

When choosing the right master's in public safety online program, students should pay special attention to their program's accreditation. Nationally accredited institutions often feature more career and technical-based coursework while regionally accredited colleges and universities highlight liberal arts-focused coursework. While nationally accredited institutions usually feature lower tuition rates than regionally accredited counterparts, they often get excluded from tuition reimbursement plans. Regionally accredited institutions boast inclusion in reimbursement plans.

In some cases, schools will not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited institutions, while coursework from regionally accredited colleges and universities are generally accepted. Students should consider their long-term goals when choosing their ideal college or university, noting that nationally accredited degrees might prevent them from advancing their education further or from pursuing licensing and certification opportunities.

Career Opportunities With a Master's in Public Safety Degree

Graduates with their master's in public safety online can take advantage of a variety of exciting career opportunities. Public safety includes a vast amount of specialized roles, including medical and health services managers, emergency management directors, police and detectives, occupational health and safety specialists, and health and safety engineers. Some programs might require professionals to obtain additional licensure or certification in addition to their degree.

Medical and Health Services Managers

These professionals direct, plan, and coordinate health and medical services. They oversee faculties in specific departments and adapt to changes in healthcare technology, laws, and regulations. Medical and health services managers strive to improve the quality and efficiency regarding the delivery of healthcare services. They train, recruit, and supervise staff members and create work schedules. Professionals also ensure that faculty members maintain compliance with the latest field regulations.

  • Median Salary: $99,730 per year
  • Currently Employed: 352,200
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +20%
Emergency Management Directors

Responsible for preparing procedures and plans to respond to emergencies and natural disasters, these directors work with public safety officials, the public, and private companies to make recommendations for emergency response plans. They organize training programs based around emergency response techniques for volunteers and staff members. These professionals assess hazards to prepare appropriate plans to minimize risks to property and people. They also explore ways to prevent emergencies and disasters.

  • Median Salary: $74,420 per year
  • Currently Employed: 10,100
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +8%
Police and Detectives

These professionals respond to both emergency and non-emergency calls and patrol specific, assigned areas. Police and detectives also handle warrants and arrest potential suspects. They collect evidence to prepare cases before they testify in court. They also observe suspects to record their findings, write reports, and complete case-oriented forms. Law enforcement professionals can focus their careers on detective, police, or investigative work.

  • Median Salary: $63,380 per year
  • Currently Employed: 807,000
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +7%
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Responsible for implementing and designing workplace procedures and processes to help protect workers in different industries against hazardous working conditions, these professionals test, inspect, and evaluate different work equipment and environments to ensure they follow certain government regulations and safety standards. They examine workplaces to review any physical factors that might impact employee safety, health, comfort, and performance.

  • Median Salary: $69,370 per year
  • Currently Employed: 101,800
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +8%
Health and Safety Engineers

These engineers create procedures and design effective systems to prevent property damage and protect individuals from injuries and illnesses. They combine knowledge of health and safety with knowledge of engineering to ensure furniture, chemicals, software, machinery, and any other products do not cause harm. They review standard employee safety programs and make suggestions for improvements. They also evaluate the efficiency of industrial control mechanisms.

  • Median Salary: $89,130
  • Currently Employed: 25,900
  • Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +9%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

What's the Expected Job Growth for Public Safety Careers?

The public safety field encompasses a variety of prestigious career opportunities with excellent salary opportunities and expected job growth. Most careers in the field experience job growth rates around the average for careers in the United States. Employment for medical and health services managers who work in the public safety industry is projected to grow 20% by 2026, which is much faster than average. Entering the field gives graduates the potential to begin flourishing careers.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Public Safety

Graduates with their master's in public safety can explore membership opportunities across many professional organizations. These groups allow members to network with other professionals in their field, often leading to job opportunities and lasting professional relationships. These organizations also allow members to take advantage of professional development opportunities and attend seminars and annual conferences.

Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials

APCO International functions as the world's oldest and largest public safety communications professionals organization. The group advocates for the needs of public safety communications professionals around the world.

International Association of Emergency Managers

Through membership in this organization, professionals in emergency management professions can promote the association's goal of saving lives and protecting property during both disasters and emergency situations.

International Public Safety Association

Functioning as a nonprofit public safety association, this group represents all public safety employees, including fire service, law enforcement, EMS, public works, security, and public health professionals.

The National Center for Campus Public Safety

Dedicated to helping campus officials create stronger and safer communities on campus, this group collaborates with campus law enforcement professionals.

International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators

This association advances public safety for educational institutions by providing research, advocacy, training, professional services, and education.

How to Pay for a Master's in Public Safety Degree

Students earning their master's in public safety can explore a variety of financial aid opportunities to help them pay for their degree. Completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows students to review financial aid eligibility. Students can take advantage of fellowship opportunities and scholarships if they want to achieve merit-based financial assistance. Grants allow students to take advantage of needs-based financial aid opportunities.

Federal Financial Aid

All students pursuing their master's in public safety online should complete the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for financial aid services. Federal financial aid helps students pay for their tuition and can help them determine which programs they can afford.


Fellowships function as short-term financial aid opportunities that last anywhere from a few months to a couple of years. The conditions of fellowships vary depending on the discipline and the funding organization, but opportunities are most often based on merit for advanced studies of a particular area. Fellowships are most commonly reserved for graduate students.


Grants are considered gift aid since students do not need to pay them back. This type of aid is most commonly based on financial need. Students can earn grants through colleges and universities or through federal and state government agencies. Students should review the different requirements for specific grants before applying.


Students can apply to receive scholarships to help them pay for tuition. Scholarships are most frequently based on merit, including academic, athletic, and artistic accomplishments. Many scholarships might also feature needs-based components. Scholarships are presented through different formats, including private scholarships through organizations and scholarships specific to a particular higher learning institution or program.