Online Master's Programs in Public Safety

Sometimes offered as a master's in public safety and criminal justice -- or as a concentration in a related field -- earning a master's in public safety online can help professionals expand their employment opportunities, advance their careers, and increase their earning potential.

This page helps connect prospective students with valuable information, including resources for public safety graduate learners. This guide covers some of the benefits of earning a master's in public safety, including common courses, financial aid opportunities, and potential jobs for graduates.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Public Safety Program?

Earning a master's in public safety online prepares graduates for diverse careers in areas such as personnel management and development, law and civil liability, and human resources development. Graduates may take roles such as emergency management directors, crime scene investigators, budget analysts, nonprofit administrators, and public safety officers.

Public safety master's programs allow graduate students to develop a specialization, pursue higher-level careers in the field, and take advantage of internships and training opportunities. An online program offers distance learners the same educational opportunities and training in public safety as traditional, on-campus programs, while also providing added flexibility. Remote public safety learners can sometimes graduate in less time than on-campus students, and many distance students can more effectively balance school with work and family obligations.

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

Courses vary by program, but many programs cover similar concepts. The following list outlines common courses found in master's in public safety online programs.

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    Fiscal Management for Administrators: This course helps students develop essential financial management and budgeting skills for leadership roles in public service. Learners explore line-item expenses, contractual agreements, and consultant arrangements. Coursework also focuses on governmental funding, cost comparisons, and federal grants. This class is especially helpful for learners interested in careers related to fire safety, emergency service management, and community leadership.
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    Management and Development in Public Safety: This class focuses on the theories and practices required for successful careers in public safety administration and leadership. Students hone skills related to public speaking, written communication, conflict management, and time management. Faculty prepare graduates to carry out essential functions as emergency managers and support service specialists.
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    Diversity in the Workplace: This class prepares students to create welcoming and safe workplaces for diverse employees. Students develop the skills needed to identify challenges in their community and meet the needs of diverse populations. Pupils also learn to use and develop available resources while creating strong relationships with their communities.
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    Organizational Behavior: This class focuses on group and individual behavior in public safety systems. Learners explore organizational systems, the culture of public safety organizations, and workplace dynamics. Students also examine organizational theories, leadership practices, communication skills, and conflict resolution techniques. The class best serves students interested in managerial roles.
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    Geographic Information Systems (GIS): This introductory class helps students understand and use GIS systems. Public safety practitioners increasingly rely on this technology to support public safety initiatives. Learners explore practical applications of this technology, including the ways in which fire safety professionals and public safety agencies benefit from GIS.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Online students pursuing a master's in public safety typically need to write a thesis or complete a final project to meet graduation requirements. Students on thesis track programs work closely with faculty members to design and carry out original research that contributes to the field. The final project serves as a culminating experience that displays a student's mastery of course material.

In some cases, master's students complete an intensive internship or public service experience in lieu of a final project or thesis. Remote students can expect to spend several months completing one of these options.

How Much Can I Make With a Career in Public Safety?

Professionals with a master's degree in public safety enjoy strong job prospects. The following table outlines median annual salaries and job growth for three common public safety careers. However, prospective public safety professionals should note that a master's degree does not guarantee a particular salary or role.

Police and Detectives

These professionals carry out a variety of tasks that serve and protect their communities. Officers and detectives respond to emergency calls, collect evidence from crime scenes, investigate suspects, prepare court documents, and fill out crime reports. These professionals may take on specialized roles, such as criminal investigator, patrol officer, transit and railroad police officer, and fish and game warden.

Median Annual Salary: $63,380

Job Growth 2018-2028: 5%

Fire Inspectors

These inspectors detect safety and fire hazards and ensure that buildings meet federal, state, and local fire and safety codes. Fire inspectors may conduct safety education programs, administer burn permits, collect evidence from crime scenes, and work with forensic laboratories to determine the causes of disasters in their jurisdiction. These professionals typically work for local governments and serve their immediate community.

Median Annual Salary: $60,200

Job Growth 2018-2028: 8%

Emergency Management Directors

These directors prepare procedures and create plans for dealing with natural disasters and other types of emergencies. They serve as leaders during emergency situations, organize emergency response training programs, manage volunteers and responders, and apply for federal funding to support emergency operations. Most emergency management directors work for local or state governments.

Median Annual Salary: $74,420

Job Growth 2018-2028: 5%

Online Master's in Public Safety Program Accreditation

As of October 2019, there are no primary programmatic accrediting bodies that focus on public safety or criminal justice programs. However, students pursuing a master's in public safety online should ensure that their school possesses regional or national accreditation, which indicates that a school meets certain academic standards. Accreditation expands education, employment, and financial aid opportunities for students.

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

Students pursuing a master's in public safety online can take advantage of a variety of resources to help pay for their education. Some schools and departments offer graduate assistantships, internal scholarships, and teaching opportunities that supply funding to help offset tuition costs. Graduate students can also seek funding outside of their department and school, such as federal loans and employer assistance programs.

  • Employer Assistance/Reimbursement

    Graduate students with a job in public safety may receive up to $5,250 per year from their employer to put toward their education. Students can use these funds for education fees, books, tuition, supplies, and/or equipment.

  • Graduate Student Assistantship

    Many graduate programs offer financial assistance to students who carry out research or teaching responsibilities on behalf of their department. In many cases, these assistantships provide enough funding to cover the cost of tuition. Some graduate assistants also earn a stipend to pay for living expenses.

  • Federal Grants or Loans

    Online master's students can receive grants or loans from the federal government. Common grants include the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. Unlike loans, students do not need to repay the money they receive through grants.

Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Who Can Apply: These fellowships are for new Americans, immigrants, or children of immigrants pursuing a graduate degree in the United States. Candidates must be full-time students in an accredited graduate program and 30 years old or younger.

Amount: Varies

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SR Education Group Scholarship

Who Can Apply: SR Education Group offers this need-based scholarship to graduate students enrolled in an accredited U.S. college or university. Applicants must submit answers to two essay questions and a review of their undergraduate institution. Applicants must be at least 16 years old and legal residents of the United States.

Amount: $5,000

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Prospanica Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: These awards are for Hispanic students who are U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, or DACA recipients. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA and two years of full-time work experience.

Amount: $2,000-$5,000

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Ruth D. Peterson Fellowship for Racial and Ethnic Diversity

Who Can Apply: Offered by the American Society of Criminology, this fellowship is for students from racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented in criminology, criminal justice, and public safety careers. Applicants must provide proof of admission to an accredited graduate program and demonstrate financial need. The society honors three graduate students per year.

Amount: $6,000

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American Criminal Justice Association and Lambda Alpha Epsilon Student Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Candidates for this scholarship must be full-time graduate students in criminal justice or an associated field and possess ACJA or LAE membership. Applications must include letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and answers to supplied essay questions. Competitive applicants possess a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Amount: $400

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Professional Organizations and Resources

Public safety students and graduates can take advantage of professional organizations and resources, which often provide access to benefits like networking, professional development, and financial aid opportunities.

  • Airborne Public Safety Association: This association provides training, advocacy, educational programs, and networking opportunities for public safety professionals working in government agencies that use aircrafts. Members gain access to online publications, an annual conference, regional safety seminars, and monthly newsletters.
  • Campus Safety, Health, and Environmental Management Association: Members of CSHEMA gain access to networking opportunities, personal and career development resources, and continuing education assessments. Members also receive access to special interest groups focused on emergency management, fire and life safety, safety culture, incident reporting, and facilities management.
  • International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators: IACLEA is the largest professional community dedicated to campus public safety and law enforcement. Founded in 1958, the association offers a variety of online professional development resources. Members can also attend conferences to build relationships with colleagues.
  • International Academy of Public Safety: IAPS leads professional development efforts for public safety professionals. The center provides online and in-person learning experiences, including continuing education courses in law enforcement, forensic science, and fire and rescue. Professionals do not need a membership to participate.
  • International Public Safety Association: Established in 2014, IPSA is a nonprofit organization for professionals in law enforcement, public works, emergency management, fire service, public health, and related areas. Members gain access to an annual conference, online webinars and publications, and in-person workshops.