Earning a Master's in Public Safety Online

Earning a public safety administration master's degree online enables graduates to work in high-level roles at local, state, and federal levels. Whether directing emergency preparedness efforts or overseeing a team of law enforcement officials, this degree can help students take part in meaningful work by providing the skills needed to serve public safety efforts. An online master's degree in public safety allows students with undergraduate degrees in a variety of fields to gain relevant and useful skills related to public safety. Read on to learn about typical salaries, potential jobs, funding sources, and common courses in the field.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Public Safety?

Given the versatility of these programs, students from many different interests and backgrounds choose to earn online master's degrees in public safety. Many recent college graduates pursue master's-level study to seek specializations and further increase their marketability. Online programs also appeal to seasoned professionals looking to advance in their careers and earn higher salaries. This guide should provide some clarity and help you decide whether earning a graduate certificate or degree is right for you.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Public Safety?

Pursuing Specialization

Unlike bachelor's programs, many graduate-level public safety administration degrees allow learners to specialize their knowledge in a particular subdiscipline. These tend to vary based on the individual school, but examples include homeland security, police administration, fire administration, and public safety. Specializations teach graduates the knowledge needed to work in high-pressure roles and stand out from the competition on the job market.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Bachelor's programs in public safety administration qualify graduates to take on entry-level positions. To advance into senior-level roles, individuals can keep working for years to gain the additional work experience needed to qualify or complete a graduate degree. For learners who want to advance their careers quickly, the latter option may offer a better path.

Online Learning Technology

By completing a public safety administration master's degree online, students can familiarize themselves with the latest technologies in communication. This knowledge can also help boost distance learners ahead of their peers. The digital nature of these programs also allows enrollees to network with other professionals and build useful connections.

Prerequisites for Online Public Safety Programs

Prerequisites for online master's degrees in public safety vary depending on the school. However, the list below describes common requirements for this type of program.

  • Work Experience: Individuals from many different backgrounds pursue degrees in public safety, and most departments do not mandate previous work experience. However, an applicant with experience on the front lines may feel more comfortable and confident while engaging in advanced coursework.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Some schools require applicants to submit GRE scores, which should be in the 30th percentile or higher for most programs. GRE scores typically remain valid for five years after the testing date. However, many institutions do not maintain standardized test requirements. Minimum GPA requirements usually sit at 3.0 for competitive programs and 2.5 for less competitive options.
  • Coursework: Unless a student plans to specialize in a particular scientific area, such as forensics, most online public safety administration master's degree paths do not have a strict list of prerequisite courses.
  • Recommendations: Recommendations play a key role in the decision-making process for admissions panels. Most schools require two or three letters from former professors, supervisors, and/or mentors who can speak to a candidate's preparedness and their likelihood to find success in graduate school.
  • Essays: Essays provide prospective students with the opportunity to describe how they differ from other candidates and clearly explain why they want to study public safety administration at the master's level. Essays also allow learners to state why they think a particular school best fits their goals and interests.
  • Interviews: In particularly competitive programs, students may need to participate in an in-person or virtual interview. These conversations help admissions representatives differentiate candidates and find answers to any lingering questions.
  • International Students: In addition to the requirements listed above, international students may need to supply TESOL or IELTS scores to demonstrate their English proficiency. Some learners may also need to prove their ability to pay for the program since international students do not qualify for federal financial aid.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Public Safety?

In addition to taking on more meaningful roles and greater levels of responsibility, individuals who earn online master's degrees in public safety also stand to earn higher salaries. Wages vary widely based on a worker's role, level of experience, and location. Emergency management directors, for instance, earn a median wage of $74,420. Earners in the 10th percentile bring home about $40,000, while those in the 90th percentile command salaries exceeding $140,000. When reviewing the following sections, consider how you can leverage your advanced skills and think outside the box to find meaningful work.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Public Safety Graduates

Given the expansive nature of public safety administration, graduates can select from many careers based on their personal needs and professional aspirations. In general, individuals working in this field should enjoy engaging with safety routines, understand how to multitask, and be able to make split-second decisions.

Careers Stats Description

Emergency Management Directors

Median Salary: $74,420

Job Growth: 8%

These professionals help create procedures and plans for issues related to natural disasters. They may check for hazards, develop response plans, work with other organizations, seek out federal funding, and meet with other public safety professionals to create cohesion across organizations.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Median Salary: $69,370

Job Growth: 8%

Individuals holding these roles analyze work environments and processes to ensure organizations implement and maintain safety procedures correctly. They provide consultations on regulations, make recommendations on improvements, review workplace health and safety programs, and conduct investigations.

Environmental Health and Safety Managers

Median Salary: $81,000

While occupational specialists focus on potential harm to employees, these safety managers look to limit harm made to the environment. Professionals in these roles create environmental safety plans, improve existing policies, meet compliance regulations, and educate staff on how to safely handle materials to avoid adversely affecting the environment.

Emergency Management Specialists

Median Salary: $57,000

Emergency management specialists look for ways to prevent and minimize the aftermath of natural disasters. They create response programs, coordinate volunteers, work with other agencies, create evacuation routes, and try to ensure that everyone knows their role during aid and recovery.

Source: BLS

Nontraditional Careers for Public Safety Graduates

Although many graduates pursue the jobs highlighted above, less traditional paths also exist. Learners considering jobs off the beaten path can review those below to get a sense of what else is possible.

Careers Stats Description


Median Salary: $49,620

Job Growth: 7%

Skills Overlapped: Safety awareness, ability to stay calm in stressful situations

Firefighters extinguish and contain outbreaks of fire. They may work in urban or rural areas. Common responsibilities include driving fire trucks, using hoses and extinguishers to manage fires, rescuing and providing basic treatment to burn victims, and creating reports.

Police and Detective

Median Salary: $63,380

Job Growth: 7%

Skills Overlapped: Attention to detail, patience

Police and detectives work in communities to ensure the safety of residents. They may respond to calls, manage traffic, write tickets, recover crime scene evidence, oversee neighborhood patrols, and follow suspects to observe their actions. They may also be called upon to testify in court cases.

Program Manager, Nonprofit Organization

Median Salary: $50,163

Skills Overlapped: Multitasking, ability to bring people together

Program managers may work with emergency response nonprofits to develop community programs that help educate citizens about potential dangers and how to best prepare for them. They often work with other members of an organization to raise funds, create budgets, and market their programs.

Source: BLS

Paying for an Online Master's in Public Safety

Data supplied by CollegeBoard show that the average master's tuition at a public school during the 2018-2019 academic year was $8,850, while private school attendees paid more than $30,000. Because higher education costs so much, many students need to find creative ways of getting through school without accruing massive amounts of debut. Accelerated programs can help expedite graduation, while grants and scholarships provide funding that does not require repayment.

Scholarships for Online Public Safety Master's Students

Scholarships can help significantly reduce the final price tag of your online master's degree in public safety. Many schools, private foundations, nonprofits, corporations, and government agencies award financial aid to students. The list below describes a few scholarships relevant to the public safety students.

What to Expect From a Master's-level Online Public Safety Program

The majority of online public safety programs take approximately two years of full-time study to complete. Learners usually undertake a comprehensive capstone project or conduct research and write a thesis. Some programs are delivered entirely asynchronously and allow learners to complete assignments on their own time, while others use synchronous sessions with live lectures. Feel free to contact admissions counselors to learn more before applying to any program.

Major Milestones

  1. Capstone Coursework

    Capstone projects allow students to take advantage of what they have learned throughout the degree track and use this knowledge to complete a culminating project. These practical assignments help build confidence and expertise.

  2. Internships/Apprenticeships/Job Shadowing

    Although not always required, internships and job shadowing opportunities can help degree seekers gain experience before graduation. They can also help build industry contacts, making it easier to find a job.

  3. Thesis Preparation and Defense

    Depending on their program, students may need to/have the option to complete and defend a thesis. Those who choose to do so often plan to find jobs in research or academia.

  4. Licensure, Exams, and Exam Prep

    If your target public safety administration career requires a license or certificate, you may be able to study for and pass this exam while still in school. Other exams may require students to graduate first.

  5. Intent to Graduate/Completion Confirmation

    After meeting all of their programmatic requirements, students must signal their intent to graduate. This involves working with a registrar to fill out requisite forms and pay any outstanding fees.

  6. Application to Professional School

    If you hope to move directly into a doctoral program after graduating from your master's track, start gathering your application materials during the fall semester of your final year.


The classes described below provide a glimpse of topics commonly covered in public safety programs. Learners should also review the websites of individual programs to get a better sense of what to expect in terms of advanced coursework.

Emergency Management and Homeland Security

This course takes a look at the landscape of these two key topics, emphasizing the importance of disaster communication, crisis public relations, and phases of recovery.

Environmental Policy and Management

Coursework teaches students about the various policy areas of environmental health management, covering topics like air and water pollution, sustainable development, disposal of toxic waste, and public land use.


Students in this class examine security issues related to digital technologies, including the defense of digitized data and how to maintain secure networks.

Public Safety Budgeting

Participants learn about the various financial mechanisms involved in adequately safeguarding the public from disasters and emergencies, while also sticking to a budget. Learners may also learn how to apply for and use federal and private grants.

Contract Management

When working in governmental positions, many public safety administrators rely on contractors to carry out departmental tasks. This class teaches skills related to contractor management, legal responsibilities, and different methods used to procure contract talent.

Degree Timelines

Students pursuing a public safety administration master's degree online can often select from different degree timelines, depending on their schedules and needs.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description


3 years

Part-time programs give busy students who need to balance personal and/or professional responsibilities the chance to move through academic requirements at a slower rate. Most part-time learners take 3-6 credits per semester and graduate in 30-36 months.


2 years

Students in full-time programs often take 6-9 credits each semester and graduate within 18-24 months. These programs are suitable for degree seekers who can dedicate about 15 hours a week per class to their studies.


1 year

A great option for students who want to graduate quickly, accelerated programs offer shorter courses (lasting 5-8 weeks) that allow students to move through the curriculum rapidly. Accelerated pathways usually last 12-18 months.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations provide support and opportunities to current students, recent graduates, and industry veterans. Members can often take advantage of continuing education opportunities or attend annual conferences to engage in networking. Organizations may also distribute publications and up-to-date industry news.