Public Safety Careers

US Navy 100517-N-0475R-844 Emergency responders from Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion fight a fire at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.jpg

I just read a article by Bill Novak entitled, “Criminal justice career fair now includes public safety careers.”

This got me thinking about the concept of ‘public safety,’ its interconnections with the criminal justice system and the range of career possibilities with public safety agencies.

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Did you know there is a Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor? It’s been awarded by the U.S. President every year since 2001 to public safety officers who have performed an “act of valor” while attempting to protect or save a life. According to the The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2001, “The term ‘public safety officer’ means a person serving a public agency, with or without compensation, as a firefighter, law enforcement officer, or emergency services officer, as determined by the Attorney General. For the purposes of this paragraph, the term ‘law enforcement officer’ includes a person who is a corrections or court officer or a civil defense officer.”

In the United States, a Department of Public Safety (DPS) (which also may be called an Office of Public Safety, a Department of Public Safety and Corrections…)generally runs at the local or state level. It serves as an umbrella agency consisting of various divisions that strive to serve and protect the public.

While a DPS typically administers divisions that fall under the Medal of Valor Act’s definition of public safety officer (fire services, emergency services and law enforcement), there are numerous other departments they may manage as well. There are various forms of keeping the public safe, in other words.


For example, according to the Alaska DPS website, Joseph A. Masters, Commissioner of the DPS, “oversees the Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Village Public Safety Officer Program, State Crime Laboratory, Statewide Criminal Justice Information Systems, and the Office of the Fire Marshal, comprising nearly 700 sworn officers and 350 support staff.” In the case of the Minnesota DPS, some of the divisions they oversee (that you might not expect) include Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement, Emergency Communication Networks and Driver and Vehicle Services.

Other divisions depending on where you are in the country may include Highway Patrol, Highway Safety, Legal Affairs, Pipeline Safety, Youth Crime, Security Guard Training, Veterans Commission, and more.

In other words, the range of public safety careers is vast. While some positions may extend past what your vision is of a traditional criminal justice career, it’s clear that there are many links.

If you are interested in studying or starting a career in criminal justice, check out your local or state Department/Office of Public Safety career pages to see what opportunities exist.