Law, public safety, corrections, and security careers involve both public and private protective services. Police departments, county sheriffs, and public safety organizations make up the public side of law enforcement. Private security, on the other hand, companies are usually contracted by different organizations to provide enforcement on private property. Law enforcement also encompasses public safety services, such as fire departments and first responders. Corrections officers, prison guards, and other enforcement services are closely aligned as well. Each branch within this category will require different qualifications from its workers. Law enforcement or fire departments may require academy training, while security workers may need to acquire a guard card certification. Overall, each of these departments aim to provide safety, protection, and assistance to the communities they serve.
Many jobs in this field do not require college degrees, though education can be used to further a career in this field. Because of the risk that often comes with these careers, they are among the highest paid jobs that don’t require postsecondary education. Firefighters, for example, have a median salary of $49,620 and are number 12 on US News’s list of Best Careers that don’t require a college degree. Workers in the public sector of law enforcement also enjoy good benefits, such as pensions and comprehensive health coverage. However, some schedules in this field can be difficult, since some organizations operate 24/7.
With power and responsibility, law enforcement workers face constant criticism, expectations, and controversy. In the past several months of 2020, police departments have been the focus of protests for the use of violence across the world. This has caused some hesitation in individuals choosing to work for police departments and brought out resignations from others. Police and sheriff departments also face the scrutiny of lawmakers who dictate their practices.
Police, sheriff, and security forces are the first response to crime scenes, violent altercations, and other emergency situations. These situations are often dangerous and can result in serious injury or death. Fire departments enter hazardous environments to provide medical aid to people in danger or tackle wildfires with other fire crews.
Apart from some private security companies, most law enforcement agencies require academy-style training. This includes physical training to ensure workers are up to any task or situation they’re confronted with. The physical demands of jobs like firefighting may prevent some individuals from employment in this sector.
Working for the New York City Police department will be very different from working for the County Sheriff department in Lyons, CO, a town of only 2500 people. Every department across the country has different values, practices of enforcement, and communities to serve. If you decide to pursue a career in law enforcement or public safety, be sure to do research on the community you’ll be serving. What relationship do the law enforcement agencies have with their community? Do you agree with their practices? Similarly, a Northern Californian fire department will be concerned with fire prevention and wildfire defense while their Los Angeles counterparts will act in medical response or building emergencies. Where you work will determine the problems you’ll face on the job.
Though they’re a popular source of entertainment for many people, television shows and films are not the most accurate depictions of police and law enforcement work. Instead, see if there are opportunities for shadowing a law enforcement worker, a firefighter, or other worker. Seek out opportunities to discuss their work and try to get a good picture for yourself.
Many workers in the field of public safety fit more into an administrative category of work. Public safety workers might write and oversee fire codes or emergency response plans. Some workers act as investigators or code enforcers. Others still may be appointed to tackle a large-scale problem facing a city, such as sex trafficking or victims programs. People working in the administrative side of fire departments might provide guidance on fire prevention and defense to different organizations in their community. In addition, each major organization will need technicians and individuals who specialize in IT to provide assistance with equipment, software, and other tech necessary for the jobs.
In most Law Enforcement careers, academy training or other forms of preparation are necessary. Depending on where or how you get hired, training may be paid or a covered expense. Fire departments, for example, may cover the cost of some or all training and certifications if you work as a volunteer firefighter first. Private security guards, however, most often have to pay for a guard certification course first before they can get hired.
Certification and training standards can differ from state to state or county to county. For instance, correctional officers have different academies and trainings depending on whether they work for federal or state prisons.