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Key skills required for public safety work

Key skills required for public safety work

There are many career paths you could take which lead to a range of exciting, interesting and important jobs. Some sectors though have a truly critical role to play when it comes to not only the safety of people in general but also how they are protected.

The public safety field is a great example of this and refers to local, state or federal organizations which protect the public through the enforcement of relevant laws. Working in the public safety sector can also involve providing for the welfare and wellbeing of the general population.

Popular niches within public safety include working for the police, looking after national security, controlling border security and responding to emergencies. In addition to offering good salaries and a chance for real career progression, roles in this industry are sought after because they deliver excellent job satisfaction.

Developing the skills needed for public safety work

As with any role in any sector, working in public safety requires that you have the right skills to succeed. By developing skills which are applicable to all positions in the industry, you are able to perform to your maximum capability.

The best option to prepare for this type of career is to complete an academic course of study which focuses on building these skills as you learn. By doing this, you are not only able to hone them effectively as you go but can also access the latest knowledge to stimulate them. Academic study will also give you the chance to practice certain skills which should come in useful for future public safety roles.

It is essential though to take your time and choose the right course first. While there are a few different ones to focus on, the choice is usually MPS vs MBA. But which is best to enroll in? It ultimately comes down to which future role you are targeting and where you think your career will head overall.

For many looking at entering uniformed positions in public safety before advancing to more senior levels over time, an MPS is a good option. The Master of Public Safety from Wilfrid Laurier University confirms why and is known for its academic excellence.

The most important skills needed for working in public safety

As noted above, having the right skills to thrive is important in any industry. If you were to set up a money transfer platform online for example, having good coding skills and marketing knowhow is just as important as knowing the basics of international money transfers.

The same principle is true for working in public safety and this means part of choosing the right course is knowing which skills are needed in the sector. By knowing this, you can ensure that any course you complete helps you learn more about them and gain a better understanding of them.

The following skills are some of the most important:

Critical thinking and problem solving

Whatever role you plan to pursue in public safety, it is likely that these skills will be used frequently. This makes it essential for you to be able to think critically about situations you might encounter and be able to solve problems you come across as well. But why are these characteristics such a good fit for the public safety sector?

Whether you work on the ground or at more senior levels, this is an industry which often calls for you to make accurate judgements on what to do next. These judgements are normally based on your evaluation of the situation and your ability to think carefully about the best way to proceed. In roles such as police officer, you may be called to an unfolding incident and need to quickly think about how best to handle it for all involved.

At a more managerial level, you may not be on the front-line and making these high-pressure calls but still find yourself needing to think critically about how to handle a range of important issues. This could include anything from the development of new policies to how to spend your budget or what challenges public safety may face in future.

As public safety roles often involve you having to step up when things don’t go according to plan, problem solving is also crucial. Being able to come up with solutions to problems is therefore a key part of any role in this industry and something to work on.

Decision making

Being able to think critically about situations you will encounter as part of a public safety role is one thing, but being able to follow up on this with effective decision making is just as crucial. Without the confidence to make tough calls which could have a profound impact, you will find it hard to succeed in this type of job.

If you work in national intelligence for example, you may analyze a situation and feel a certain person needs to be flagged as a threat. It is imperative that you can make the decision to do this if needed despite the impact it could have on their life. Anyone who is active in this sector needs to have the ability to not only reach a decision on what to do but also do it.


Another critical skill for working in any public safety role is communication. This is because it enables you to deliver your message in a way that is sensitive, concise and clear. A fire officer on the front line needs good communication skills when asking people who have gathered outside a burning property to move back for their own safety.

Communication skills also come in useful for those who work at advanced levels in public safety. This could include explaining new policies to their team and clarifying why it is important they are followed. Good communication for senior figures in public safety is also useful when building relationships with stakeholders in their region.

As you might expect, interpersonal skills are also a component within communication that is needed for public safety work. Interpersonal skills provide the tools to communicate effectively with others in a way which is non-confrontational and respectful.


Leadership is an important skill in many sectors but is especially vital for public safety. This is most obviously seen in more senior roles in the industry, where being able to lead people is essential. Having good leadership skills in positions such as this not only means people feel inspired by you in their own jobs but want to follow you and want to excel. Effective leadership at senior levels is also essential for setting the direction of an organization and upholding its standards.

So, what about leadership for people in less advanced roles in public safety? The truth is that it still comes in useful and can also help identify you as someone able to operate at more advanced levels. A public safety officer who is first on the scene of an accident needs to have good leadership skills to take control of the situation and manage the scene.


This may be one skill which surprises you when it comes to public safety work, but it’s one that is a must-have. You need to be able to listen actively and really hear what a colleague or member of the public is saying. This enables you to fully understand any situation in order to make an accurate judgement on what to do next.

Listening actively also helps build a rapport with the public and shows them you care about what they are saying. This skill also means it is less likely you will miss any key information which is being provided that you might need in the near future. As with the other examples we have looked at, listening comes in useful whether dealing with the public directly on the front-line or working at a more managerial level in public safety.

Which jobs do these skills equip your for?

Although the above is not an exhaustive list of every skill you will use when working in public safety, it sums up the most essential to develop. There are a variety of roles these skills prepare you to perform.

When it comes to fighting crime, probation officer is one role which stands out. Next to police officer, it is one of the most well-known jobs in law enforcement. Working in this position gives you the opportunity to help people re-integrate into society and provides great job satisfaction as a result.

Probation officers also enjoy a dynamic working environment where no day is ever the same and you become part of a close-knit team. Common duties in this role include managing cases, supervising clients and completing case documentation.

Emergency management and border security

Two major fields within public safety are border security and emergency management, so it is no surprise that developing the skills mentioned above opens a range of careers in these niches.

If you like the sound of moving into emergency management, an emergency management director could be one job to aim for. This is a very senior position that typically involves working for a federal or state agency. In addition, there are a growing number of vacancies for emergency management directors in the private sector.

With the average pay for an emergency management director in Canada being around $128,000 CAD per annum and the chance to make a real impact in the world, this is a managerial role with lots to offer. Common duties include conducting assessments of risk factors, drawing up emergency response plans and building relationships with stakeholders.

For those who like the sound of working in the border security field, picking up the right skills could open the position of border services officer. This is an exciting role which provides fresh challenges each day, as you keep the borders safe of the country you work in.

Common duties in this position are stopping prohibited goods from entering the country, collecting duties on imported goods and enforcing the relevant guidelines regarding who can enter the country.

National security also needs the right skillset

As the name suggests, working in this public safety niche involves protecting the security of the nation you work for. This includes many different jobs but one you may have heard of is intelligence analyst. This is not only a role which is very interesting and has a direct impact on how secure the nation is but one which is also well-paid. The average salary of intelligence analysts in 2023 was around $92,000 CAD in Canada.

Common duties in this role include gathering information from multiple sources, analyzing information, preparing reports and presenting findings to senior figures within the intelligence community.

This job within public safety is very rewarding and gives you a chance to keep ordinary people on the street safe from harm. As it is usually office-based, it is an ideal choice if you prefer working at a desk or do not want to deal with the public on the front-line.

Public safety work requires the right skills to succeed

The public safety sector is one that requires a special set of skills to thrive in. If you plan to work in this industry, it pays to not only know which skills these are but also to find ways to master them. By doing this, you will be able to not only perform your job more effectively but also enjoy your work and keep people safer.

Brushing up on the critical skills needed to work in this field also means you can enjoy steady career progression over time and move into more advanced roles if you wish. With so many exciting jobs across many different niches in this sector, it really does make sense to develop the skills we have looked at in order to prosper.

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