Do you have a desire to protect and serve your community? If your answer is yes, then you may want to consider pursuing a degree or certification in one of Virginia’s Community Colleges’ public safety programs.
You can earn degrees or certificates through a public safety program at any of Virginia’s 23 community colleges while learning from instructors who have first-hand experience in the field. The best part? You’ll walk out prepared for your career in public safety in two years – or less.
When it comes to thinking about training in a public safety program, think about these three things as you consider your options.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage in 2020 for Police and Sheriff Patrol Officers in Virginia was $70,000 annually. For firefighters? You’re looking at $55,620. Then there are areas of public safety that get into counseling and social services which could have a wide range of salary numbers depending on your education, experience and if you have any certificates that enhance a specialty area, like substance abuse.
Public Safety students can make a competitive wage just out of school or who chose to stay in school and build up their knowledge in the field.
When DeWitt Cooper—Galax, Virginia’s chief of police—was asked how he envisioned public safety changing in Virginia, he emphasized the importance of community colleges.
“Community colleges offer two years of valuable training and experience before the student even steps foot in the academy,” he said. “If public safety instructors can teach de-escalation practices and leadership skills in community colleges first, then by the time students get to the academy, they will be better prepared to serve their communities in a positive way.”
Chief Cooper encouraged students of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities to pursue a career in public safety if there is to be real change.
“If we are going to address the need for diversity in law enforcement, we must first have a diverse applicant pool to start from.”
Cooper went on to speak about the importance of public safety and why students are at an advantage when they learn skills, take classes and gain certifications at community college first. He also described the many roles police officers play in their communities.
“The law enforcement officer is often the first on the scene and serves as the counselor, the mediator and the family arbitrator.”
Job market and Virginia employers
Did you know that 20% of the Virginia State Police force are community college graduates? This means that Virginia’s Community Colleges have a big responsibility to train and educate the next generation of public safety officers.
But beyond that, think of your community. There are social services, fire safety and counseling services in most of Viginia’s communities and employers are looking for passionate, multifaceted and selfless individuals committed to making a positive difference in their communities.