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What Can I Do with My Public Service Degree?

Public service degrees are a great way to embark on a challenging and meaningful career where you can give back to the community, country, and world while making a good living at the same time. Jobs in teaching, social work, psychology, criminal justice and other fields where you can make a real difference are all possible with the right degree. From helping at-risk youth as a social worker to safeguarding our personal data as a cyber security analyst to leading first response teams as an emergency services director, a public service degree gives you the professional skills and knowledge you need. Keep reading to see where a degree in public service can take you.

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Shannon Lee
Written By

Shannon Lee

Updated

06/01/2020

What You Can Do with a Degree in …

What Jobs Can You Get with an Undergraduate Degree in Public Service?

Want to jump right into the workforce after college? An undergraduate degree in a public service field can get you there. Students who earn an associate degree can qualify for many entry-level positions in fields like psychology and criminal justice while earning a bachelor’s degree can substantially expand one’s career options. The choice between an associate and bachelor’s will often come down to the specific job you’re interested in. For example, pursuing a career as a teacher requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Here’s a closer look at what types of public service careers you can pursue with an undergraduate degree.

Career Matches for Popular Associate Degrees in Public Service

The two-year associate degree can prepare you to move directly into the workforce and start building valuable experience in your chosen field. Though many of the careers available with an associate degree are entry-level work, the strong educational background gained through the degree can help with advancement. Here are just a few degree options.

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

An associate degree in criminal justice is a great way to begin a career in public service. There are numerous workplace options available for those who hold the degree, such as work in correctional facilities, jails and prisons, police departments, and more. While an associate degree isn’t a requirement for many criminal justice careers, it can help you stand out amongst candidates and open up career promotion opportunities.

Career Match2018 Median SalaryEst. Growth (2018-2020)Est. Growth Rate (2018-2020)Additional Experience/ Training Needed
Police Officer$63,38037,5005%Graduation from police academy
Correctional Officer$44,400-31,400-7%Several months of academy training
Private Detective / Investigator$50,0902,6008%On the job training
Security Guards/Gaming Surveillance Officers$28,53040,6004%On the job training

Associate Degree in Psychology

The fascinating study of the human mind can begin with an associate degree. This two-year degree provided a firm basis for the study of psychology, which will serve you well when pursuing a variety of careers in public service. The degree can open doors to several entry-level positions, while also serving as a stepping stone to the bachelor’s degree, which prepares students for higher-level positions in the field, such as social work or community health. Here are a few of the careers that graduates can look into as soon as they’re done with their associate degree.

Career Match2018 Median SalaryEst. Growth (2018-2020)Est. Growth Rate (2018-2020)Additional Experience/ Training Needed
Human Resources Assistant$34,520-5,300-4%On the job training
Social and Human Services Assistant$33,75052,20015%On the job training

Associate Degree in Fire Science

Those who want to help their communities by fighting fires and handling related duties often choose to better understand the fires they fight – and for many, that means earning a degree in fire science. The associate degree in fire science can help students learn about fire prevention, firefighting and more while allowing them to earn credits that can be applied to higher degrees. Those who choose to earn a degree in fire science can look forward to a choice of several careers in the field, better opportunities for advancement and the possibility of higher pay. Below are a few of the jobs available to those who choose to earn this associate degree.

Career Match2018 Median SalaryEst. Growth
(2018-2020)
Est. Growth Rate(2018-2020)Additional Experience/ Training Needed
Fire Investigator$62,5107006%Fire academy training / firefighting experience
Firefighter$49,62017,6005%Fire academy training
Forest Fire Inspector and Prevention Specialist$39,60050024%Fire academy training / firefighting experience

Career Matches for Popular Bachelor’s Degrees in Public Service

Many jobs in public service require a bachelor’s degree. The following are just a few of the degree options that can lead to a variety of careers in the field.

Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Teaching

Public service work is clearly on display in school systems across the nation. Teachers and administrators have the unique opportunity to shape the future of children and youth – and for many, that is a reward that no paycheck could ever compare to. In the vast majority of cases, a bachelor’s degree is the basic requirement to become a teacher. Those who earn the degree often spend a few years teaching before going back to school (often part-time or online) to earn their master’s degree. Here are a few of the many careers available to those who pursue a bachelor’s degree in education and teaching.

Career Match2018 Median SalaryEst. Growth (2018-2020)Est. Growth Rate (2018-2020)Additional Experience/ Training Needed
Elementary Teacher$58,23047,9003%Licensure or certification for public school teachers
High School Teacher$60,32038,2004%Licensure or certification for public school teachers
Special Education Teacher$59,78013,6003%Licensure or certification for public school teachers
Kindergarten Teacher$55,4705,1004%Licensure or certification for public school teachers
Middle School Teacher$58,60021,4003%Licensure or certification for public school teachers
Career and Technical Education Teacher$56,750-1,800-1%Licensure or certification for public school teachers

Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health

Public health degrees prepare students to work in administration, education, and community health programs. The bachelor’s degree is often the entry-level requirement for these positions; workers can gain experience and move up the ladder, choose to make a lateral move into a similar field, or go back to school for a higher degree, which can open even more doors to advancement. The following positions are some – though certainly not all – of the options available for those who pursue the bachelor’s degree in public health.

Career Match2018 Median SalaryEst. Growth (2018-2020)Est. Growth Rate (2018-2020)Additional Experience/ Training Needed
Medical and Health Services Manager$99,73071,60018%Experience in a clinical or administrative role in a hospital setting
Health Educator$54,22014,10011%On the job training; the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential is required by some employers
Community Health Worker$39,5407,70013%On the job training

Bachelor’s Degree in Emergency Management

When disaster strikes, emergency management crews help mitigate the damage, keep residents safe, identify the cause, and do all they can to enhance response and protection in the future. Though some can enter emergency management without a degree at all, in order to become a leader in the field, at least some formal education is usually required. Bachelor’s degrees in emergency management can open doors to work as a high-level director on the regional, state or even federal level. Here are some of the options for those who choose this degree.

Career Match2018 Median SalaryEst. Growth (2018-2020)Est. Growth Rate (2018-2020)Additional Experience/ Training Needed
Emergency Management Director$74,4205005%Multiple years of experience in a related field

What Jobs Can You Get with a Graduate Degree in Public Service?

Some public service careers require an advanced degree before a student can be eligible for them. For instance, becoming a licensed social worker requires a master’s degree while those who want to work as a psychologist must earn their PhD before they can obtain licensure. The higher degrees can lead to careers that offer better pay, higher chances of promotions, more responsibility and the ability to move into other careers that are closely related, such as a psychologist moving into higher education as an instructor. Read on to discover just some of the careers open to those who choose to pursue a graduate degree in a public service field.

Career Matches for Popular Master’s Degrees in Public Service

Many who pursue public service degrees will look to that master’s level as their entry into higher paying positions, better promotions and in some cases, entirely new careers. Here are a few careers that dovetail nicely with master’s degrees in public service.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Current and future social workers look to the master’s degree as a way to move into licensure and begin working in-depth with families, individuals, couples, and groups in a variety of settings. Social workers might find themselves working everywhere from prisons to schools, in private practice or in community settings. The master’s program is often tailored to allow students to continue working and gaining valuable experience as they earn their degree. Here are some of the options to look forward to with the MSW.

Career Match2018 Median SalaryEst. Growth (2018-2020)Est. Growth Rate (2018-2020)Additional Experience / Training Needed
Clinical Social Worker$49,47081,20011%All states require licensure
School Social Worker$46,27024,8007%All states require licensure
Child and Family Social Worker$46,27024,8007%All states require licensure

Master of Public Health (MPH)

The Master of Public Health degree prepares graduates to move into a variety of positions that focus on the well-being of communities. They might focus on anything from discerning why certain populations are more prone to certain diseases to figuring out which microbes help with bodily functions while others hinder them. The MPH programs are often available online and through flexible scheduling to make it easier for busy professionals to further their education while continuing to gain experience in related fields. Here are a few of those promising careers.

Career Match2018 Median SalaryEst. Growth (2018-2020)Est. Growth Rate (2018-2020)Additional Experience / Training Needed
Epidemiologist$69,6604005%None
Biostatistician$88,19014,40030%None

Master of Public Administration (MPA)

The MPA is best suited for those who want to move into management of cities, towns, municipalities or organizations and businesses. It also works well for those who want to learn to understand certain populations on a more intimate level or work in areas of politics and public policy. Here are few of the options:

Career Match2018 Median SalaryEst. Growth (2018-2020)Est. Growth Rate (2018-2020)Additional Experience / Training Needed
City Manager$104,240165,0007%Years of experience in support positions
Political Scientist$117,5703005%Internships, volunteering, or work in a related field
Top Executive$104,980150,6006%Years of support in management positions

Career Matches for Popular Doctoral Degrees in Public Service

For some of the following careers, the doctorate is a requirement for licensure. For others, it’s a great way to boost earning potential and job security. Here are a few of the careers that match the degree.

PhD in Psychology

The doctorate in psychology is not only the terminal degree; it is one of the two pathways (along with the PsyD) required for someone to become licensed as a clinical psychologist. Though most clinical psychologists work in an office or clinical setting, there is still plenty of room for them in others areas, such as schools (either as a professor or as a practicing psychologist), prisons, rehabilitation centers, private practice, research and more. Here are some of the options.

Career Match2018 Median SalaryEst. Growth (2018-2020)Est. Growth Rate (2018-2020)