UMGC’s New Certificate Program Preps Public Safety Workforce for Executive Leadership Roles

You’re a police officer, firefighter, EMT or emergency manager who wants to advance to an administrative position. Here is your dilemma: You need advanced training to qualify for the promotion, but employers often do not provide advanced training until you have the job.

That is a niche University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) is filling with its new Public Safety Executive Leadership certificate program launching in January.

“You need this experience on your resume to get the job, but you can’t get the job without the experience,” said Christopher Swain, director of UMGC’s Public Safety Administration Program. “Students in our program learn the skills necessary to be successful public safety administrators.”

In addition, Swain said that students who earn this certificate gain the credentials they need to validate their skills for employers.

The program is launching at a critical time of social unrest and increased distrust when law enforcement and other public safety services are coming under increased public scrutiny.

“Public safety entities need skilled administrators now more than ever to guide their organizations through these turbulent times,” Swain said.  “At UMGC, we’re excited about the opportunity to offer education to enhance the skills of public safety administrators and aspiring administrators.”

The Public Safety Executive Leadership certificate program comprises five undergraduate courses, all online, that take advantage of the latest information available as well as the real-world experience that the students gain while working in emergency services.

“The program bills itself as best suited for someone who has some experience in the field,” Swain said. “I often ask people doing a project to include knowledge from your professional experience as well as from your research.”

Course skill building includes emergency interagency operational planning, emergency public safety technology, darknet/web investigations, handling media relations during a public safety crisis—and covers myriad topics, such as doxing, the internet-based research and broadcasting of public safety officials’ personally identifiable information.

The courses break down as follows:

  1. Contemporary Public Safety Practices focuses on the most current and successful strategies used by public safety administrators to improve and enhance the services their organization provides.
  2. Public Safety Planning is designed to give students the skills they need to reduce risks, facilitate necessary change, and appropriately allocate resources through proper planning.
  3. Public Safety Legal Issues and Public Policy looks at how state and federal laws affect the operations of public safety administrators. Students examine generally applicable law as well as laws that specifically relate to public employees.
  4. Public Safety Research and Technology teaches students to apply academic research methods to answer public safety questions. Students are introduced to the latest technologies and learn how to properly evaluate both data sources and current research.
  5. Public Safety Leadership looks at attributes commonly associated with exceptional leaders in the field of public safety. Understanding these attributes, and what makes a person possessing them an effective leader, provides students with a roadmap to successful leadership in public safety.

Swain said students also can use the certificate program to complete an undergraduate degree. With just a few more courses, they can finish a Bachelor of Science in Public Safety Administration or perhaps apply their credits to a degree in homeland security or criminal justice—either of which also will help them advance in their careers.

“This is a great opportunity for people who have come out of public safety entry-level training who might have an associate degree and have their sights on becoming a commander,” he added. “With this experience and training on your resume, you will show a hiring or promotional board that you have the skillset you need.”

 Swain came to UMGC after a 27-year career with the Harford County, Maryland, Sheriff’s Office. Unlike many sheriff’s offices, Harford’s provides complete police protection for 250,000 residents countywide. That encompasses a wide range of duties from running the jail to process serving to patrolling the streets to narcotics work to major crime investigations.

Swain’s career there included supervisory and command-level experience in nearly all divisions within the Sheriff’s Office. He retired from the force as a major and at the same time earned a law degree.