Growing Leadership with an Online Public Service Degree


The Changing Needs of Public Service Leaders and How a College Degree Can Help

High-profile national public safety threats are changing how our public service leaders approach emergency preparedness situations. Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Services units are challenged to manage increasingly complex incidents in a world that’s highly connected and always looking for answers. Responsibilities that wouldn’t have been anticipated five or ten years ago have become essential components of public service positions. 

Together, these forces require public service leaders to be more prepared than ever before.  

Let’s Explore: How is Public Service Changing?


Emergency response plans once focused on incidents such as fires or chemical spills. Today, these plans take an “all-hazards” approach that considers natural, chemical, biological, explosive, traumatic, and radiological-related events concurrently. In response, new trainings have been developed to help police, fire, E.M.T.s, municipalities, hospitals, and other stakeholders work together to plan and maximize resources should such a severe or tragic event confront their community. 

Social Media

Social media has changed the fire service and public safety. Today, when first responders arrive at the scene of an incident, it’s common to see people taking videos on their phones to document the situation. As a result, they’re held to a much higher level of public accountability. 

At the same time, public service leaders are leveraging this technology into a useful tool for communication with the general public. By integrating social media communications into their public outreach strategies, police and fire departments are building trust in their communities and solving crimes. 


In New Hampshire and across the country, first responders are on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic. Locally and nationally, law enforcement is changing its response to drug overdoses. Police now view substance use disorders as a public health issue instead of a criminal issue. Fire and EMS must be equipped to respond to opioid overdoses, including administering the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (NARCAN). 

Nationally, nearly two-thirds of reported calls to fire departments require E.M.S. and rescue services, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. In the 1990s, a typical job qualification for an entry-level firefighter involved becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (E.M.T.). Because of the growth in emergency medical incidents, hiring practices now favor firefighters who are paramedics and offer a more advanced knowledge base of E.M.S. practices. 

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that first responders need to be prepared to respond to complex public health crises. Departments must be stocked with personal protective equipment (PPE) and first responders must be trained in proper infection risk mitigation protocols. 


The increasing complexity of public service requires greater versatility and preparation for personnel at all levels, but especially those in advanced positions.  

Public Safety bachelor’s programs, such as Granite State College’s Criminal JusticeFire Service Administration, and Public Administration programs, are designed to equip public service leaders with the tools needed to effectively lead in today’s demanding, rapidly-changing environment. Granite State College also offers a minor in Emergency Management, with courses including Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Terrorism: Domestic and International, and Disaster Management.  

State Trooper Sean Eaton, a Public Administration student at Granite State College, returned to college to make his skills more versatile.

There’s growing complexity in law enforcement work. That won’t change. This profession is demanding. It requires adaptability, agility, and empathy to do it well. Continuous learning is something I’m committed to. I tell folks who ask that they should learn as much as they can. There’s always room for improvement. Make yourself fitter, stronger, better. Do the same with school. It’s another toolset. 

The Case for Leadership

In order to effectively tackle emerging challenges in public service, departments need tactical expertise and strong leadership. Earning a bachelor’s degree can help you demonstrate leadership and gain skills in the administrative side of management-level positions. This will help you stand out as a highly qualified candidate when you’re ready to pursue your next big promotion, which leads to increased responsibilities and earning potential. 

In addition to assessing transfer credit, Granite State College assesses credit for professional experience. Students can get credit for what they know, so they can earn their degree quicker. We’ve pre-approved a range of trainings specific to law enforcement, public service, fire standards, EMS, military, and more. 

This blog was originally published in December 2018 and was updated to reflect emerging trends and best practices.