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Public safety

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October 14, 2007

Jobs in public safety are perennially popular for a variety of reasons. These positions offer good pay, benefits, stability, and prestige to those with a high school education, and they provide challenging and rewarding careers, often with early retirement. Work, however, can be dangerous and difficult, and there is strong competition for available positions that usually are dependent on government funding.

Bigger cities offer higher pay, but the dangers are greater and the competition tougher than in smaller communities. In addition to government-funded positions, public safety workers can find employment with private security agencies, schools and universities, transportation systems, and as private investigators.

Civil service examinations are required for most government-funded positions at all levels. For information and exam date for Massachusetts, call 617-727-3777 or 800-392-6178, or visit www.state.ma.us/hrd.

CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS

Average salary: $53,280; supervisors, $67,290

Demand: Good. Mandatory sentencing, tougher penalties, and reduced parole led to prison expansions and more jobs.

Qualifications: High school education; associate's degree an advantage.

FIREFIGHTERS

Average salary: $53,040; supervisors/managers, $76,090

Demand: Low. Good pay, benefits, and stability keep competition tough. Other opportunities include firefighting, prevention, and inspection in forests, airports, chemical plants, and other industries.

Qualifications: High school education; competitive written and physical exams; 12-week training program. Emergency medical training is a plus.

POLICE OFFICERS

Average salary: $51,850; supervisors/managers, $81,210. Overtime and special details add significantly to pay.

Demand: Limited. Available slots on state and municipal forces are few. Opportunities are better in smaller communities, with lower pay, and in high-crime areas.

Qualifications: High school education, competitive civil service and physical exams, personal interviews. Most forces prefer college degrees, military police experience, or specialized training.

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