Master of Public Safety

Public service person standing at their vehicle with their door open smiling at camera
“The program has been extremely challenging, but also thought-provoking. It’s called for us to think outside of the box and think about policing from a different perspective.”

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Lead the Way

The Master of Public Safety is an online program designed for working public safety professionals who want to improve their leadership skills.

The coursework focuses on developing today's public safety leaders for tomorrow’s public safety challenges. The curriculum is relevant to law enforcement and adjacent public safety fields including the fire service, emergency management, and more.

Graduates will earn a degree from the University of Virginia, one of the nation’s top public universities, and finish the program with a deeper understanding of how to run complex organizations, negotiate and collaborate with peer agencies from the local level to the national, and build and nurture the community relationships that are vital for success.

Key Takeaways
  • Students earn 30 credit hours by taking five core courses and five restricted electives. The core courses are offered throughout the year over five eight-week sessions. A comprehensive exam is required before graduation.
  • All core coursework is completely online and delivered asynchronously, meaning students have flexibility to access instruction and coursework on their own time in order to meet course deadlines and requirements. Instructors support students each step of the way as they build critical skills, and students will have the opportunity to participate in discussion labs and live group work.
  • Students who have successfully completed the FBI National Academy, FBI ELEVATE, or UVA National Criminal Justice Command College may count recent graduate credits from those programs and could finish the Master of Public Safety in one year by taking one core course per session.
What You Will Learn

The MPS is a dynamic degree. It is designed for leaders who want to go to the next level. Sometimes that “level” might be a promotion, but most often it’s about innovation and problem-solving through thought leadership. Most of our students are primarily interested in creating greater public safety for their community.

If you think public safety is at its peak - if you think it’s good enough - the MPS might not be a good fit. We are challenging the status quo. We are leaning in and actively embracing change. The curriculum focuses on the many changing realities of modern public safety. Graduates will finish the program with a deeper understanding of how to run complex organizations, negotiate and collaborate with peer agencies, and build and nurture the community relationships that are vital for success.

Core Courses (Required)
PSPS 6000 – Transformational Leadership in Changing Times

This course explores public safety leadership concepts and essential approaches needed in forging lasting, collaborative relationships with the public they serve. Students will analyze complex social and security issues. While maintaining a mindset of sociocultural awareness and sensitivity, students craft solutions to those public issues by applying advanced knowledge of public safety planning, management, and response.

PSPS 6010 – Constitutional Framework of Public Safety

This course will explore the Constitution as the ethical compass that guides the work of public safety professionals and cement a fundamental understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the subsequent 27 amendments to the Bill of Rights. Students will read each provision closely and discuss their views as to what the framers' intended at the time of ratification, and how the courts have subsequently interpreted its meaning. Particular emphasis will be placed on the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendments and their applicability to public safety policy and operational strategy. Students will develop a detailed understanding of both the powers and limitations that arise from the Bill of Rights, and closely examine the evolution of the rule of law that frames and guides their work.

PSPS 6030 – Developing and Implementing Systems of Emergency Preparedness

This course will examine joint operations and incident command for complex events, both planned and unplanned. Particular emphasis will be placed on command structure, continuity of operations, public safety response to community/public health emergencies, occupational health and safety, local systems and resources, inter-agency cooperation, and communications and technology support. Students will also engage the various law and policy issues that inform public safety responses in this critical sphere and will apply their knowledge through scenario-based exercises.

PSPS 6040 – Creating and Sustaining Community Dialogue

This course focuses on the application of dialogue and deliberation skills and principles in the context of public safety. Students will gain understanding and practice in engaging communities in dialogue and deliberation around such challenging issues as inequality and power; interactions in the aftermath of tragedy; officer fear and anger; historical, political, and economic divides; implicit biases and stereotype threat; and the importance of building coalitions across boundaries.

PSPS 6050 – Stewardship of Public Assets and Managing Human Capital

This course examines public sector budget planning, analysis, execution, and management. Students will develop a detailed understanding of the legal aspects of public employment law, and the short and long-term impact of recruiting and retaining talented employees. Special emphasis will be placed on the means by which evidence-based strategies may be applied to determine the appropriate number of resources to deploy to normal and complex operations.

Note: All core courses are offered each semester. Elective offerings vary by term.

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Elective Courses (Select 5)

Students can complete a set of restricted electives from a variety of fields. Again, students who have successfully completed graduate coursework for the FBI National Academy, FBI ELEVATE or UVA National Criminal Justice Command College can count those credits toward the degree.

Students can also choose to take electives drawn from these graduate certificate programs in UVA’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies:

Comprehensive Exam

A comprehensive exam (covering the public safety core) is the final step before graduation. The exam is non-credit and no cost. It is graded pass/fail. 

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Meet the Instructors
Bryon Gustafson

Bryon Gustafson

Thomas A. Bradshaw

Thomas A. Bradshaw

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Tani Cantil-Sakauye

Shannon Dion

Shannon Dion

Man in officer uniform

M. Jay Farr

Man wearing black suit and a blue tie and shirt

Gordon Graham

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Gladis Griffith

Man in a black suit jacket and white button shirt wearing a light green tie

Mark Hoover

Woman with long blonde hair in a black shirt

Carolyn Johnson

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Tracie Keesee

Patrice Kerner

Patrice Kerner

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James McElvain

Portrait of Greg Murphy

Greg Murphy

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Oscar Odom III, Ed.D.

Lisa Peumsang

Lisa Peumsang

Man with short hair wearing black suit jacket white dress shirt and patterned green grey tie

Eric Plummer, Ph.D.

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Ariel C. Triplett

Michele Wucker

Michele Wucker

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START DATES: August, January, May

DURATION: 30 graduate credits / 10 courses / 20 months on average

Students who have previously completed the FBI National Academy, ELEVATE, National Criminal Justice Command College, or other graduate coursework may count some of those credits toward the degree, shortening program time. 

FORMAT: Part-time: online

Admission Requirements

Spring: November 1
Summer: April 1
Fall: July 1

Admission Details

Admissions are competitive. Decisions are typically made within two weeks of the deadline and notifications are sent via email.



$18,330 for full 10 course degree (same in-state and out-of-state)
$9,165 for 5 Core Courses only (same in-state and out-of-state)

Students have access to financial aid and payment plans. Tuition rates adjusted annually.

Tuition Details

*Additional fees may apply, including course materials.