Crisis & Emergency Management Degree Programs Online

Online Emergency Management Programs: Overview

An Online Emergency Management Degree program could help students who also work to conveniently develop skills in safety, security and disaster management. Emergency management (EM) is devoted to four primary aims.

These are to:

  1. Assess various hazards
  2. Make sure plans are in place for when adversity hits
  3. Organize responses
  4. Help with recovery efforts

Graduate students who pursue an EM degree online might therefore gain the ability to lead teams, efforts, and strategies before, during, and after a man-made or natural disaster.

Crisis & Emergency Management Programs Online

Graduate students could look for an Online Emergency Management degree at the Masters or Doctoral levels. Masters programs often provide students with a broad background as well as the opportunity for more in-depth knowledge. Online PhD emergency management programs could cultivate expertise as students contribute to the field through independent research. Students who want to pursue graduate studies but not a full graduate degree might opt to work towards an online certificate.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements differ between schools and online emergency management graduate programs. Applicants typically submit undergraduate and graduate transcripts and grades, letters of reference, a personal statement of purpose, and a resume.

Some schools also require GRE scores. That said, please refer to individual universities to make sure you take note of their required materials.

The Many Faces of Emergency Management: Program Focus

Because a crisis has many effects on individuals, businesses, and communities, EM is a vibrant topic with many facets. As a result, students might attach their studies to personal and professional goals. For instance, some EM programs examine the effects of crisis on public health, and discuss how to provide emergency

medical services.

Other programs might explore emergencies from the standpoint of criminal justice. These often highlight terrorist attacks with a focus on homeland security, and public administration. It is therefore key to look through the various types of programs as much as to search for a specific degree level.

What Is the National Incident Management System?

Students who pursue an online Emergency Management degree might take courses based on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and National Preparedness System (NPS).

Per FEMA, “The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work together seamlessly and manage incidents involving all threats and hazards—regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity—in order to reduce loss of life, property and harm to the environment.”

Some of the topics that an EM program could cover include:i

  • Inter-agency communication
  • Leadership
  • Disaster Management Methods
  • All Hazards Concept and Analysis
  • Community Resiliency
  • Five national frameworks (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response and Recovery)

Students who complete this type of course could develop a keen grasp of the nation's emergency management system, and of how communities mitigate against, respond to, and recover from all manner of crisis.

To develop emergency response plans, directors typically research “best practices” from around the country and from other emergency management agencies.ii

Popular Schools with Online Emergency Management Degrees

ProgramInstitutionDegree Awarded
Emergency Management and Homeland SecurityArkansas Tech UniversityMS
Master of Science in Security ManagementCity University of New York (CUNY) John Jay CollegeMSST
Master of Science in Management: Emergency ManagementUniversity of Maryland University CollegeMS
Master of Arts in Emergency and Disaster ManagementAmerican Military UniversityMA
Emergency MangementJacksonville State UniversityPhD
Strategic Leadership (MBA)New England CollegeMBA
Safety Management, M.S. - Eastern and Northern PanhandleWest Virginia UniversityMS
Master of Public Administration - Fire and Emergency ServicesAnna Maria CollegeMPA
Certificate in Emergency Planning and AdministrationLynn UniversityN/A
MS in Criminal Justice - Emergency ManagementWalden UniversityMS
MS Management w/Conc in Emergency ManagementSouthern New Hampshire UniversityMS
Master of Arts: Human Services Counseling: Crisis Response and TraumaLiberty University OnlineMA
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Online Masters in Emergency Management Programs

Online Masters in Emergency Management programs are often designed to help students build specific professional skill-sets. Students who pursue a disaster management masters degree online could look for programs specific to public health, occupational safety, homeland security, human services, and beyond.

Because each program could tackle different issues, students should keep their eyes out for a curriculum that sparks their interests.

Online Master of Science in Emergency Management

An online Master of Science (MS) in Emergency Management could be planned-out to present a broad set of courses in safety, security, and disaster management. In some universities, online MS students are required to complete about 32 to 36 credits.

While credit weight varies, sometimes half of the required credits are allotted to core courses and research methods. The remainder credits could be taken as electives or an area of emphasis. It's estimated that a full-time online student might complete these requirements in about two years.

In core MS courses, students could learn to develop strategic plans, to form policies and goals, and to assess threats. Other courses might discuss relevant labor laws, corporate compliance, or response and recovery measures. Moreover, and to speak to its scope, students might also take courses that cover business continuity, human issues, and the role of technology in effective EM. Alongside these core topics, students often learn various research methods and how to apply evidence to back decisions. Then, to cap their program, MS students often write a thesis that bridges research, coursework, and directed or independent studies.

MS programs might also offer an option for more in-depth study in least one focus area. Disaster Resilience Leadership, Occupational Safety, Homeland Security, Fire, Emergency Management, and School Safety are some examples. These areas vary by schools and sometimes intersect with faculty research.

Online Master of Public Health (MPH): Emergency Management

An online Master of Public Health (MPH) often discusses environmental and occupational health, mental health, and disease prevention. Most MPH programs do not require a thesis, however online students could be required to complete an internship in their local community. The internship typically helps students put theory into practice.

Students who pursue a MPH degree typically take a series of core courses and electives that delve into global health issues. Basic MPH coursework tends to cover biostatistics, health policy, and patterns of disease and injury. Other public health courses could explore the social, biological, physical, and chemical factors that affect population health.

In addition to the core courses, students could enhance their public health skill set through a focus in emergency preparedness. Aside from key principles and methods, students might thus explore the role of the public health system when faced with hazards, threats, and disasters. Other courses for this focus area could cover methods to assist survivors in the recovery process.

Online Master of Public Administration (MPA): Emergency Management

An online Master of Public Administration (MPA) is typically planned-out to help students develop managerial and leadership skills for the public sector.

Usually, an MPA degree is built around a series of required courses where students could learn how to assess, implement, and manage policy. Other required MS courses often discuss things such as how to administer public funds and personnel, plan strategically, and lead ethically. In addition to this public administration core, students often choose an area of emphasis such as EM or Criminal Justice.

Emergency Management: A focus on emergency and disaster management could tackle current issues that face first response organizations in their strategic operations. Online students might study to build a strategic mindset as well as the ability to lead and manage emergency services.

Criminal Justice: A focus on criminal justice could explore the theories and practices related to justice and law enforcement, employment, and policy law.

Fire and Emergency Services: A focus in fire and emergency services could discuss labor relations, customer care, and other managerial topics related to the fire services industry.

Online Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security

An online Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Homeland Security usually targets key concepts and skills that could be applicable in a workplace. In their program, students may be required to take core and prescribed courses that provide a certain framework.

For instance, they could cover the social, political, legal and ethical issues that arise in the context of homeland security. Prescribed courses could analyze homeland security plans, and might help students grasp the organizational and policy-related decisions at-play.

To help students tailor their studies, an MPS program may devote about one third of its curriculum to electives. Students might therefore take a more in-depth view of things such as agricultural biosecurity, public policy, security law, or risk.

Online PhD in Emergency Management Programs

An online PhD in Emergency Management is a terminal and research-oriented program. A theory-based program, students could learn to make evidence-based decisions and evaluate how research in EM impacts policy. Other courses tend to help students develop overall expertise so that they could apply EM theory to administrative practices. Students might therefore study risk, response, continuity, recovery, and resilience.

The remainder of a student's courses typically address methods of analysis, research design, and data collection. These courses are intended to help students learn to conduct valid and ethical inquiry in an area of emphasis. As the hallmark of a PhD is the final dissertation, the aim of students’ research is then to add new insight to their profession.

In some universities, students enrolled in an online PhD in Emergency Management degree program might have the option to work toward an area of emphasis. Topics vary by school, but might include Corrections, Criminology, Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources, or Higher Education.

Online PhD in Criminal Justice/Emergency Management

An online PhD in Criminal Justice is a terminal degree where students could develop their overall grasp or criminal justice leadership and anchor research in EM. The bulk of courses could thus be devoted to an analysis of topics such as criminal justice policy, policing, crime control, and leadership.

For the emphasis in EM, students might examine key issues such as risk, crisis planning, and hazard management. In fact, some universities could offer FEMA courses so that students could work toward nationally recognized certificates.

Online Graduate Certificates in Emergency Management

An online graduate Certificate in Emergency Management is typically a short program that targets a singular theme. For instance, students who pursue a Certificate in Emergency Preparedness might be required to complete four courses. These could help students learn key skills such as how to manage risk, crisis and disasters. Also, it might help students understand how to make decisions and act based on established theory.

A certificate could be used on its own to help students build skills and enhance a resume. Or, where applicable, students might transfer earned credits to a Masters program in a related field. This could either reduce time to completion of the Masters program or, tack on an award that shows students have studied a topic more in-depth.

For instance, students who pursue a certificate in emergency preparedness might focus exclusively on key principles and practices. They might be required to successfully complete four courses that discuss factors that affect community health, and how to respond and prepare for public health emergencies.

Why Earn an Emergency Management Degree Online?

One of the reasons students pursue their emergency management degree online is to conveniently study with minimal disruption to a current career. That said, each university may use different technology or format their program in its own way.

In some online Emergency Management degree programs, for instance, there is no travel to campus. Courses are delivered wirelessly, so students could log in whenever they want, from wherever they are, as long as all deadlines are met. Or, digital tools are used to deliver courses in real-time and then content is uploaded to a course management system. This same platform is usually ‘where’ students meet to take part in discussions or have online office hours with faculty.

Other online EM programs lead students through most coursework online, but there are brief residencies. In some PhD programs, these residencies may help students build research skills for their dissertation.

Build Key EM Skills

Regardless of the program lens, online emergency management degree-seekers could acquire several key abilities.iii In some universities, students take part in virtual skills labs, but one might also have to take part in a practicum in one’s local community. Either way, students might learn to make logical and sound decisions as well as solve complex problems. Other courses could help students write and communicate effectively, which is important when it comes to coordination between departments, agencies, and officials. Courses in leadership could help future and current EM managers apply appropriate tactics and think systematically.

Top States for Employment: Emergency Management Directors
StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
New York260$74,750

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Emergency Management Directors
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$134,760300
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA$122,03060
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA$121,110160
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV$118,890360
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA$113,390190

Bureau of Labor Statistics

[i] | [ii] | [iii]

Top 25 Online Graduate Schools with Online Emergency Management Graduate Programs 

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