Canada Emergency & Crisis Management Graduate Programs

An Emergency Management Degree program is designed to teach graduate students how to prepare for crisis as well as lead the response when disaster strikes. Emergency Management (EM) is dedicated to dynamic processes such as how to evaluate risks, coordinate teams, actively respond, and manage recovery.

How to earn a graduate degree in Emergency Management

EM is concerned with all manners of unplanned disasters. Students enrolled in crisis management graduate programs might therefore develop a strategic mindset as they study key concepts such as organizational leadership and logistics.

Types of Emergency & Crisis Management Graduate Programs

At the graduate levels, an Emergency Management degree could be available at the Masters, Doctoral, and Certificate levels. A graduate degree in emergency management often covers industry practices for numerous types of crisis situations from healthcare to fire, hurricane, floods, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and more. Graduate students could therefore focus their studies on specific areas of emergency management such as homeland security or public health.

What is Emergency Management?

Broadly, there are four main aspects to emergency management. (1) Mitigation,
(2) Preparedness, (3) Response and
(4) Recovery.

Emergency management courses often address these themes.

  1. Mitigation is all about the actions taken before a disaster to reduce the human and financial after effects down the road. It is concerned with things such as risk analysis, regulations, local ordinances, and measures to insure against risk.
  2. Preparedness focuses on organizational practices in place to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from all types of emergencies.
  3. Response is concerned with mobilization of efforts such as first responders and other emergency services.
  4. Recovery includes all efforts to restore a situation or affected area back to its previous state, once the initial response and emergency plan has made this possible. While ‘recovery’ could be equated with destroyed property and infrastructure, it also relates to health and behavioral issues.

DID YOU KNOW?

When surveyed about their education, 20% of Emergency Management Directors reported they had a Masters degree. i

Masters in Emergency Management Programs

Masters in Emergency Management programs tackle crisis response and disaster preparedness from diverse lenses such as public administration, disaster medicine, trauma studies, public health, homeland security, or human services. Some Masters programs may be available to applicants regardless of their undergraduate major while others might build on previous studies or professional work experience. Aside from transcripts, students may need to furnish references, a resume, personal statement, and minimum GPA. GRE scores may also be required for some programs.

Below are a few examples of the types of Masters in Emergency Management Degrees you might come across, and what each of them might cover in terms of coursework. Please make sure to refer to individual schools for further information.

Master of Science in Emergency Management

A Master of Science in Emergency Management could help learners develop the ability to understand and effectively address the 4 facets of emergency management – mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery. Distinct from other programs where emergency management is an area of emphasis, the MS highlights it.

In some universities, students need to successfully complete required courses and electives, which could total about 48 credits. In their core courses, students might build leadership and communication skills as they examine and apply to emergency management theory. Other course material might discuss some of the complexities of emergency management policy, risk management, and organizational practices.

Students who pursue a MS in Emergency Management degree may personalize their studies with an area of emphasis. These areas differ in each school, but you could keep your eyes out for emphases like Criminology or Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources.

Along the way, MS students might be introduced to critical analysis and research ethics. This could help them to evaluate how research in emergency management impacts policy and administrative decisions. These research methods may come to play as students culminate their degree with an original research project. Here they might select an emergency management theory and apply it to industry tactics.

Master of Public Health (MPH): Emergency Management

A Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program could help students learn how to monitor, diagnose, and manage the health concerns of communities through public policies. Students who pursue an MPH degree might enhance their ability to lead through a focus in emergency readiness.

In some schools, students must successfully complete 66 credits to earn a Master of Public Health. An MPH degree program typically entails core courses combined with emphasis courses and a required internship. Core topics usually include courses in biostatistics, epidemiology, and environmental health. Students might also learn about health policy and basic managerial principles.

Those who pursue an MPH in Emergency Management also take courses related to this theme. For instance, they might study how to prepare for, prevent and respond to emergencies from a health standpoint. For instance, students might learn to assess stress reactions, conduct triage, and evaluate when to refer patients to behavioral health or other medical service professionals.

Master of Public Administration (MPA): Emergency Management

A Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program typically mixes elements of policy analysis and management for the public rather than private sector. Students in MPA degree programs often select an area of emphasis such as emergency management. Individuals who choose the Emergency Management focus could study to gain the knowledge required of successful crisis administration professionals while they build basic public administration skill sets.

In some graduate schools, an MPA in Emergency Management program runs between 30 to 36 credits. Because credits vary, program length could also differ, although some programs are specifically designed to be completed in two years of full-time study.

Generally, an MPA program features core courses that all students take along with a choice of emphasis and courses related to that focus area. To culminate their degree, students may have to complete a capstone project or applied research. Applied research is often designed for those who plan to continue on to doctoral or postgraduate studies.

MPA core courses could cover organizational theory, managerial statistics, executive leadership, and public policy. These courses might help students refine their ability to think strategically and to manage personnel and finances.

  • Emergency Management: Those who focus on emergency management could be exposed to some of the current tools and techniques needed to lead and oversee a wide variety of crisis scenarios. Students might therefore study elements such as how to make plans and implement crisis management resources such as the National Incident Management System.
  • Fire and Emergency Services: Students who choose to focus on fire and emergency services could learn the leadership aspect of the fire service industry. For instance, related courses could target labor and management relations, customer care, and fire leadership practices

Master of Professional Studies (MPS): Homeland Security  

A Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Homeland Security could address both theory and application of practical skills to various domestic and global issues of security. In some universities, students are required to complete about 33 credits, which could consist of core courses, prescribed courses, and electives.

Core MPS courses could provide students with a foundation in the history, policies, organizations, and current managerial approaches in homeland security. Prescribed courses might discuss things such as defense plans, strategic planning, and legal issues. To expand on an area of interest, students could choose a series of electives. Electives could be as diverse as GIS applications, disaster psychology, and intelligence analysis.

Graduate Certificates in Emergency Management

Graduate Certificates in Emergency Management typically address a singular topic through a series of courses that is shorter than for a Masters in Emergency Management. Students who pursue an emergency management certificate could be students of a related Masters program who want to tailor their studies. Or, they might be working professionals who want to prepare academically to pursue various certifications in emergency management, such as Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP).ii

Either way, through a few courses, students could study to gain specific technical and managerial skills in a variety of topics such as disaster medicine and business continuity. The certificate program often mirrors a related Masters program, so students might apply their earned credits if they decide to continue their studies later—or, use it to help boost a current resume as a standalone award.

For instance, a Certificate in Emergency Preparedness might be earned on its own or in conjunction with a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. While the number and names of courses vary, students who pursue this type of certificate might be required to take only four courses. These courses might address topics such as environmental health, core principles and practices, emergency response, and the psychology of disasters.

PhD in Emergency Management Programs

At the doctoral level, students work toward either a terminal research degree or a terminal practice degree. A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Emergency Management is a terminal research degree sometimes offered as an area of emphasis in Criminal Justice. By contrast, a Doctor of Emergency Management is a professional doctorate. Applicants therefore may need to have a Masters degree in Criminal Justice or a related field as well as meet school-specific criteria.

PhD in Criminal Justice: Emergency Management

PhD in Criminal Justice candidates could both broaden their overall knowledge and skills in leadership as well as build expertise in emergency and crisis management to anchor their research. While no two programs are the same, a PhD in emergency management curriculum could span core and emphasis courses, research methods, and dissertation-related classes.

In core classes, students might examine the history of crime, policing, and terrorism. This type of course could give students a sense of how to assess and manage various challenges in their profession. Additional criminal justice courses might cover policy and analysis with an eye to issues such as corrections, juvenile justice, and deterrence.

In their emphasis courses, PhD students might examine case studies of major catastrophes to explore hazard management. For instance, students could discuss the key theories and concepts of emergency management such as risk assessment, vulnerable populations, communication processes, and legal issues.   

To culminate their degree, students are typically required to parlay their knowledge and research into a formal dissertation thesis. Here, they might tackle a specific issue and offer original thought based on their expertise for how to solve the problem or improve a tactical response.

Doctor of Emergency Management

A Doctor of Emergency Management degree program might tackle issues such as policy development, management theory, research, and practice. By contrast to a PhD, this type of doctoral program could help students find evidence-based solutions for issues such as public safety, emergency management, and homeland security.

Typically, doctorate degree seekers take a series of core courses that examine all facets of disaster and emergency management and the various systems it uses. Key themes could include, risk, resilience, response, continuity, and recovery. To complete their degree, students typically engage in an active research project. Distinct from the PhD dissertation, this usually requires students to use scholarly research to help address or solve a problem at the institutional, organizational, or community level.

Formats:  On-Campus or Online

There are two primary formats for Emergency Management degrees. On-campus programs are designed around interaction and hands-on practice. Students might engage with their local community or cohorts to practice leadership techniques as well as contribute to in-class discussions. If this sounds right, you could look for an Emergency Management degree program in a preferred location – just filter by city, state, or country.

Online Emergency Management Graduate programs could suit at-work adults who want to earn their degree but need the freedom to take classes on their computer. Distance learners have to complete assignments on time, but generally, are able to attend the virtual classroom when it suits their schedule.

Emergency Management Degree & Potential Careers

Choose an Emergency Management Degree Program

To properly evaluate which Emergency Management degree program might be perfect for you, evaluate whether a crisis management graduate program matches your professional goals. Today’s emergency management directors could pursue a variety of career paths, in state and local governments, private companies, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and more.ii You could also refer to individual schools and speak with an academic advisor.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What level of disaster management degree do you need? Masters, PhD, Certificate?
  • Do you hope to build general skills in public administration?
  • Are you interested in counseling others in times of crisis and trauma?
  • Is your background in health and medicine?
  • Does one of the four stages of emergency management appeal more than another?

Take the Next Step

Efficiently compare Emergency and Crisis Management graduate programs and schools right here! Use the helpful on-page filters to review paid programs. When you find a great emergency management degree program, request information from the school directly,


[i] onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9161.00 | [ii] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/emergency-management-directors.htm

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