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Online Emergency Management Degree Programs

Emergency management programs are available at multiple degree levels. Find out about common coursework, online program availability and career options for graduates.

What Levels of Emergency Management Degree Can I Earn?

You can pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree, a Bachelor of Science degree or a Master of Science degree in this field through distance learning. Degrees are generally granted in emergency management or emergency and disaster management. The associate's degree may interest you if you simply want to enter the emergency management field. Bachelor's and master's degree programs may suit you if you want to move into a leadership role.

Most online bachelor's degree programs are intended for people who already have an associate's degree; however, you don't necessarily have to have the associate's degree to apply. If you don't have an associate's degree, programs may still admit you if you've completed core general education requirements at any accredited school.

Some 2-year degree programs design their curricula in conjunction with 4-year degree programs to ensure your course work meets the necessary requirements to transfer the credits. Master's degree programs may require you to have some work experience as well as a bachelor's degree in a closely related field.

Degree AvailabilityAssociate's, bachelor's, and master's degree programs are widely available
Distance Learning OpportunitiesAll programs are available online, but may require an in-person practicum
Common CourseworkNatural disaster preparation, disaster response, psychology, sociology, crisis communications
Career OptionsWork within law enforcement, homeland security, or non-profit organizations
Median Salary (2018)$74,420 (Emergency Management Directors)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)8% growth (Emergency Management Directors)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Can I Complete it Online?

It's possible to earn your degree entirely online. In fact, some emergency and disaster management programs now only accept students for distance-learning tracks. Keep in mind that some programs require you complete an in-person practicum. This practicum can usually be completed at your place of employment or another field placement convenient for you. You'll have to coordinate the details of the practicum, such as the number of hours you'll need to document or what duties you'll need to perform.

You can enroll part-time or full-time. Most classes are taught via the Internet and have you perform your work asynchronously, viewing lectures based on your own schedule. If you have questions, you post them in a chat room where the professor or other students answer them at their convenience.

What Topics Will I Study?

Many of your courses will cover emergency preparedness. Topics might include preparing for natural disasters, like floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes. You can also expect to study preparedness for man-made disasters, like attacks using weapons of mass destruction, biological weapons, and other terrorist tactics.

You'll also take classes that deal with the responses and aftermath of emergency and disaster situations. You might take a class on the different types of international responses to disasters, including government and private agency responses. You may also have to take a class about communicating with different forms of media during and after a crisis. There may also be classes about the psychological and sociological impacts of disasters on the victims and responders.

What Careers Can I Pursue?

If you earn your associate's degree, you'll likely find entry-level employment in the emergency management field. This can include working for a fire department, in law enforcement, or with a hazardous materials response team. Opportunities are also available with federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

If you obtain a bachelor's or master's degree, you may pursue a management or leadership role. You could work as a fire chief in a community fire department or as the head of disaster preparedness planning for a state or local government agency. Other mid-level positions could include supervisory roles within the federal government for such agencies as the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You might also find employment with a private company or a non-profit organization such as the American Red Cross, designing plans for disaster preparedness and responses.