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Best Online Degrees in Emergency Management

Emergency management explores the planning and response to disasters and some of the best online degrees in the field include hands-on learning activities. Find out more about available degree programs and career options.

Best Online Degree Programs in Emergency Management

Online degree programs in emergency management are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some of the best online programs in the field come from schools that may offer multiple degrees in emergency management, include hands-on learning experiences, provide various areas of concentration, and/or have faculty with real-life experience in emergency management. Compare some of the top online degree programs in emergency management below.

1. Arkansas State University-Main Campus

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Jonesboro, AR$8,60797%

Arkansas State University has an online Associate of Applied Science (AAS), Bachelor of Science (BS), and Master of Science (MS) in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (DPEM), as well as an online graduate certificate program in healthcare emergency management. Faculty members for these DPEM programs are members of emergency medicine/disaster health committees and hold licenses and/or certifications in the field. The AAS and BS programs both offer various areas of emphasis, including law enforcement, healthcare, and disaster preparedness and emergency management. The AAS uniquely offers an emphasis in Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and the MS program requires a final research project, internship, or thesis.

2. Adelphi University

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Garden City, NY$38,74091%

Adelphi University offers an online Associate of Science (AS) and a BS in Emergency Services Administration, as well as a graduate certificate and MS in Emergency Management. These programs allow qualified students with public safety training from areas like police academies, military training, or paramedic certification, to count Life Experience Credits towards their degree. Both the BS and MS programs require a culminating capstone experience, and students in the MS program also earn the Graduate Certificate in Emergency Management. Many faculty members for these degree programs have real-life experience with managing various emergency events.

3. Pierce College-Fort Steilacoom

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Lakewood, WA$3,86267%

Pierce College-Fort Steilacoom is home to the Homeland Security Emergency Management (HSEM) degree program that is one of the school's online and hybrid programs. The HSEM program offers an AAS, a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS), and a certificate program. The AAS program can be completed in 2 years, includes an internship, and provides several concentrations in areas including criminal justice, occupational safety and health, management, and social and cultural recovery. The BAS degree culminates in a capstone course, includes an internship, and follows a highly selective cohort model.

4. Northwest Florida State College

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Niceville, FL$3,13368%

Northwest Florida State College has an online AS in Emergency Administration and Management that totals 60 credits and can be completed in 2 years. The program meets competencies set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and graduates of the program may be eligible to pursue related certificates like Homeland Security Emergency Manager or Emergency Administrator and Manager. Students take 15 credits of core courses, as well as 27 credits of electives where they can focus their studies in various areas, like management, fire, or criminal justice.

5. St. Petersburg College

LocationTuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
Clearwater, FL$2,68274%

St. Petersburg College offers an online AS and a certificate program in Emergency Administration and Management, as well as a closely related online certificate in Homeland Security. The AS program was one of the first in the field in the United States and one of the first available in an online format. The two certificate programs are a part of the AS program, which can be completed in 2 years and totals 60 credits. Students in the AS program may choose an internship experience for hands-on learning as one of their elective courses.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)% Receiving Financial Aid
6Arkansas Tech UniversityRussellville, AR$7,25495%
7University of Nebraska at OmahaOmaha, NE$7,79087%
8Indiana Institute of Technology-College of Professions StudiesFort Wayne, IN$10,22499%
9Peninsula CollegePort Angeles, WA$4,45374%
10Drury University-College of Continuing Professional StudiesSpringfield, MO$6,24795%
11Columbia CollegeSonora, CA$1,16674%
12University of Central MissouriWarrensburg, MO$7,67394%
13Millersville University of PennsylvaniaMillersville, PA$12,22690%
14Southeast Missouri State UniversityCape Girardeau, MO$7,41896%
15Eastern Kentucky UniversityRichmond, KY$9,66699%
16Northern Arizona UniversityFlagstaff, AZ$11,56494%
17Sam Houston State UniversityHuntsville, TX$8,29689%
18Immaculata UniversityImmaculata, PA$27,350100%
19Park UniversityParkvill, MO$11,57295%
20University of Alaska FairbanksFairbanks, AK$6,65784%
21Bellevue UniversityBellevue, NE$7,82789%
22Florida International UniversityMiami, FL$6,54689%
23Everglades UniversityBoca Raton, FL$17,60077%
24SUNY College of Technology at CantonCanton, NY$8,38996%
25Arizona State University-SkysongScottsdale, AZ$10,31782%
26Thomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphia, PA$40,65199%
27Bethel UniversityMcKenzie, TN$16,552100%
28Union Institute & UniversityCincinnati, OH$13,256100%
29Barry UniversityMiami, FL$30,014100%
30Saint Leo UniversitySaint Leo, FL$23,020100%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Online Emergency Management Degrees Available

Online degree programs in emergency management, or closely related titles like emergency administration and management, are commonly available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. It is also common to find certificate programs available in the field, but we will focus on degree programs. Learn more about each degree level in more detail here.

Associate's Degree

Online associate's degree programs in emergency management are usually available as AS or AAS degrees. Most of these programs require around 60 to 64 credits and can typically be completed in 2 years. Some of these programs require or provide an optional internship experience for hands-on learning, and some programs may offer electives or concentrations for students to focus their studies in areas that are of personal or professional interest. Some available concentrations may include EMT, healthcare, criminal justice, management, or social and cultural recovery. Graduates of some of these associate's degree programs may qualify to pursue certificate programs in the field of emergency management.

Bachelor's Degree

Online bachelor's degree programs in the field are typically offered as BS degrees and commonly take 4 years to complete, although some programs may accept prior learning or life experience credits which may make it possible to finish the degree in as little as 2 years. These programs usually require around 120 credits and many require a final capstone course to complete the program. Some bachelor's degree programs may require an internship experience for hands-on learning and/or follow a cohort model. Graduates of some of these bachelor's degree programs may have a shorter route to professional certifications in the field, such as the Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) from the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM).

Master's Degree

Online master's degree programs in emergency management are typically MS degrees and may range from 36 to 39 credits. These degree programs may take 2 to 2.5 years to complete, and it is fairly common for them to require a culminating experience of some sort. Some programs may require a final capstone, research project, thesis, and/or internship experience. Depending on the program, some may not require students to take the GRE.

Common Courses for Emergency Management Programs

Undergraduate degree programs in emergency management usually consist of general education courses, core courses, and electives or concentration courses. At the graduate level, master's degree programs in the field usually consist of core courses that include courses in research methods. Despite the different levels of degree programs in emergency management, many of these programs include courses like:

  • Emergency Preparedness- Courses in emergency preparedness introduce students to foundational concepts in emergency management and the planning process for various kinds of disasters. Students in these courses may examine different types of natural and man-made disasters, explore different emergency management roles, and learn about the response operations to these disasters.
  • Emergency Management/Administration- Foundational courses in emergency management or administration may discuss the different jobs available in the field, the role of emergency managers, and the different emergency management practices used to respond to disasters. Students may also explore the different issues faced by these managers and/or take a look at the standards for emergency management from the local to international levels.
  • Planning- Specific course topics in planning vary by program as some programs may explore planning for public emergency management, while others may explore planning for the private sector. Students in these courses might discuss emergency operation plans, preparedness strategies, and/or resource inventory, as well as use case studies to learn about the development process for logistics.
  • Law/Legal Aspects- Courses at the undergraduate level may examine local, state, and federal laws that govern emergency services, while advanced courses in master's programs may discuss legal issues involved directly with emergency management plans. Students in these courses could use case studies to explore various topics in preparedness.
  • Leadership- Students in leadership courses may study leadership and organizational theories that can be applied to emergency management. These courses are designed to further develop students' leadership skills and may cover topics such as conflict management, influence, supervision, motivation, and group dynamics.

How to Choose an Online Emergency Management Degree

Choosing an online emergency management degree program can be a complex process as students need to consider a wide range of factors. Students should first consider their career goals and what level of degree is required to reach these goals, in order to set an educational path in the right direction. After the degree level has been selected, students may begin to search for programs that meet other personal preferences and/or needs, such as programs that may include more hands-on experience through an internship. Below we explore a couple of important considerations in more depth.

Length of Program

When considering the level of degree program in emergency management, students may also want to think about their availability and desired time commitment. For example, an associate's degree takes less time to complete than a bachelor's degree and a master's degree is shorter like an associate's degree, but typically requires a bachelor's degree.

Students can also search for programs that let them complete programs faster. There are some programs that award students credits for prior learning or life experiences and/or programs that may allow students to transfer in credit. These options allow students to complete a degree in up to half the conventional amount of time.

Cost, Scholarships, and Financial Aid

The cost of online degree programs in emergency management varies by institution and degree level, but some programs may charge as little as $150 per credit hour while others charge up to $500 per credit hour. Students also need to check for rate differences between residents and non-residents, any additional fees (such as a technology or library fee), and/or books and other supplies when they are trying to calculate the total cost of a program.

Typically most, if not all, programs accept various forms of financial aid, like grants, loans, and scholarships, to help students pay for their schooling. Outside of public and private loans that students are required to pay back, students may compete for various scholarships to help cut program costs.

Some of these scholarships may be offered through colleges specifically for emergency management majors, while other scholarships for these majors may be available from emergency management-related organizations. For example, the Department of Homeland Security and IAEM offer scholarships to students studying homeland security, emergency management, disaster management, and closely related fields.

There's also the Dr. Yonah Alexander Counterterrorism Scholarship, which offers $250 for qualifying essays, and Women in Defense has a HORIZONS Scholarship, which awards college money to females studying in fields like homeland security.

Job Options for Graduates in Emergency Management

Depending on their level of education, graduates with a background in emergency management can work in an array of job titles in a variety of settings. Graduates may work for the government, universities, federal agencies, hospitals, and disaster relief organizations helping plan and manage various catastrophic events. Some job titles for graduates may include:

  • Emergency management director
  • Homeland security officer
  • Emergency management consultant
  • Public safety director

Many graduates of these degree programs go on to become emergency management directors. These professionals usually need at least a bachelor's degree, although some smaller organizations and/or governments may only require a high school diploma. Emergency management directors typically need to also have several years of work experience (many years of work experience with only a high school diploma) working in areas like disaster planning or emergency response. Some emergency management directors may begin their careers in law enforcement, the military, or healthcare.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2018 that emergency management directors made a median salary of $74,420 and had a job outlook of 5% from 2018 to 2028, which is as fast as the average for all occupations. These directors help plan for emergencies and respond to emergencies after they occur. They typically work in large teams of other local leadership and agencies to help prepare the public for an event and provide the public with needed resources following an event. They must stay highly organized as they mobilize plans, staff members, and volunteers into action.

Professional Organizations in Emergency Management

Professional organizations in emergency management are available at various levels and help provide professionals in the field with important resources. Each organization has different goals and resources to offer. A few examples of professional organizations in the field include:

  • International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM)- The IAEM offers the CEM certification, as well as membership to the organization. From its website, the IAEM provides professionals with links to a variety of webinars, conferences, and meetings, and provides professionals with information on jobs, groups, and scholarships in the field of emergency management.
  • Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRI)- DRI is a nonprofit organization that helps provide leadership, education, and accreditation to the emergency management field. Through the organization, students can pursue the Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP) certification, and can also find information on coursework, events, and news.
  • Emergency Management Institute (EMI)- The EMI is a part of the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and is designed to help improve the competencies of emergency management officials. The EMI's website provides information on programs and activities, and students are able to take training courses on-campus at the EMI or independently online.