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After an emergency such as a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other community devastation, emergency management professionals work to mitigate the damages and create a recovery plan. A degree in emergency management prepares students to work in these roles, with graduates hired as emergency management specialists, fire chiefs, emergency medical technicians, and intelligence analysts. The degree provides students with the leadership, organization, communication, adaptability, and technical skills required to succeed in these positions.

Emergency management directors earn a national median annual salary of $88,890. Salaries vary depending on the location, industry, position, and work experience. The median annual wage in California is $122,390, while in South Dakota it’s $62,110.

Emergency management degrees require between 60 and 180 credits to graduate. The total cost and length of the degree will depend on the program, institution, and student living requirements. A four-year full-time degree will cost $16,618 per year in tuition and fees. If room and board are required, students will pay an additional average of $12,415 annually.

How to Choose an Emergency Management Program

Choose your area of study

Students pursuing emergency management can choose from four types of degrees: associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. The degrees vary in their length of completion, cost, curriculum, and career prospects.

  • An associate degree typically requires two years of full-time study or 60 credits for completion. It covers the fundamental knowledge of emergency management and prepares students for entry-level positions.
  • A bachelor’s degree provides a thorough understanding of emergency management and often requires four years of full-time study. Due to the job requirements and skills, students interested in government or private sector positions will benefit from earning a bachelor’s degree rather than an associate degree.
  • Most emergency management programs are offered as a master’s degree. To apply for a master’s program, students must have completed a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree expands on the fundamental knowledge of undergraduate degrees and provides advanced skills required for specialized positions.
  • A doctorate typically requires four years of full-time study and an educational and career background in emergency management to apply. It prepares students for advanced positions in emergency management, such as law enforcement and homeland security.

While completing an emergency management program, students can often choose a concentration that aligns with their future career interests. The most common specializations include public administration, fire science, child protection, disaster relief, and homeland security.

Research schools and programs

As you research schools and programs, look for those with accreditation. Accreditation is given to institutions that meet a set standard of quality and are widely recognized by employers and government agencies. It will assist when transferring credits, applying for jobs, and earning financial aid. You can use the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website to discover and filter institutions by accreditation.

The top emergency management degree programs are accredited by organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), or International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC). Completing an accredited program will benefit students in the competitive career search after graduation.

Prepare for tests and applications

To apply for an associate or bachelor’s degree in emergency management, you will generally be required to submit your most recent transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, and a personal essay. The requirements will vary depending on the school and program.

Master’s or doctorate programs often require the completion of a bachelor’s degree, GRE or GMAT test scores, a personal essay, letters of recommendation, and relevant work experience.

Before applying, speak with the school’s admission counselor. They’ll review the application with you and ensure you meet all the requirements.

Select your program

When making the final decision for your program, consider your educational goals, career objectives, and logistical needs, including:

  • Options for full-time or part-time study
  • In-person or online formats
  • Synchronous or asynchronous classes
  • Housing options
  • Program length
  • Tuition and fees

Select the program that meets your lifestyle requirements and offers the curriculum to prepare you for your desired career. If you need help narrowing down your choices, contact an academic advisor to review your options and find the best fit.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Create a budget to determine whether you can fund your education on your own or need financial assistance. Add up your tuition, fees, housing, living expenses, supplies, and transportation costs.

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to discover the amount of federal and need-based aid you’re eligible for, including grants, work-study funds, scholarships, and loans. Also, check if your prospective school offers tuition waivers for law enforcement and first responders or program-specific funding options.

Speak with a financial advisor to review your program’s cost and discover your financial aid options.

Best 50 Accredited Emergency Management Programs

Best Emergency Management Degree Programs_2024 badge

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Drury University

Immaculata University

University of Nebraska Omaha

University of Central Florida

North Dakota State University

Rowan University

Northwest Missouri State University

Elizabeth City State University

Barry University

University of North Texas

Western Illinois University

Northern Arizona University

University of Akron

Madonna University

Arkansas Tech University

Western Carolina University

Ohio Christian University

University of New Haven

Pennsylvania College of Technology

Columbia International University

Pacific Union College

Voorhees College

State College of Florida

Miami Dade College

Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Pierce College

Union Institute and University

Embry - Riddle Aeronautical University

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How we rank schools

This list highlights emergency management programs that award a certificate in emergency management or postsecondary degree, which range from associate degrees to doctorates. Programs are available in on-campus and online formats, offering maximum flexibility for working adults who may or may not have a degree in another discipline.

Emergency management degree programs with active accreditation are more marketable to potential employers and make it easier to transfer credits. Look for schools that are accredited by widely recognized entities, such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) or the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From an Emergency Management Program?

An emergency management degree prepares students to respond to emergencies such as natural disasters, civil disorder, and hazardous materials accidents. The program covers a wide range of topics, including business planning, crisis communication, ethics, terrorism, and disaster risk management.

Students learn about the different kinds of emergencies and their psychological, social, and environmental impacts. They also study emergency response research, policies, and procedures, including short- and long-term plans.

Various learning methods are used, including lectures, exams, essays, field exercises, drills, and real-life simulations.

Potential courses you’ll take in an emergency management program

  • Introduction to Emergency and Disaster Management. This course provides an overview of emergency and disaster management, including theory, history, major concepts, and terminology. It also identifies the roles, functions, and relationships of the organizations and agencies involved.
  • Fire Services and Emergency and Disaster Management. Students learn about the role of fire services in emergency and disaster response, including their planning, protocols, and responsibilities.
  • Cyber Terrorism. This course delves into the impact of cyber terrorism and cyber attacks. Students learn about the available responses and how to prevent, prepare, and mitigate these attacks.
  • Incident Management Systems. Students will gain a basic understanding of incident management systems and learn about the application and issues of these systems in emergencies.

Emergency Management Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an emergency management degree program?

To apply for an emergency management program, visit the school website and review the application page. It will outline all required materials, such as transcripts, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation that need to be submitted. Before applying, speak to an admissions counselor to ensure you meet the requirements and have the necessary documents by the established deadline.

How much does an emergency management degree cost?

The median annual cost for a bachelor’s degree in emergency management is $16,618. However, the total cost will vary depending on the student’s program, school, and living expenses. Students who choose to live on-campus will also need to include housing, food, transportation, and other living expenses.

How long does it take to earn an emergency management degree?

Depending on the type of degree, an emergency management program will require two to four years of full-time study. Most programs require students to complete between 60 and 180 credits to graduate. Some programs offer online or asynchronous classes so students can study at their own pace.

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