Why This Matters


    With three major floods, eight severe storms, two tropical cyclones, and one wildfire, 2019 was a particularly active year. An increase in hydro-meteorological disasters is expected due to manmade factors and global warming.


    The median annual salary for all emergency management directors is $75,490, or $35.86 per hour. Those working in the professional, scientific, and technical service industries earn a median annual wage of $106,420.


    Employment of emergency management directors is expected to grow much faster than average in the social assistance (10.3%), ambulatory health care (16.9%), and management, scientific, and technical consulting service sectors (23.3%).

Our Research

Because graduate students might need more flexibility with their daily schedules, we reviewed emergency management degrees offered on campus, online, and in hybrid formats. This list includes a variety of accredited programs, such as Master of Science in Emergency Management, Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, and Master of Security and Disaster Management.

Accreditation is one of the many tools you should use when evaluating your choice of programs. Our list includes master’s in emergency management degrees accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and other highly regarded agencies. Accreditation ensures these programs meet the highest standards for curriculum quality and professional preparedness.

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.

  • 77 hours to write this article
  • 154 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 343 education programs we compared

The Top 45 Master’s in Emergency Management Degree Programs

Best Master's in Emergency Management Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

Emergency management positions typically require only a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree combined with relevant work experience can greatly help you advance and excel in the field. This competitive edge prepares you to serve in a variety of higher-level managerial and directorial positions in the public and private sectors.

Some students enter these programs with many years of work experience in emergency response, disaster planning, or public administration. Others might have little to no training in the field and are looking to change careers. Common foundational courses in the curriculum include emergency preparedness, hazard mitigation, terrorism and homeland security, business continuity planning, and emergency management law. Many programs culminate with a thesis or practicum requirement that offers supervised, real-world work experience at an emergency management job site.

Upon graduation, students with a master’s in emergency management degree enjoy a variety of career paths. Local governments employ more than half of the emergency management directors in the United States. However, the highest-paid directors work with hospitals, colleges, or the professional, scientific, and services industries. Applicants with the highest levels of education and work experience have the best job prospects.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching master’s in emergency management programs:

  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? Most universities require between 30 and 36 credits to graduate. The majority of students complete the full curriculum in two years; however, programs are typically flexible if you need more time. If you want to graduate faster, look for programs that offer an accelerated track.
  • What licensing or certifications are required? Some states and agencies require that emergency management directors obtain a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP), or equivalent designation. These credentials may be earned through the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) and Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRI). While certifications must be renewed every few years, continuing education courses keep your skills and knowledge sharp to further your career.

As you research programs, keep track of application deadlines and requirements. Universities may request your Graduate Records Examination (GRE), Miller Analogies Test (MAT), or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score, as well as letters of recommendation.

Give yourself enough time to compile these materials, and remember to inquire about financial aid. Visit your prospective schools’ websites or contact them directly to learn more about the availability of loans, grants, and scholarships to help pay for your degree.