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Emergency response teams are responsible for delivering aid when emergencies happen in communities. An online emergency management degree will prepare students to lead the planning and response to crises. Online emergency management degrees are available at various levels, including associate, bachelor’s, and master’s.The median pay for an emergency manager is $76,730 annually. Other potential career paths for individuals with this degree include project management specialists, who earn a median salary of $94,500, and EMTs and paramedics, whose median pay is $36,930 annually

Online bachelor’s degrees typically take four years to complete. The average tuition for an undergraduate degree in 2021-22 was $7,869 at public universities and $37,095 at private schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. For a master’s degree, students can expect to spend 1-2 years enrolled in a program. The average tuition for graduate degrees is $12,394 at public schools and $26,621 at private institutions.

How to Choose an Online Emergency Management Program

Choose your area of study

A clear understanding of the type of career a student wants will help them discover the right educational path. Typical concentrations include natural disaster management and response, hazardous materials, border security, and public safety. Graduates may work with the local, state, or federal governments, hospitals, and emergency relief organizations. Some students may extend their education to law enforcement or higher-level management positions.

Research schools and programs

Students can begin their research by verifying if a program is accredited, which confirms they have a legitimate program that meets high standards.

The Department of Education’s database can provide information on the undergraduate or graduate program for an online emergency management degree. Attending an accredited school is important because it can impact your financial aid eligibility and future employment and education opportunities.

Questions to help students continue their research include the following:

  • Does the program prepare students for certifications or licenses, if needed?
  • Does the program have internship opportunities for students?
  • What resources are available to students (financial aid, career counseling, and job placement)?
  • What support services are available to students (tutoring, health, technical support)?
  • Who are the faculty, and what are their credentials?

Prepare for tests and applications

When conducting research, also take note of schools’ deadlines and requirements. Students can keep a spreadsheet or checklist to keep this information organized, especially if they’re applying for multiple programs.

Every bachelor’s or master-level program may require different materials, but generally, they ask for the following:

  • Completed application and fees
  • Official, sealed transcripts from all previous institutions
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay or statement of interest
  • Standardized test scores

Online bachelor’s degree programs in emergency management often require results from the SAT or ACT, while master’s degree programs require Graduate Record Exam (GRE) results.

If you need clarification on any application requirements or deadlines, contact the school’s admissions office to speak to an admissions counselor.

Select your program

Students struggling to narrow their list of options may consider more minor details to help them select a program. Test score deadlines and minimum scores will help some students eliminate some possibilities. Because application fees can be costly, students should create an application budget to help them narrow their selections. Some schools offer an application fee waiver for students needing financial aid, a great advantage for some students.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Financial aid is available in many forms today. Applying through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an excellent place to start, as most schools use the information from this application to determine eligibility for federal student loans and grants and institutional aid like need-based scholarships. Many schools also use the CSS Profile to help determine a student’s financial aid eligibility.

Students can also explore opportunities for scholarships and grants from outside organizations. Individuals who are working while enrolled in their online emergency management degree program can inquire with their employer about tuition assistance benefits.

Best 50 Accredited Online Emergency Management Programs

Best Emergency Management Degree Programs

Arkansas State University

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Jacksonville State University

SUNY College of Technology at Canton

Idaho State University

University of Akron

University of Nebraska Omaha

Arkansas Tech University

New England College

Bellevue University

University of Florida

West Texas A&M University

Kansas Wesleyan University

National University

Saint Louis University

Anderson University

Western Carolina University

Immaculata University

Notre Dame College

Thomas Edison State University

Columbia College

University of Central Missouri

Indiana Institute of Technology

Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Saint Leo University

Louisiana State University

Barry University

Adelphi University

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Eastern New Mexico University

University of Central Florida

Colorado State University

Pennsylvania College of Technology

Northern Arizona University

Truckee Meadows Community College

Bethel University

Ohio Christian University

Utah Valley University

Crown College

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the best online emergency management degree programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and the student resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online emergency management degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect from an Online Emergency Management Program?

Students in an online emergency management degree program receive instruction in four central areas, including preparedness, response, recovery, and relief in emergency situations. The curriculum is typically split between core classes and electives.

For an associate degree, students must earn a minimum of 60 credits. Most bachelor’s programs require completion of at least 120 credit hours to earn a Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS), or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in emergency management. Meanwhile, master’s degrees typically require a minimum of 30 credit hours to earn a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA).

Many online emergency management degree programs require internships or capstone projects to teach students how to apply what they learn in courses to real-world experiences. A capstone project may involve a case study where students receive an emergency scenario for which they must outline how they will respond. Some capstone projects may include real-world work hours with an emergency management team.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online emergency management degree program

  • Science for Disasters. Students learn the basics of various threats that can lead to disasters, including biological, chemical, climate, and earth science. Specific topics covered include earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, cyclones, pathogen outbreaks, explosions, and radiological or nuclear threats. Students also learn the issues that follow disasters, such as people needing homes and medical assistance.
  • Foundations of Emergency Management. Course materials cover the history and importance of emergency management professionals. Students also learn how local, state, and federal emergency management works. They discover new technologies that assist in a crisis, communication, building relationships with key groups, and stress-management techniques for emergencies.
  • Volunteer Management. Emergency managers must know how to recruit volunteers and delegate tasks. They learn what to do with volunteers who show up unannounced and how to handle donations like food, water, and cash. Without specific planning, these tasks can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Business Planning Services. All communities have businesses, schools, and organizations that benefit from learning how to prepare for disasters. Students learn how to assist companies in creating safe emergency plans they can utilize in a crisis. Students learn about various agencies communities can connect with for resources and assistance.

What Can I Do With an Online Emergency Management Degree?

This is an ideal bachelor’s degree for students who want to serve communities and organizations by preventing and preparing for crises.

Emergency management personnel are found in local, state, and federal government agencies, hospitals, schools, and other organizations. This is a collaborative field, which often requires coordination with police and fire departments, elected officials, non-profit organizations, volunteer agencies, and more. Emergency management personnel typically must be on-call for unexpected situations and may have to travel to the site of disasters, depending on their position.

This degree also equips students with transferable skills like critical thinking and decision-making, especially in stressful situations, leadership, and interpersonal communication.

Career outlook

  • Emergency management director — Prepare plans and procedures for responding to natural disasters and other emergencies and help lead the response during and after emergencies, often in coordination with public safety officials, elected officials, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
    • Median annual salary: $83,960
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New jobs projected: 900 per year
  • Project management specialist — Coordinate the budget, schedule, and other details of a project; assemble and lead teams related to projects, and serve as a point of contact for the client or customer.
    • Median annual salary: $98,580
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 6%
    • New jobs projected: 68,100 per year
  • Public safety telecommunicator — Answer requests from people who need help and connect them with appropriate services, including police, firefighters, or other emergency services personnel.
    • Median annual salary: $48,890
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New jobs projected: 10,400 per year

Online Emergency Management Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online emergency management degree program?

Students applying to more than one university should contact each school’s admissions department to verify their requirements, which may include different materials and deadlines. Most schools accept applications and supporting documents electronically. Undergraduate students also have the option to use the Common Application to apply to multiple schools at once.

When sending transcripts and standardized test scores, make sure they are sent directly by the school or testing agency so they can be considered official.

How much does an online emergency management degree program cost?

This will vary based on a few factors, including a school’s status as a public or private institution. The tuition tends to be higher at private institutions compared to public schools. However, public schools may charge different tuition rates based on whether students are in-state or out-of-state.

Schools also typically charge online students additional fees for technical support and learning technology, student support services, library resources, labs, and more. Other common expenses include textbooks and supplies as well as fees for applications, standardized tests, and official transcripts.

However, online degree programs can save students money in areas like transportation, on-campus activities, meal plans, and parking fees.

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

Many factors determine the length of a degree program. Students earning a bachelor’s in emergency management can expect to complete at least 120 credit hours. A master’s program requires at least 30 credit hours. Full-time students can take four years for a bachelor’s and two years for a master’s. Part-time students can expect to add at least one year to the total time.

Some programs are offered in an accelerated format, which compresses coursework into a shorter time frame, allowing students to complete their degree faster. However, unexpected life circumstances can interfere with a student’s degree completion timeline.

Is an online emergency management degree worth it?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of emergency management directors and personnel is expected to grow at an average pace through 2032, meaning there will be some competition for available jobs. Individuals who have a bachelor’s degree and internship experience will likely have an advantage in the hiring process over those who do not.

Emergency management directors earn a median annual wage of $83,960, which is significantly higher than the median annual wage for all occupations. Individuals who work in certain sectors of the industry, such as hospitals or universities, can earn upwards of $96,000 per year.

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