What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Emergency Management Program?

By enrolling in an online master’s in emergency management, students can expect to continue their current career while also taking classes to further their education. An online degree can offer flexibility, allowing students to complete coursework during the hours best suited to their current schedule. Additionally, some universities provide asynchronous scheduling, letting students complete entire courses at their own pace. Finally, an online degree enables students to remain in their chosen location rather than having to move to enroll in an institution.

Available concentrations

Within the field of emergency management, there are opportunities to specialize in an area of particular interest to you. Some of the concentration options that may be available to you include the following:

  • Homeland security: The homeland security concentration focuses on intelligence, counterintelligence, surveillance, terrorism, and law enforcement courses. Graduates may work in organizations including the FBI, CIA, DOJ, and DIA or serve as homeland security agents and supervisors.
  • Public safety: The public safety concentration prepares future emergency professionals to work with law enforcement and other emergency organizations through courses related to public policy and general welfare management. This concentration may lead to positions as FEMA administrators, public safety administrators, or public safety managers.
  • Public health: Courses in the public health concentration equip future professionals to prepare for and respond to crises that endanger health and welfare through programs that protect citizens. They also learn about rapid response in local and national emergencies. Graduates with this concentration may serve as public health administrators or managers. 

Common degree curriculum

Prospective students can choose between various emergency management master’s programs, including a Master of Science in Emergency Services Administration, a Master’s in Emergency and Disaster Management, a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Emergency Management, and a Master of Science in Emergency Management. To determine the best program for their career goals, future students should consider the focus of the primary classes offered in a program and the concentrations and electives available. Some programs require bridging classes between bachelor’s and master’s studies if students have not previously studied or worked in related areas.

Students pursuing a master’s in emergency management may take some of the following courses:

  • Disaster Response and Recovery: This course studies how public officials and agencies can respond promptly and appropriately to disasters.
  • Emergency Planning and Preparedness: This course discusses how to develop a broad range of policies, procedures, and paradigms that help organizations address emergencies.
  • Federal Emergency Management: Explores how FEMA and other governmental agencies address the prevention and response plans for disasters, emergencies, and other crises, including terrorism.
  • Global Terrorism Response: Reviews how government agency programs and procedures prevent acts of terrorism through the disruption of terrorist cells and discusses the development of programs that can activate immediately in response to a terrorist strike.

Certification and license preparation

Although not all positions related to emergency management require certification or licensing, a few options may benefit graduates in this field. A certification may make a job applicant more likely to be reviewed favorably by potential employers. Here are a few certifications available for graduates:

  • Certified Emergency Manager: Attaining certification as an emergency manager recognizes the skills and knowledge a professional has attained to work in emergency management preparedness and response. This certification requires at least three years in the field plus 100 hours of emergency management training and 100 hours of management training plus a 100-question examination.
  • Certified Homeland Protection Associate or Professional: Becoming certified as a Homeland Protection Associate or Professional through the National Sheriffs’ Association acknowledges a professional’s experience and education in homeland security issues. These certifications require experience and education, plus successful testing and vetting.
  • FEMA Certification: FEMA, in conjunction with the Emergency Management Institute, offers various levels and types of certification for emergency management, public safety, and law enforcement personnel. Professionals can identify the certification their education and experience best align with and then undergo preparatory coursework and testing.

Program accreditation

When researching schools that offer master’s degrees in emergency management, it’s essential to confirm their accreditation status. Institutions can have regional or national accreditation. The type of accreditation a school has can impact financial aid eligibility, the ability to transfer credits to other institutions, and future employment opportunities. Students can verify their school’s accreditation status by searching the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) database. 

Some agencies accredit emergency management degree programs, including the Council for the Accreditation of Emergency Management Education and the Emergency Management Accreditation Program. 

Program completion timeframe

Schools that offer an online master’s in emergency management typically require between 30 and 48 credit hours to complete the program. Some lockstep and asynchronous programs can be completed in 18 months, although most master’s in this subject area last 24 months.

Students can reduce their term of study by transferring relevant credit hours earned in emergency management and related areas. Schools typically limit the number of credit transfers. Alternatively, students may need to attend additional terms to complete concentrations or specialties beyond the typical credit load. Future emergency management personnel may consider completing several concentrations that open other career paths.

Almost all online master’s in emergency management require a capstone research class/project that takes a deep dive into the field and helps students identify a need within the emergency management field, research that need thoroughly, and propose solutions. Within some degree programs, students may also complete internships or practicums to gain hands-on experience beneficial to their post-degree work.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Emergency Management Graduates

Professionals with a bachelor’s degree in emergency management can fill many entry-level and mid-level industry positions. To attain higher-level supervisory, management, or directorial positions, candidates should possess a master’s degree. Jobs related to emergency management are considered part of a steady growth industry, as those jobs remain highly necessary even when a recession has hit the economy. As the population grows, additional personnel will become essential to protect the public welfare and respond adequately to disasters and emergencies. 

Professionals with bachelor’s and master’s degrees can continue enhancing their careers through certifications from respected industry bodies. Additionally, the continuing education required to maintain those certifications can ensure emergency management personnel perform at peak levels due to constant learning opportunities.

The breadth and depth of learning students acquire through their studies for a master’s in emergency management prepares them to enter many industries and roles. One key role many students seek after completing their studies is as an emergency management director with either a government organization or a large corporation. About 9,500 emergency management directors lead important teams and projects throughout the country.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors work in the public and private sectors to lead the design of disaster and emergency response policies for their organizations. These professionals also manage their employees’ everyday operations to prepare for and respond to disasters and crises.

$79,180 per year

3%

Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers design programs and policies to keep professionals and workplaces safe and healthy during everyday operations and during disasters and emergencies. An emergency management degree helps professionals evaluate and create optimal plans to mitigate the impact of unforeseen events.

$100,660 per year

4%

Public Safety Administrator

Public safety administrators call upon their emergency management studies to work within organizations and government to design programs and initiatives to protect citizens and resources, interface with law enforcement, and prepare for potential disruptions.

$94,020 per year

10%

Professional organizations

Emergency management students and professionals can enhance their careers through membership in an industry organization. These organizations offer continuing education opportunities, periodic conferences, policy papers on emergency management, local chapters, and networking opportunities. Those offerings help professionals remain at the top of their profession through legislative analysis, lobbying, and access to constantly updated news and trends.

  • National Emergency Management Association (NEMA): NEMA enables state emergency management directors to connect, share best practices, learn together, and access resources like continuing education and legislative updates. Today, the group has expanded to welcome other emergency management professionals in different roles.
  • The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM): This international organization is similar to the NEMA but is open to professionals globally. The organization offers several professional certifications, including the Certified Emergency Manager.
  • International Association for Disaster Preparedness and Response: This organization, open to emergency and disaster planning and response personnel, equips members with access to learning and information on industry topics, including a digital library and archive system with inclusions to enhance the work of industry leaders.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Emergency Preparedness Degree

Obtaining graduate-level education can be a costly undertaking. However, online master’s degrees are often less expensive than those earned on brick-and-mortar campuses. In addition, prospective emergency management students can access many ways to fund their schooling, including scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and loans.

To begin the financial aid process, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That form, which includes information about your financial need and current income, helps students learn about the federally backed programs available. Outside of federal financial aid, students can also obtain aid from their chosen school, philanthropic organizations, and industry groups related to emergency management.

Additionally, graduates who enter the public safety field may be eligible for portions of their federal loans forgiven by the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

Do you have questions about the financial aid process? Would you like to know more before you begin working to fund your education? The following websites have more information that may be useful to you. 

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Interested in a degree?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.