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

The field of emergency management straddles several disciplines, including public safety, homeland security and criminal justice. Professionals who complete an online master’s in emergency management typically go on to work for various agencies in the municipal, state and federal government. Emergency management leaders may find opportunities with large multinational organizations or companies that face various types of catastrophes or crises. Emergency management leaders are charged with developing and deploying strategies to protect various resources, including utilities, essential government personnel and citizens who may be impacted by a man-made or natural disaster.

Enrolling in an online master’s in emergency management lets students continue within their current career while absorbing deep learning opportunities for their future endeavors. An online degree can offer many forms of flexibility, including completing coursework during the hours best suited to their current schedule. Additionally, some universities offer asynchronous scheduling, letting students complete entire courses at their own pace. Finally, an online degree lets students remain in their chosen location, rather than having to move to enroll in an institution.

Degrees Offered for an Online Master’s in Emergency Management

Homeland Security The homeland security concentration focuses on areas including intelligence, counterintelligence, surveillance, terrorism and law enforcement courses. FBI, CIA, DOJ, DIA and homeland security agents and supervisors
Public Safety The public safety concentration gets future emergency professionals ready to work with law enforcement and other emergency organizations through course learnings related to the management of public policy and public welfare. FEMA administrator, public safety administrator, public safety manager
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 and are equipped for rapid response in the case of localized and national emergencies. Public health administrators, public health managers

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Emergency Management

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

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

Course Description
Disaster Response and Recovery Studying how public officials and agencies can respond promptly and appropriately to various disasters
Emergency Planning and Preparedness Learning how to develop broad range policies, procedures and paradigms that help emergency organizations address different emergencies
Federal Emergency Management Exploring how FEMA and other governmental agencies address the prevention and response plans for disasters, emergencies and other crises. including terrorism
Global Terrorism Response Learning about the backbone of government agency programs and procedures to prevent acts of terrorism through the disruption of terrorist cells and learning about the development of programs that can activate immediately in response to a terrorist strike

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s in Emergency Management?

Schools who offer an online in master’s in emergency management typically require between 30 and 36 credit hours to complete the program, although some schools require up to 48 hours. Some lockstep and asynchronous programs can be completed in just 18 months, although most master’s in this subject area last 24 months.

Students may be able to reduce their term of study by transferring relevant master’s credit hours earned in emergency management and related areas. Schools typically limit the number of credit transfers to cover just a few classes. 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 additional career paths.

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

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Emergency Management Prepares For

Certified Emergency Manager Attaining certification as an emergency manager recognizes the skills and knowledge a professional has attained to work in the field of 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 a combination of 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 to emergency management, public safety and law enforcement personnel. Professionals can identify the specific certification their education and experience best aligns with and then undergo preparatory coursework and certifying testing.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Emergency Management Degrees

Schools that offer master’s in emergency management degrees may be accredited for their coursework by a number of organizations including regional and national accrediting bodies as well as organizations specific to the emergency management, public safety, homeland security and criminal justice fields. This accreditation shows that the school and program have been rigorously vetted by an independent party such as the Council for the Accreditation of Emergency Management Education or the Emergency Management Accreditation Program. Geographical accreditation councils that recognize schools offering degrees in emergency management include:

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Emergency Management Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Professionals with a bachelor’s degree in emergency management can fill many different entry-level and mid-level industry position. To attain higher level supervisory, management or directorial positions, candidates should possess a master’s degree. Jobs related to emergency management are considered a part of steady growth industries, as those jobs remain highly necessary even during times when the economy has been hit by a recession. As the population grows, additional personal will become necessary to protect the public welfare and respond adequately to disasters and emergencies. Professionals with bachelor’s and master’s degrees can continue to enhance their career through certifications offered by respected industry bodies. Additionally, the continuing education required to maintain those certifications can ensure that emergency management personnel perform at peak levels due to constant learning opportunities.

Expected Salary

An education in emergency management prepares students to take on roles in a variety of agencies and organizations, including public safety, homeland security and law enforcement.

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 to achieve after completing their studies is as an emergency management director with either a government organization or large corporation. About 9,500 emergency management directors lead important teams and projects throughout the country.

This table illustrates the correlation of industry to salary for top level managers including organizational development executives.

Colleges and Universities 320 $97,350
Local Government 5,410 $76,150
State Government 1,570 $72,740
Hospitals 850 $95,990
Electric Power Plants 190 $117,910

Career Opportunities

After earning their master’s in emergency management, students can target key roles defined by the concentrations and specialties they pursued.

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 organization. These professionals also manage the everyday operations their employees undertake to prepare for and respond to disasters and crises. $72,760 per year 8%
Health and Safety Engineers Health and safety engineers work to design programs and policies to keep professionals and workplaces safe and healthy during everyday operations and times of disasters and emergencies. An emergency management degree helps professionals evaluate and design optimal plans to mitigate the impact of unforeseen events. $88,510 per year 9%
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 various potential disruptions. $94,020 per year 10%

Professional Organizations

Emergency management students and professionals can enhance their schooling and career through membership with an industry organization. These organizations offer continuing education opportunities, periodic conferences, policy papers specific to emergency management, local chapters and many networking occasions. All of 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 was founded to enable state directors for emergency management to connect with one another, 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 in many countries around the world. The organization also offers several professional certifications, including the Certified Emergency Manager.

International Association for Disaster Preparedness and Response: This organization, open to both 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 Public Relations Degree

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

To begin the financial aid process, students must first 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 to have portions of their federal loans forgiven by the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.



Scholarships Details

Start Farm FLASH Financial Scholarship

Award: $1,500

Deadline: April 15

Eligibility: Master’s or doctoral students who choose to study issues related to the financials of mitigating and recovering from natural disasters. Students must submit information about their study and proposals as well as other academic paperwork.

IAEM Scholarship Program

Award: Varied

Deadline: June 12

Eligibility: Students at all levels of studies working toward degrees in emergency management. Students must write a paper outlining their career aspirations and their commitment to their current studies. This competitive scholarship program evaluates students based on that paper, academics and prior experience.