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Emergency Management Degree

The field of emergency management encompasses all of the programs and agencies that people depend on for quick recovery from unexpected natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires as well as events related to human-caused disasters like widespread pollution or terrorism. Through either a two- or four-year degree program, emergency management majors learn about the interactions between agencies, first responders, and the public to understand how to create and enact the policies and plans that enable all three spheres to work together effectively and efficiently in an emergency.

Emergency Management Training and Courses

Since timing is critical in responding to emergencies, planning is the major focus in most emergency management courses. Planning includes communications strategies for reaching the general public in the event of the loss of one or more forms of media, as well as the allocation of resources such as transportation, medical personnel, and rescue equipment. It also includes strategies for mitigating the impact of disasters through prior planning and prevention. These principles allow emergency managers and first responders to save lives, which is the number one priority in an emergency.

Did you know? During the Cold War, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) focused many of its resources on responding to a nuclear attack. Today preparing for and responding to terrorist attacks is one the main areas of focus for FEMA, working together with the Department of Homeland Security and many other federal agencies.1

Those who plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in emergency management may also take courses on how to handle specific events, such as bioterrorism and wildfires. Many courses include special practicums that allow students to practice setting up a command center and directing activities while receiving information about real-world scenarios from instructors.

Examples of courses in an emergency management degree curriculum include:

  • Organizational Theory
  • Psycho-Social Impacts of Mass Disasters
  • Psychology of Disaster
  • Hazard Risk and Vulnerability Assessment
  • Emergency Planning
  • Information Technology in Emergency Management
  • Crisis Communication for Emergency Managers
  • The National Incident Management System
  • Organization and Management of Disaster Response
  • Bioterrorism

Emergency Management Professional Certification

Certifications in emergency management vary according to experience and specialty, but one of the most coveted certifications is the Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), awarded by the National Coordinating Council on Emergency Management. To receive CEM certification, individuals must possess a bachelor’s degree, have at least three years of emergency management experience, and undergo a peer review similar to a post-graduate thesis.

Profiles of Emergency Management Degree Programs

Jacksonville State University offers a Master’s in Emergency Management program that can be earned through 30 credit hours of graduate study. 21 credit hours are taken from the required program core with an additional nine credit hours earned through electives at the 500-level. The core curriculum encompasses foundational courses such as Emergency Preparedness, Research Methods in Emergency Management, and Hazard Mitigation to prepare students for advanced careers in the emergency management field. During the graduation term, students must pass a comprehensive examination to earn their degree. Although the majority of students pursue traditional on-campus study, the degree requirements can also be met through online study. After acceptance, students have six years to complete the degree requirements, which makes possible the flexibility of part-time study for working students. The faculty of Jacksonville State University’s Emergency Management Department are experienced professionals recognized for quality academics and research.

North Dakota State University awards a Master’s in Emergency Management that can be completed on one of two tracks, Thesis or Comprehensive Study. The Thesis track requires 39 credit hours to complete, which includes a nine credit hour general core and a 12 credit hour core in disaster phases as well as a three credit hour practicum. The Comprehensive Study track requires 42 credit hours to complete, including a 15 credit hour core, 18 credit hours of electives, and a six credit hour practicum as well as a comprehensive study paper. Example electives for either track include Hazard, Risk, and Vulnerability Assessment; Comprehensive Emergency Management Planning; and International Emergency Management. Both curricula emphasize understanding all phases of emergency management: preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. The Department of Emergency Management at North Dakota State is a member of the Emergency Management Higher Education Consortium and is committed to developing and advancing emergency management as an academic discipline.

Georgetown University, through its School of Continuing Studies, awards an Executive Master of Professional Studies in Emergency and Disaster Management. This degree program emphasizes professional leadership and expertise through strategic and critical thinking. The one-year program is cohort-based and involves intensive field study and interaction with emergency management experts on real-world scenarios during four onsite experiences. Off-site learning is pursued through online instruction during each of the five curriculum modules. The curriculum culminates in a capstone that challenges students’ critical thinking and planning skills through large-scale disaster and multiple-day disaster simulations. Students benefit from the school’s partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which offers training and learning opportunities through demonstrations, internships, and advisement. Admission to the program is competitive, and the school is particularly seeking students who have previous public service experience as well as demonstrated academic success.

Job Opportunities for Emergency Management Degree Program Graduates

Degrees in emergency management prepare graduates to work in emergency management positions for local, state, and federal government agencies, where they will coordinate with first responders such as fire departments and rescue squads. Emergency management graduates may also find employment with consultancies that provide risk management consulting, or on the security staff of large manufacturing or mining operations. After graduating from an emergency management program and earning real-world experience, many emergency management graduates go on to work for worldwide organizations such as the United Nations, where they can make an impact on issues that affect citizens across the globe. While employment data is not available for all emergency management personnel, O*Net OnLine reports that emergency management directors earned a median annual salary of $67,330 as of 2015.2 Employment growth for emergency management directors is expected to be between 5 and 8% through 2024.2

Online Emergency Management Degree Program Info, Courses, and Criminal Justice Schools

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1. The Federal Emergency Management Agency: https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1823-25045-8164/pub_1_final.pdf
2. O*Net OnLine, Emergency Management Directors: http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9161.00