Emergency Management Degree

The field of emergency management encompasses the programs and agencies that people depend on for assistance during and quick recovery from unexpected natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires as well as events related to human-caused disasters like widespread pollution and terrorism. 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. Salaries for emergency management directors can range depending on the area of specialty, but average $72,760 annually.1

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 of the main areas of focus for FEMA, working together with the Department of Homeland Security and many other federal agencies.2

Emergency Management Training and Courses

Since timing is critical in responding to emergencies, planning is the major focus in most emergency management programs. Planning includes communications strategies for reaching the general public in the event of an emergency and/or 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.

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 practica 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

Please note that a degree cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. Additional academy training or education may be required for law enforcement jobs.

Traditional Emergency Management Degree Programs

Georgetown University logo

Georgetown University (Washington, DC)

Through its School of Continuing Studies, Georgetown University 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 five 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 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. The school offers the program through a traditional on-campus format and online.

North Dakota State University logo

North Dakota State University (Fargo, ND)

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.

Online Emergency Management Degree Programs

Jacksonville State University logo

Jacksonville State University (Jacksonville, FL)

Jacksonville State University offers bachelor's, master's and doctorate programs in Emergency Management online. The bachelor program comprises 120 credits, including 30 credits of emergency management core courses. This degree prepares students to begin a career in this emerging field. The graduate programs prepare students either for research or practice in many areas of emergency management. The master's degree can be earned through 30 credit hours of graduate study, including 21 required core courses 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. The doctoral degree requires 60 credits, including 18 dissertation credits, and focuses on administration and policy. The faculty of Jacksonville State University's Emergency Management Department are experienced professionals recognized for quality academics and research.

Western Carolina University logo

Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC)

Western Carolina University is a member of the University of North Carolina system and offers a Bachelor of Science in Emergency and Disaster Management online. The program is designed to be flexible for both full-time and part-time study options and has an emphasis on leadership. The degree requires 120 credits, including 51 credits in the emergency management core, 42 credits in liberal arts/general education, and 27 credits of electives. The curriculum brings together interdisciplinary perspectives from politics, law, and communications, requiring courses such as Risk Assessment and Hazard Mitigation, Public Administration, and Leadership & Crisis. Students have the option of completing a practicum to gain hands-on experience before entering the workforce and must complete a simulation evaluation in the final term of the program.

Emergency Management Job Description

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. Bachelor's degree graduates may work directly with communities to plan and prepare for emergency situations while master's emergency management graduates may 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, some emergency management graduates go on to work for worldwide organizations such as the United Nations or World Health Organization, where they can make an impact on issues that affect citizens across the globe. Doctoral graduates may also work as consultants in policy or public administration roles.

Related Jobs

Interested in what jobs you can get with an emergency management degree? Check out these related careers:

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 International Association of Emergency Managers. To receive CEM certification, individuals must possess a bachelor's degree, have at least three years of emergency management experience, and pass a 100-question multiple choice exam.

Emergency Management Salary and Job Outlook

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 $72,760 as of 2017.1 Employment growth for emergency management directors is expected to be between 5 and 9% through 2026.1 Graduates with this degree may also find work in the security field. Security managers earned a median salary of $105,610 in 2017 and also have 5 to 9% projected jobs growth through 2026.3 Finally, business continuity planners earned $70,010 as a median salary in 2017 and are expected to see 5 to 9% jobs growth through 2026.4

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do you need a master's degree in emergency management to work in this sector?

Answer: No. There are many bachelor's degree programs that will prepare you to get started as an emergency management professional; however, you may wish to pursue a graduate degree if you are interested in supervisory or leadership positions.

Question: How long will it take me to complete an emergency management degree?

Answer: Similar to other undergraduate degree programs, a bachelor's degree in emergency management can be completed in as little as four years of full-time study. A master's degree can take as little as one year, although two years is more common. A doctoral degree may take at least four years to complete.

1. O*NET OnLine, Emergency Management Directors: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9161.00
2. The Federal Emergency Management Agency: https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1823-25045-8164/pub_1_final.pdf
3. O*NET OnLine, Security Managers: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9199.07
4. O*NET OnLine, Business Continuity Planners: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/13-1199.04

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