The Advantages of an Emergency Management Education
While an associate degree may enable you to assume some entry-level positions, a bachelor's degree serves as the minimum education requirement for many positions in the emergency management field. Emergency management careers require strong organizational and management skills, along with in-depth knowledge of complex emergency response procedures — competencies a four-year bachelor's program gives you plenty of time to develop.
Earning your emergency management bachelor's degree online prepares you to enter a wide variety of positions in the field, particularly higher level roles that require you to manage other emergency personnel. A bachelor's opens most career paths in the industry, but certain highly specialized roles in upper management may require a master's degree. In the following section, you'll find an overview of general career prospects for emergency management specialists, along with a selection of common careers for bachelor's degree holders in the field.
Choosing an Online Emergency Management Degree Program
Because pursuing a bachelor's degree involves significant investments of time and money, deciding which institution best serves your needs should not be taken lightly. Ensure that you have fully investigated all your options, keeping in mind that in-state schools are often more affordable, even for online programs. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you examine schools:
Accreditation for Emergency Management
When researching online emergency management degrees, always make sure that a program has proper accreditation. This process indicates that a college meets standards for academic and organizational effectiveness and provides adequate preparation for career success or further academic study. All reputable colleges in the U.S. hold either national or regional accreditation, with national accreditation typically serving vocational institutions and regional accreditation typically reserved for traditional academic institutions.
While no specific accreditation agency assesses emergency management programs, those administered by regionally accredited colleges or universities have established their reputability. Look for accreditation from one of six regional agencies: the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the New England Commission of Higher Education, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
If you ever need to determine a school's accreditation status and have trouble finding information on its website, you can check both the Department of Education (ED) or the Council for Higher Education Administration (CHEA). These agencies work together to oversee accreditation standards for colleges and universities, with CHEA serving as the main authority that evaluates regional and national accreditation agencies.
Emergency Management Concentrations
Some programs allow you to choose a concentration. In a business continuity concentration, you can learn how to help businesses prevent economic losses following disasters. If you want to work in state or local government, you can specialize in homeland security. This concentration covers terrorism prevention and response. When researching these and other concentrations, pay close attention to how they align with your career goals and interests.
A popular concentration for emergency management students, this field focuses on strategies for detecting and averting threats to U.S. national security, including terrorist attacks. Most programs emphasize a global approach, exploring the roots of terrorism, intelligence collection, threat assessment, and response strategies.
- Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Homeland Security Officer, FBI Agent, CIA Operative
Wildfires present a growing risk in many parts of the country, and fire science explores methods for fire prevention, crisis management, and emergency response. Fire science graduates often work with state or federal agencies to prevent and respond to forest fires, though they may also work to combat urban and industrial fires, as well.
- Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Firefighter, Safety and Disaster Coordinator
This generalized concentration trains students to respond to disasters. Disaster preparedness specialists commonly focus on logistics and organization to ensure that disaster agencies maintain adequate crisis management plans. This concentration often includes courses in resource management, risk assessment, and communications.
- Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Emergency Management Specialist
Public service plays a large role in emergency management, and this concentration focuses on the communicative and organizational aspects of the field. Students gain the skills to manage communications and response efforts during disasters, typically taking courses in organizational behavior, communications, law, and ethics.
- Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Emergency Management Coordinator
This popular concentration explores emergency management in the context of business operations, preparing companies to navigate emergencies and continue operations after disaster events. Most programs focus on protecting data and maintaining organizational efficiency in the face of disaster. Business continuity students typically complete supplementary business courses to understand business operations further.
- Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Operations Manager, Information Technology Manager
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Emergency Management?
Several factors can affect the length of an online emergency management degree, but the most common factor is your program format. Many online programs offer a choice between part- and full-time enrollment, allowing for the flexibility to take a lighter course load if you have significant responsibilities outside of school (such as work or family obligations). Part-time enrollment means fewer class obligations each semester, but it also results in a lengthier degree completion time, typically requiring more than four years total.
Conversely, enrolling full time typically enables you to complete your online emergency management degree in about four years, even faster if you enroll in summer courses. However, full-time enrollment requires serious commitment and can make it difficult to balance school with other obligations. If you have a highly flexible schedule, some schools even offer accelerated programs that enable you to take extra courses each semester, graduating in under four years.
Courses in an Online Bachelor's in Emergency Management Program
Online emergency management degree programs take a holistic approach to education. Courses should teach you valuable skills, such as leadership, mitigating harm, and coordinating with various government and private relief agencies. These classes give you the skills necessary to respond to any emergency.
- Emergency Management Leadership: Leadership in the world of emergency management poses unique challenges, such as resource management and extremely quick decision-making. This course explores major theories and leadership tools, including persuasion and influence, conflict management, accountable budgeting, and interactions with outside agencies.
- Politics of Emergency Management: Emergency management services frequently intersects with government agencies and other institutional structures. This course examines government organizations and policies at the local, state, and federal levels to evaluate the impact these systems have on disaster relief efforts and corresponding public policy.
- Applied Research in Emergency Management: Research forms the foundation for many common emergency management techniques and policies, and this course gives students the tools to conduct research and evaluate others' work in the field. Many courses require students to complete research projects into areas of emergency management.
- Emergency Planning and Administration: This course explores the theories and principles of emergency planning, giving students the tools to assess risks and implement preparedness measures. Common course topics include operational controls, public accountability, and emergency management budgeting. Students also explore the intersection of emergency management with government agencies and nonprofits.
- Technology in Emergency Management: Like most fields, emergency management increasingly relies on technology to increase efficiency and facilitate decision-making. This course explores common tools for incident management and emergency communication, giving students the skills to prioritize technology and make effective purchasing decisions for emergency management organizations.
Emergency Management Degree Salary Information
Emergency managers work as emergency responders and risk prevention specialists in the private and public sectors. Like in other career fields, experience and education can help you advance in your career. The occupations below represent only a sample of the possible careers you may pursue after completing your homeland security or emergency management degree online.
Emergency management specialists, in one of the most common careers in the emergency management field, prepare response efforts for emergencies and other disasters. They may work full time or as consultants in a variety of environments, such as government organizations, private companies, or hospitals.
Emergency managers operate in a supervisory capacity, overseeing emergency preparation and response efforts. They may be responsible for creating and enacting disaster response plans for entire organizations or communities. Emergency managers must often coordinate with government officials, other public safety officials, and disaster relief organizations.
Management and program analysts in this role concentrate on the evaluation and improvement of emergency preparedness measures and responses. They conduct deep organizational studies into potential threats and response strategies, determining methods to improve efficiency. This job involves significant research and quantitative reasoning skills.
Materials managers work with hazardous materials, such as chemicals or industrial waste. Along with standard operations management, many companies employ materials managers who take responsibility for disaster preparedness, such as chemical spills, fires, or industrial explosions. Like other emergency managers, materials managers also coordinate preparedness and response protocols.
Research analysts evaluate emergency response protocols to improve efficiency. However, they focus specifically on research-based analysis, examining operations-related trends to inform organizational decision-making. They may also create complex simulations to gather data for improved emergency response practices.
Salary by Experience for Emergency Management Careers
|Emergency Management Specialist
|Management and Program Analyst
|Research Analyst, Operations
Emergency Management Membership Associations
As one of the country's premier emergency management organizations, NEMA offers peer networking, education opportunities, and community engagement. The organization hosts several annual forums and meetings that bring together emergency management professionals of all types.
Founded in 1962, DERA seeks to connect disaster organizations, professionals, and volunteers across the world. The organization offers mentorship, technical training, quarterly publications, and a comprehensive disaster management reference library for members.
Dedicated to homeland security, the IACSP serves security professionals through educational resources, trade publications, and professional conferences. The organization also publishes Counter Terrorism, a quarterly journal for security professionals.
A nonprofit that provides education and professional accreditation services, DRI has certified more than 15,000 disaster recovery professionals in more than 100 countries around the world. The organization also offers an assortment of specialized disaster management certifications.
One of the world's largest professional organizations for emergency management professionals, IAEM advocates and advises for emergency management policy, provides training and professional certifications, and hosts conferences around the world.
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