An online bachelor's in emergency management prepares you to help people affected by disasters. When you think of emergency workers, people such as doctors, firefighters, and police officers may come to mind. These professionals perform critical work by directing front-line personnel and resources behind the scenes.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that positions in emergency management will grow by 8% from 2016 through 2026, outpacing the average growth for all professions in the United States. By earning your online bachelor's degree in emergency management, you can explore several job opportunities.
Ronald Wakeham is the Department Chair of Security and Emergency Services at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. From 1996 to 2016, he was a course developer and contract faculty member for the Department of Homeland Security. Ronald also serves as a Haz-Mat consultant and instructor for The Seminole Tribe of Florida, Emergency Services Department.
Emergency Management Degree Program Ranking Guidelines:
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of the program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Bachelor's in Emergency Management Degree Programs
1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Daytona Beach, Florida
Founded in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1925, ERAU offers a bachelor's of science in emergency services. Students can specialize in aviation emergency management or fire and emergency services. Graduates also receive a National Fire Academy certificate.
ERAU's online bachelor's degree in emergency management covers topics including human behavior, investigation and analysis, and occupational safety. Through ERAU's partnerships, students can complete research projects with the Dallas/Fort Worth Fire Training Research Center and the Aircraft Fire Fighting Working Group.
Online students pay the same per-credit tuition rate as on-campus students. Discounted tuition rates are available for active military and those serving in the reserves, as well as for their spouses and dependents. Students may transfer credits from accredited institutions, but must complete at least 30 credits through ERAU.
ERAU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the International Fire Services Accreditation Congress (IFSAC), and is certified by Fire Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE).
2. Philadelphia University
With more than three hundred years of experience between them, Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University combined in 2017. Newly formed Jefferson offers a bachelor's of science in health services management degree that develops management and leadership skills and prepares students for careers in a variety of healthcare roles.
The curriculum covers topics such as cross-cultural communication and diversity, public policy and planning, and emerging issues in healthcare. The program's professional education core comprises seven courses that prepare students for the workforce, regardless of their field. Course topics include principles of management, economic decision-making, and leadership theory.
Students earn the emergency management degree online in two to three years. Although the program requires 120 credits, the intensive, eight-week courses allow students to complete program requirements quickly.
Jefferson makes admissions decisions on a rolling basis. Transfer students can bring credits earned with a grade of C or better. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency, and students who enroll in at least six credits per term are eligible for financial aid.
Jefferson is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
3. Ohio Christian University
OCU offers a bachelor's of arts in business with a concentration in emergency management. The online program trains students to lead during disasters. Graduates contribute during every stage of disaster management and recovery, including providing immediate relief and rebuilding and redeveloping communities.
In addition to understanding emergency management strategies, concepts, and theories, students earning OCU's online emergency management degree learn to apply business concepts and improve business operations. This combination of skills is ideal for professionals involved in the rebuilding and redevelopment phase of disaster response. Business courses cover subjects including macroeconomics, ethics, and management. Concentration courses focus on disaster response and recovery, natural and manmade disasters, understanding trauma, and human conflict.
Students complete the program in as few as two years. Courses last five to six weeks and are available entirely online and at OCU's campuses in Ohio and Georgia. Online and on-campus students pay the same tuition rate, and military personnel qualify for discounted tuition.
OCU is now regionally accredited by the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Formerly, OCU was regionally accredited by the Ohio Board of Regents.
4. University of Central Missouri
Founded in Warrensburg in 1871, UCM offers a bachelor's of science in crisis and disaster management. Students earning the emergency management bachelor's online can concentrate in areas such as hazardous materials and business continuity.
The multidisciplinary, 120-credit program covers topics such as preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. Students complete a practicum that involves structured field experience. Students can earn credit through certificate programs including business continuity, environmental hazards, and emergency services management.
All online students pay the same discounted tuition rate, regardless of residency. During the 2015–2016 academic year, 90% of UCM students received financial aid. UCM accepts transfer credits from accredited institutions.
Online courses are delivered through Blackboard and follow the same schedule as on-campus classes. Online courses are asynchronous; students complete coursework at their convenience but are responsible for meeting deadlines.
UCM is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS).
5. Arkansas State University
Founded as a high school in 1909, A-State has more than 81,000 alumni and offers a bachelor's of science in disaster preparedness and emergency management. This online bachelor's degree in emergency management trains students to prepare for and mitigate emergencies and to plan for response and recovery.
The program requires 120 credits, which full-time students typically complete in four years. Students must be accepted by clinical agencies for practicum experiences. Because class sizes are limited, prospective students are encouraged to speak with an advisor early in their studies to ensure they complete necessary prerequisites.
A-State accepts transfer credits and awards up to 30 credits for professional training, military service, and volunteer service. Online students who are U.S. citizens pay the same in-state tuition rates. Online students are eligible for transfer scholarships, grants, and loans. Approximately 90% of A-State students receive financial aid.
A-State is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission North Central Association (HLCNCA), and the Council for the Accreditation of Emergency Management Education (CAEME).
6. Union Institute and University
With campuses in Ohio, Florida, California, and Vermont, Union offers flexible programs in online, on-campus, and hybrid formats. Union's bachelor's of science in emergency management services prepares students to handle dangerous situations and critical incidents.
Graduates become leaders and organizers who analyze organizations and situations to improve response times and save lives. The curriculum covers critical incident management and response, emergency services administration, and natural disasters and defense planning. Students can concentrate in organizational leadership or criminal justice management.
Students can apply up to 90 previous credits toward the 120-credit degree, including up to 50 experiential credits. Students can complete the program on a full-time or part-time basis, and classes begin every eight weeks. Students can apply many program credits toward a master's degree.
Students earning the online emergency management degree pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Union offers a deferred payment option, financial aid, scholarships, grants, and fellowships.
Union is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
7. Bellevue University
Founded in 1965, Bellevue was one of the earliest accredited schools to offer online degrees. The university's bachelor's of science in emergency management prepares students to address the increasing number of natural and manmade disasters.
Courses cover topics such as natural disasters, terrorism, and emergency communications and planning. Students learn to design exercises to educate and train others in disaster response. The program culminates in a capstone project, during which students plan, implement, and assess a disaster scenario.
Flexible online courses allow students to complete coursework on their own schedule. After completing 60 credit hours, online students can pursue the accelerated cohort option, in which groups of students work together to complete the program over 18 months. Students earning the emergency management degree online complete 127 credit hours, 30 of which must be earned through Bellevue and 12 of which must be in upper-division, major coursework.
Although online tuition is more expensive than on-campus tuition, all online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Discounted tuition rates are available for active military personnel, and Bellevue offers scholarships, grants, loans, and work study opportunities.
Bellevue University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
8. Immaculata University
Founded in 1920, IU was the first Catholic women's college in the Philadelphia area. The university has admitted men since 2005 and now offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. IU's bachelor's of science in emergency planning and management prepares students to address the physical, psychological, and economic needs of disaster survivors.
This online emergency management degree is designed for working professionals and offers courses in terms lasting seven to eight weeks. The accelerated, hybrid program structures coursework to meet the needs of busy students. IU accepts up to 72 transfer credits and awards credit for life, work, and military experience. Transfer students can complete the 126-credit program in as few as two years.
All students pay the same tuition rates, and IU offers an installment plan and financial aid. Discounted tuition rates are available for military members, veterans, and their families.
IU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and has been recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
9. Everglades University
Boca Raton, Florida
Founded in 1990 as American Flyers College, EU is based in Boca Raton, Florida. The university's BS in crisis and disaster management provides a collaborative learning environment for working professionals.
Students gain management and business skills necessary to make critical decisions during and after times of crisis. Courses cover topics including communication, planning and response, and emergency preparedness. The flexible program comprises 16-week classes and offers monthly start dates.
The 123-credit curriculum includes 54 credits in upper-division major courses, which cover topics such as terrorism and homeland security, hazard analysis and risk assessment, and crisis and disaster psychology. The program culminates in a capstone course.
Students complete the online emergency management degree in as few as 41 months, and students who transfer credits may graduate more quickly. EU limits students to 12 credits per semester, but students who maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA may take up to 18 credits per semester. All undergraduate students pay the same tuition rate, and financial aid is available.
EU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SASCOC).
10. Adelphi University
Garden City, New York
Adelphi was founded as a prep school in 1863, and by 1929, it was the first private, co-educational school on Long Island. In 2007, the bachelor's of science in emergency services administration became the university's first completely online program.
Designed by established emergency services professionals, the program trains students to deal with natural and manmade disasters. Coursework covers conflict management, legal aspects of emergency services, organizational behavior, and principles of management. Students complete two capstone courses.
The online bachelor's degree in emergency management requires 120 credits, and students can apply up to 60 prior learning credits toward the degree. Adelphi awards prior learning credit for police academy courses, EMT certification, and military training. The university accepts transfer credit, but students must complete at least 30 credits through Adelphi. Students who earn the maximum number of prior learning credits can complete the degree in as few as four semesters.
All online students pay the same tuition rates, which are lower than on-campus rates. Arkansas and North Carolina residents are not eligible for Adelphi's online programs.
Adelphi University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSACS).
11. Bethel University
Bethel was founded in the 1840s as a Presbyterian seminary and now has seven campuses across Tennessee. Bethel began offering online programs in 2007. The university's bachelor's of science in emergency services management provides flexibility for students with personal and professional commitments.
The 128-credit program requires 45 major credits in areas such as management of terrorist incidents, risk analysis and threat assessment, and financial management of emergency response organizations. The program prepares students for leadership positions in emergency services while minimizing degree completion time.
This online bachelor's degree in emergency management is designed for working professionals who have at least 30 hours of college credit. Students can transfer up to 80 credit hours, and Bethel awards credit for military service and police training. Applicants with fewer than three years of work experience must submit two letters of recommendation, an essay, and a resume.
The per-credit tuition rate includes all course fees, technology fees, and textbooks. Bethel offers loans, grants, and scholarships and provides tuition assistance for veterans and active military personnel.
Bethel University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
12. Arkansas Tech University
ATU's internationally recognized bachelor's of science in emergency management prepares students to become leaders in the field. The online emergency management degree requires a capstone course and an internship or practicum. Courses cover topics such as living in hazardous environments, emergency management doctrine, and the social dimensions of disaster.
Most students complete the program in four years, though students can earn the degree more quickly by taking more credits per semester or by studying during the summer. ATU accepts transfer credits earned with at least a 2.0 GPA from students in good standing with their previous school. Transfer credits must be approved by the student's academic advisor, the department head, and the college dean.
Residents of Arkansas and states bordering Arkansas receive discounted tuition rates. ATU offers several scholarships for emergency management majors.
Arkansas Tech University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Council for the Accreditation of Emergency Management Education (CAEME).
13. SUNY College of Technology at Canton
Canton, New York
Founded in 1906, SUNY Canton offers 13 online degrees and more than than 400 online courses. The university's bachelor's of science in emergency management prepares students to develop exercises and use technology to manage and mitigate disasters.
Students train with the latest software, including Graphical Information System and Virtual Emergency Operations Center, which the majority of states and federal agencies utilize. Students complete both tabletop and functional exercises and take courses in risk and hazard impact studies, principles of management, professional ethics, and incident command. Graduates analyze and respond to natural and manmade disasters and assume leadership roles across fields, industries, and agencies.
Students earning the emergency management degree online complete seven-week courses. New York residents pay discounted tuition rates, and all online students receive discounts over on-campus tuition. SUNY Canton accepts transfer credits and awards credit for prior life experience.
SUNY Canton is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
14. Barry University
Founded as a women's college in 1940, Barry is a Catholic university known for its flexible programs. The university's online bachelor's of science in emergency management builds on previous experience in fields such as public administration and sociology and prepares students to manage natural and manmade disasters.
The curriculum covers leadership development, emergency management for homeland security, hazard mitigation and management, and psychological issues of disaster preparedness and recovery. During a capstone course, students review and apply knowledge gained during the program. Students earning the emergency management bachelor's degree online enroll in seven-week courses. Graduates pursue positions mitigating the chaos of emergency situations.
Students can reduce costs and completion time by transferring previous credits and by earning up to 30 credits for work and life experience. All undergraduate students pay the same tuition rates, regardless of residency, and 90% of Barry students receive financial aid. Barry is a member of the Yellow Ribbon Program, which reduces tuition costs for veterans.
Barry University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
15. Indiana Institute of Technology
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Founded in Fort Wayne in 1930, Indiana Tech offers programs at several campuses in Indiana and Kentucky. The school provides online, career-focused degrees, including a bachelor's of science in emergency response management. The online emergency management degree explores topics including risk assessment, emergency planning, and incident command to train students for careers with state agencies and the U.S. military.
The 120-credit program comprises general education requirements, business and management courses, and major courses. The curriculum covers emergency planning, disaster response operations and management, legal and ethical aspects of emergency response and management, and a capstone course. Graduates manage the immediate aftermath of emergencies and the rebuilding process.
All online students pay the same tuition rate, and Indiana Tech offers grants and scholarships. Students can reduce the cost of the degree by transferring up to 90 previous credits. Students who have completed an associate degree with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 qualify for a merit scholarship.
Indiana Tech is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
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.
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 Specialist:
These 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.
These advanced emergency management specialists 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 Analyst:
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.
These 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.
Similar to management and program analysts, these specialists 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
|Job Title||Entry Level
|Emergency Management Specialist||$49,000||$51,000||$60,000||$71,000|
|Management and Program Analyst||$56,000||$61,000||$74,000||$97,000|
|Research Analyst, Operations||$61,000||$70,000||$85,000||$106,000|
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:
Tuition ranks among the top considerations for most students. While expensive, many private colleges offer highly respected online programs and charge the same tuition to all students regardless of location. If you choose a less expensive in-state program, keep in mind other costs, such as travel.
Different schools maintain different credit transfer policies, and depending on your previous academic experience, you may need to investigate transfer options. Some schools may offer more lenient policies, enabling you to transfer more credits and complete your degree faster. Other schools may even offer credit for relevant professional experience.
School Size and Type:
The online experience can vary widely between schools of different sizes and types. Public colleges are typically larger and offer cheaper tuition, but you may receive less individual attention from faculty. Private colleges are typically smaller and more expensive, making for smaller class sizes and more potential for faculty interaction.
Depending on your obligations outside school, you may want to enroll in a part-time program, which offers the flexibility to balance classwork with other responsibilities. Conversely, if you want to earn your degree as quickly as possible, some schools offer accelerated programs that feature heavier course loads and shorter overall completion times.
Campus requirements can vary widely between online degrees, from hybrid programs with regular in-class meetings to fully online programs that never require you to set foot on campus. Others may feature primarily online formats with occasional campus sessions, often held on the weekends to accommodate student work schedules.
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 Safety Leadership:
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 Membership Associations
- National Emergency Management Association: 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.
- International Association for Disaster Preparedness and Response: 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.
- The International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals: 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.
- Disaster Recovery Institute International: 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.
- International Association of Emergency Managers: 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.