The Best Online Doctorate in Public Safety Administration

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for emergency management directors was $72,760 in 2017, nearly twice the median salary for all other occupations. The BLS also projects continued demand for emergency management directors, given the critical importance of preparing for and responding to natural disasters, acts of terrorism, health crises, and various local emergencies.

Also offered as a Ph.D. in public administration, criminal justice, or emergency management, an online doctorate in public safety administration can equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to meet these challenges and safeguard your community.

The Best Online Doctorate in Public Safety Administration Programs

Because numerous types of degrees fall under the umbrella of “Doctorate in Public Safety Administration,” the following sections display top-ranked programs from several related ranking articles on our website. To learn more about these different degrees, follow the link at the end of each section to their corresponding ranking article.

The Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Degree Programs

1. California University of Pennsylvania

California, Pennsylvania

Located in southwest Pennsylvania, California University of Pennsylvania is home to the first regionally accredited doctor of criminal justice degree in the nation. The 42-credit program focuses on in-depth policy analysis and practical issues like recidivism, the use of appropriate force, and federal consent decrees.

Coursework in this online Ph.D. in criminal justice program covers subjects like leadership in criminal justice agencies, corrections, and forensic science techniques and technology. While most graduates pursue careers in academia, nearly one-quarter of them work in law enforcement, policy making, and the private sector.

Cal U offers this program using a cohort model, with students beginning their coursework in the summer. The school requires students to attend two five-day summer residencies. While the program does not include a dissertation, students must pass comprehensive exams and develop a professional research portfolio.

Eligible applicants must hold a master’s degree in criminal justice or a related field from a regionally accredited college or university. Additionally, they must submit transcripts and provide a writing sample, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and a current resume. Applicants must have earned a 3.50 GPA or better.

California University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

2. Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Students earning Nova Southeastern University’s Ph.D. in criminal justice online can pursue careers in academia, criminal investigations, consulting, and management. The program’s interdisciplinary approach leverages research and best practices to explore the cause of crime and how to prevent and investigate it.

Students may choose from concentrations in behavioral sciences, juvenile justice, and organizational leadership. All students take 33 credits of core classes that cover topics like criminal law, crime theories, research methods, and applied statistics. At the end of the 60-credit program, students must complete and defend a dissertation in order to graduate.

Applicants must hold a master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a GPA of 3.0 or better. They must also provide three letters of recommendation, a 300-word personal statement, and a resume. Additionally, applicants must complete an in-person or phone interview with program staff.

NSU is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

See more of the Best Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice Degree Programs.

Best Online Doctorate in Emergency Management Degree Programs

1. Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville, Alabama

Jacksonville State University offers an online doctorate in emergency management to candidates who meet application requirements and successfully complete the 60-credit degree plan. Courses cover topics in administration and policy, practice areas, and research methods and statistics. Students also have nine different elective options to customize the degree, including risk communication, health care systems in disaster, and IT applications for disaster management.

An asynchronous learning format allows students to access course material at any time, as long as assignment and exam deadlines are met. After completing 42 credits, students must successfully pass three qualifying exams before they begin the 18-credit applied research dissertation. While all major degree requirements of this online doctoral program in emergency management allow for completion from anywhere in the world, students must attend an on-campus, week-long integrative seminar every academic year.

Jacksonville State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

2. Capella University

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Capella University, a private, for-profit university established in 1993 offers two opportunities for students to earn doctorate degrees in emergency management, through an online doctor of emergency management degree program and an online Ph.D. in emergency management degree program. Both programs prepare students for top positions in emergency management, with different emphases; the doctor of emergency management program takes a professional practice focus, while the Ph.D. focuses more on theory and research.

The online doctor of emergency management program requires 90 quarter-credits for completion and consists of 14 core courses, four elective courses, two doctoral research seminars, and a doctoral capstone. The program develops advanced skills and knowledge in areas such as emergency management theory and application, emergency management systems, operations and planning, and contemporary issues of the field. The online Ph.D. in emergency management requires 96 quarter-credits for completion, and consists of 14 core courses, four elective courses, three dissertation research seminars, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. The program develops advanced skills and knowledge in key areas, including critical analysis and research, emergency management systems, evaluation and implementation, and research design and analysis.

Both programs also offer concentrations in the areas of continuity management, critical infrastructure and key resources, higher education, and project management, allowing for professional specialization through academic focus. Students in either program benefit from thorough curricula, dedicated faculty, and flexible course delivery.

Capella University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

See more of the Best Online Doctorate in Emergency Management Programs.

The Best Online Doctorate in Homeland Security Programs

1. Walden University

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Walden University, an online for-profit university established in 1970, offers numerous online degree programs, including an online Ph.D. in criminal justice with a homeland security policy and coordination specialization. With two track options, the program serves the needs of those already holding a master’s degree in the field (Track I), or those who are coming from the outside (Track II).

Track I of the online Ph.D. program requires 83 quarter-credits for completion, while Track II requires 98. Both programs require a total of 16 days of campus residency and a dissertation project. Also, both programs develop advanced knowledge and skills in key areas of homeland security, including policy analysis, systematic approaches to terrorism, crisis planning and leadership, and program evaluation. Students may complete the program at an accelerated pace through Walden’s “fast track” option.

Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

2. Colorado Technical University

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Technical University, a for-profit university established in 1965, offers an onlinedoctor of management in homeland security for students seeking to advance to upper-level positions in the field. The program develops expertise in homeland security and policy leadership, developing the skills and knowledge necessary to organize and manage homeland security agencies.

The online doctorate program requires 100 credits for completion, including coursework in key areas such as leadership theory, ethical decision making, strategic thinking, homeland security strategies, emergency planning, and security policy. Students engage in advanced research through a dissertation project, and must complete a residential doctoral symposium.

The program may be completed in three years of study, and offers multiple start dates per year for plenty of scheduling flexibility.

Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Best Online Doctorate in Public Administration Degree Programs

1. West Chester University of Pennsylvania

West Chester, Pennsylvania

Founded in 1871 as an institute for teacher preparation, West Chester University is now the fourth-largest university in the Philadelphia area. The public university offers four doctoral programs and is one of a few schools that offer public administration doctoral programs online.

Students typically complete West Chester's 43-credit DPA program within 2.5 years. Courses review program and policy evaluation methodologies, financial decision-making, and advocacy and leadership within public policy and administration. Students choose a concentration in public policy and administration, criminal justice, geography and planning, or social work. After taking all required courses and four capstone seminar classes, students complete an applied research project.

Applicants must hold a master's degree in public administration, public affairs, policy analysis, political science, public health, nonprofit management, or a related field. Applicants with a GPA below 3.85 must submit GRE scores.

West Chester University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

2. California Baptist University–CBU Online

Riverside, California

California Baptist University, founded in 1950 by the California Southern Baptist Convention, is a private institution based in Riverside. CBU offers a doctor of public administration online program designed for working professionals aspiring to lead public and nonprofit organizations.

CBU offers the 50-unit DPA program in a cohort model, requiring groups of students to move through the curriculum together. Cohorts take one eight-week course at a time, exploring topics such as public policymaking, ethics and social justice, and strategic planning and management. The DPA culminates in a dissertation, which students must defend in person. The program also requires three residencies, each lasting four days.

CBU accepts up to 30 upper-division transfer units earned with a grade of C- or better. Applicants must have a master's degree from a regionally-accredited university and a 3.0 GPA; students with a minimum 2.75 GPA may receive conditional admission.

California Baptist University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

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See more of the Best Online Doctorate in Public Administration Degree Programs.

The Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs

1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Founded in 1940 as the fourth school of public health in the nation, the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC maintains a reputation as one of the top U.S. schools in the field.

Designed for working healthcare professionals, the executive online DrPH requires 45-51 credits of coursework, which students complete within three years. Unlike the research-based focus of an online Ph.D. in public health, the DrPH emphasizes practice and leadership skills. The program admits an incoming class of 12-15 students each year, with sessions beginning in the fall. The DrPH curriculum splits into leadership, public health, and research domains, with the third year dedicated to doctoral dissertation work. Students engage in at least one applied practice experience and visit the Chapel Hill campus in the fall, spring, and summer semesters during their first two years.

The Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Gillings programs are fully accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

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2. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, Maryland

Located in Baltimore, Maryland, the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University offers 26 graduate programs -- seven master's, three doctoral, and 11 combined degrees. Designed for professionals who already hold an MPH, the 64-credit doctor of public health focuses on evidence-based research, ethical issues, public health policy, and health promotion. DrPH candidates may choose from four concentrations: implementation science, health equity and social justice, environmental health, and health policy and management. The curriculum splits between 56 term credits in coursework and eight in a practicum and doctoral dissertation. Students have nine years to complete the program but may do so in as little as four. In addition to an MPH or equivalent degree, applicants must have at least three years of relevant public health industry experience.

Johns Hopkins University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The online doctor of public health is fully accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

See more of the Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs.

Choosing an Online Public Safety Administration Doctorate Program

Public safety administration encompasses a number of disciplines, including criminal justice, emergency management, and homeland security. When choosing a program, select one that offers coursework and concentrations that prepare you for your career.

Most programs feature foundational coursework in areas like communication and leadership, risk management theory, and policy analysis. If you choose a concentration in criminal justice, you may also take classes focused on nature of crime and criminology or technological approaches to criminal investigation. If you choose a concentration in homeland security, you may instead explore subjects like risk, resilience, and innovation in security policy. Finally, if you opt for a concentration in emergency management, you will focus on operations, planning, and rapid response.

Many doctoral programs require students to complete a research-based dissertation. In preparation for writing your dissertation, you can expect to take courses in research design and methodology. You should also plan to work closely with a faculty advisor to select a research topic and collect, analyze, and interpret data.

Though less common, some Ph.D. programs give students the option to complete a doctoral capstone rather than a dissertation. Through a capstone project, students can apply their learning to a practical public safety issue faced by a local government or emergency management agency.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Public Safety Administration Program?

When pursuing an online doctorate in public safety administration, many programs offer you the opportunity to customize your learning. You can do so by selecting a formal area of concentration or by selecting elective classes from a prescribed list. This allows you to shape your course of study to better align with your professional goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Doctoral Degree in Public Safety Administration
Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Criminal Justice Students pursuing this degree can specialize in criminal justice to prepare for careers in law enforcement. This concentration covers subjects such as the U.S. Constitution and the importance of maintaining civil liberties, the nature and motivation of violent offenders, and how to collaborate with community organizations to improve public safety. Sheriff, chief of police
Emergency Management A concentration in emergency management readies graduates for careers leading first responders or coordinating government agency emergency response efforts. Students take coursework in areas like risk assessment, disaster mitigation, building effective response teams, and strategic planning. Director of campus safety, senior emergency management planner
Homeland Security Concentrations in homeland security often focus on the threats posed by terrorists. Students specializing in this area learn about the history of terrorism as a political tool, the role of intelligence agencies in interdicting terrorist plots, methods for securing critical infrastructure targets, and the importance of collaborating across agencies and sectors. Director of port security, professor of public safety administration

Curriculum for an Online Doctoral Degree in Public Safety Administration

Online Doctorate in Public Safety Administration Careers

After earning your online doctorate in public safety administration, you may serve as your local community's chief emergency management professional. You may also apply your knowledge in public safety to a broader role, such as city manager or county administrator. Some graduates also pursue careers in academia, teaching criminal justice or public administration at a college or university.

  1. Emergency Management Director: Emergency management directors implement plans to respond to natural disasters and manmade emergencies. They often work for government agencies and coordinate first responder efforts. You can qualify for most roles with only a bachelor's degree, but an advanced degree may give you a competitive edge.
    • Median Annual Salary: $72,760
    • Projected Growth Rate: 8%
  2. City Manager: City managers serve as the chief executive officers of their municipality. They create budgets, work with legislative bodies to create new policies, and oversee staffing for city departments like public works and law enforcement. While not a requirement for most of these positions, a doctorate in public safety can signal your ability to handle a diverse range of crises.
    • Median Annual Salary: $104,700
    • Projected Growth Rate: 8%
  3. Postsecondary Criminal Justice Teacher: Postsecondary teachers conduct research and instruct students at colleges and universities. They may also advise students, perform administrative tasks, and take on leadership roles in their department or school. Outside of teaching positions at community colleges, you must hold a doctorate to qualify for these roles.
    • Median Annual Salary: $76,000
    • Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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