The Best Online Master’s in Emergency Management Programs

| TBS Staff

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An online master’s degree in emergency management prepares students to take charge of public safety during crises. Emergency management professionals direct communities during hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, terrorist attacks, and floods. They work in the private sector and in local, state, and federal governments. Emergency management professionals take on challenging roles supporting their communities.

The disastrous weather events and terror threats of the last decade have increased demand for emergency management professionals. After earning an emergency management degree online, graduates have plenty of job opportunities, and the field is growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of emergency management directors in the United States to increase 8% by 2026.

Online Master’s in Emergency Management Degree Program Ranking Guidelines

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We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

The Best Online Master's in Emergency Management Programs

Georgetown University View School Profile Washington, DC Georgetown University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Established in 1789, Georgetown University is a private research university with an impressive list of notable alumni, including President Bill Clinton. The university enrolls over 19,000 students in a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs, including an online master’s in emergency management.

The 33 credit program offers plenty of flexibility by allowing students to complete it fully online, on campus, or through mix of the two. The program can be completed on a full–time or part–time basis and takes two to five years to finish. Designed to meet the needs of entry–level and mid–level professionals, this master’s in emergency management program takes a holistic approach to the field and prioritizes ethics. It has six credits of core courses, 12 credits of foundation courses, and 15 credits of electives. Students work with topics such as:

  • Ethics and Critical Decision–making
  • Theory and Legal Framework of Emergency Management
  • Risk Perception Awareness
  • Project Management and Budgeting for emergencies

Students earning this emergency management master’s degree online engage with the same curriculum as their on–campus peers, learn from the same faculty, and have access to the same resources. Applicants should hold (or be nearing completion of) a bachelor’s degree and must submit transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a CV. GRE and GMAT scores are not required.

Jefferson View School Profile Philadelphia, PA Jefferson is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Jefferson University’s MS in disaster medicine and management is offered both online and on-campus. The traditional master’s program combines classroom seminars on campus in Philadelphia with online reading materials. The online master’s degree consists mostly of virtual courses, with required in-person attendance for six and a half days of summer session. During this in-person week, students participate in hands-on exercises, including labs, disaster drills, and role playing exercises, and attend lectures from a variety of disaster medicine professionals.

Both the traditional program and the online program have the same overall requirements. The MS in disaster medicine and management consists of 36 credit hours of coursework and can be completed in one to three years, depending on whether a student is taking classes full–time or part–time. Students take eight core courses and four elective courses. The core curriculum covers topics, such as organizational management in disasters, public health implications of disasters, and foundations in emergency management. Elective courses cover more specific topics beyond foundational knowledge in the field, including issues of homeland security and defense, business and crisis continuity, and hazardous materials and industrial safety.

The knowledge acquired through coursework culminates in a capstone research project with an optional internship component. In addition to coursework, this program has an experiential learning requirement where students must complete 100 hours of participation in local, regional, or national agency activities and demonstrate a connection between theory and practice.

Adelphi University View School Profile Garden City, NY Adelphi University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Adelphi University, located in Garden City, New York, offers an online master’s degree in emergency management for those interested in pursuing a career in organizations that respond to natural disasters, homeland security issues, and terrorism. This program emphasizes an all-hazard perspective, employing faculty from a large network of emergency management positions in public service, law enforcement, fire safety, the military, and the private sector. Unfortunately, students in Arkansas and North Carolina are currently not able to participate in any of Adelphi’s fully online programs.

Adelphi University’s emergency management master’s online requires 39 credit hours of coursework and a capstone research project. It is possible to earn a certificate in emergency management through the completion of 18 credits. Core program courses cover topics, such as emergency management law, management theory, and health management in times of disaster. Adelphi also offers a specialization track in homeland security where students have the option of supplementing core program credits with courses specific to homeland security.

Admission to the online master’s program in emergency management requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.8. Up to six credit hours can be transferred in if a student has already taken a course similar to that required for the program. To request previous course credits be transferred, students should demonstrate completion of the course with a B or higher and provide a syllabus of the course content.

Jacksonville State University View School Profile Jacksonville, AL Jacksonville State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Jacksonville State University is a public university located in Jacksonville, Alabama that offers an online master’s in emergency management. Program requirements include 30 credit hours of coursework (21 hours of core emergency management classes and nine hours of electives) and the successful completion of comprehensive exams. Core courses cover topics, such as hazard mitigation, disaster recovery, and emergency preparedness.

Elective courses offer more specialized insight into subjects like the military’s role in disaster relief, biosecurity, or disasters and the media. In addition, students have the option to take directed study or internship courses. These self–designed programs focus on a selected topic and allow for hands–on experience in an emergency management setting. Courses from this program may also be applied to a graduate certificate in emergency management and a master’s of public administration with a concentration in emergency management. Up to six credits may be transferred from a previous institution with departmental approval.

Applicants to the online MS program in emergency management must hold an undergraduate degree from any field. Candidates with a GPA of 3.0 or higher gain unconditional admission, while candidates with a 2.5 to 2.99 GPA receive conditional admission. Conditionally, admitted students must maintain a 3.0 GPA for the first 12 credit hours in order to progress into the program.

Lander University View School Profile Greenwood, SC Lander University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Lander University is a relatively small, publicly funded, liberal arts university located in Greenwood, South Carolina. Lander offers a variety of online courses with a limited amount of fully online degrees, including three graduate programs, one undergraduate program, and a certificate program.

Among their online graduate programs, Lander offers a master’s degree in emergency management online to provide students with specialized knowledge in preparedness, mitigation, recovery, and responses to both manmade and natural disasters. This master’s program requires 31 credit hours of coursework, culminating in a capstone course, and is typically completed in two years. Core courses cover topics including emergency mental health, continuity of government, and foundations in emergency management. Elective courses feature additional topics like hurricane and weather or nuclear incident management. Research projects are built into the curriculum of both core and elective courses so that students may develop their own portfolio throughout the program. Up to nine credit hours of coursework may be transferred from another institution, but each case is evaluated individually. Applicants to the program must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and have earned a minimum of a 2.75 GPA.

Arkansas State University View School Profile Jonesboro, AK Arkansas State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Arkansas State University is a public research institution and state university located in Jonesboro, Arkansas. As one of the oldest online programs in Arkansas, the university offers a variety of online courses for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. For those who wish to pursue a future in disaster preparedness, planning, and response, A–State offers an online master’s of science degree in disaster preparedness and emergency management. This is an interdisciplinary program located within the College of Nursing and Health Professions and the Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

This online master’s program consists of six modules, each with a length of seven weeks. The last module is a capstone taking the form of either an internship, thesis, or research project. Four to five modules are offered in each calendar year, and each module contains two courses. Students may begin the program during any module. Students who only manage to take a portion of the courses within that module may take the remaining courses the next time the module is made available.

To be admitted into A–State’s online master’s program in disaster preparedness and emergency management, students should already hold a bachelor’s degree in any discipline and any prerequisite courses.

Millersville University of Pennsylvania View School Profile Millersville, PA Millersville University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Millersville University of Pennsylvania is a public university located in Millersville, Pennsylvania. They provide a select number of fully online bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate programs. Among these, they offer an online master’s degree in emergency management.

The online MS program in emergency management requires 30 credit hours of coursework, culminating in a capstone field experience practicum, and is typically completed in two years. The degree benefits those already working in emergency management fields who wish to gain further expertise or wish to enter the field for the first time. Therefore, students may begin the program with a full–time job. The online courses follow an evening schedule with offerings year round to provide maximum flexibility for the student. In addition, all online sessions are recorded and archived for easy access. Core courses cover topics, such as the social dimensions of disaster, emergency mental health and trauma, and emergency preparedness for industry. The capstone practicum requires students to either further their role at their current job in emergency management, volunteer for an organization in an emergency management setting, or complete a research project focusing on a topic in emergency management.

Applicants to the program should already hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. If the applicant’s undergraduate GPA is higher than a 2.8, a GRE or GMAT exam is not required. Otherwise, a GRE or GMAT exam score should be included in the application.

Arizona State University View School Profile Tempe, AZ Arizona State University – ASU Online is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Arizona State University is a public research university with five campuses across the state. Along with its traditional facility, ASU’s virtual campus is hosted at the Skysong Innovation Center in Scottsdale Arizona, a few minutes away from the ASU Tempe campus. The Skysong Innovation Center provides online courses and continuing or extended education options. Among its diverse course catalog, Arizona State University offers an emergency management master’s online.

This online master’s degree requires a total of 33 credit hours composed of 11 courses, each lasting seven and a half weeks. Instead of adhering to a semester admissions schedule, ASU online offers start dates every seven and a half weeks at the beginning of each course. The entire master’s program can be completed in as little as one year and culminates in an applied capstone research project. Core courses cover topics including hazards governance, applied data analysis in criminal justice, and integrated emergency management. Within the degree plan, students may choose a particular concentration in either biosecurity and threat management, community resilience, emergency management, and homeland security. Elective courses within these concentrations feature subjects, such as urban design for safe and healthy cities, volunteer resource management, and weapons of mass destruction.

ASU requires applicants to have completed a bachelor’s or master’s program in a related field with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, either in the last 60 hours of bachelor’s degree coursework or in a master’s program of an applicable field.

Southern New Hampshire University View School Profile Manchester, NH Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE).

Southern New Hampshire University, located in Manchester, New Hampshire, boasts over 50 graduate programs in on–campus, hybrid, and distance learning formats. In particular, their emergency management master’s degree online benefits those who wish to pursue leadership positions in the fields of crisis recovery, emergency preparedness, disaster response programs, and global response programs. Within their department of management, emergency management is one of three specialized degree tracks offered, in addition to construction management and healthcare management.

The master’s in emergency management online curriculum includes 36 credit hours of coursework and can be completed in 15 months. Required courses cover a combination of management and emergency response topics, such as corporate communications, human behavior in organizations, and disaster response and recovery. Each course takes place over a 10–week term.

SNHU is a private, nonprofit institution of higher learning, and its online programs adhere to the same standards as its traditional on campus programs. To be admitted into the master’s program, students must already hold a bachelor’s degree. However, a GMAT or GRE score is not required during the application process. SNHU offers a 25% discount on tuition for U.S. service members in the military, including spouses of service members on active duty.

University of Maryland - University College View School Profile Adelphi, MD University of Maryland – University College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

The University of Maryland University College is located in Adelphi, Maryland. It offers 120 programs in both on–campus and online formats, including certification programs, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. One such degree is their online management master’s degree with a specialization in emergency management. This program is tailored toward mid-career professionals with a background in statistics, finance, or accounting who wish to delve into leadership roles at organizations specializing in crisis and disaster response. Those without previous professional or statistical experience may still apply but must take an additional introduction to research methods course.

UMUC’s management master’s degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework, including a strategic management capstone course, and can generally be completed in two years. Core courses include organizational theory and behavior, financial decision making, and statistics for managerial decision making. Courses specific to the emergency management specialization feature topics like hazard risk assessment and resilience planning. All courses take place completely online with a select number of courses available in hybrid learning formats. Up to six credits may be transferred from a previous institution. The program requires students to maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher at all times and fulfill all degree requirements within five years.

This online master’s program also prepares students to take an industry certification exam, the Certified Emergency Manager or CEM(R). The degree itself can fulfill part of the examination requirements.

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Choosing an Online Master’s in Emergency Management Program

Students pursuing a master’s degree in emergency management online gain a broad understanding of emergency planning and analysis and typically concentrate in a specific area. Core courses include homeland security and criminal justice data analysis.

Common concentrations in master’s degree in emergency management online programs include homeland security, information systems, public safety or health, law enforcement and fire protection, and logistics. Concentrations reflect the job sector students plan to work in after graduation. For example, students planning to pursue government jobs often concentrate in homeland security. Students who excel in analysis and project management may become logisticians, who establish protocols for officials and the public to follow during catastrophic events.

Some online master’s degree in emergency management programs, such as Adelphi University’s MS in emergency management program, emphasize homeland security and leadership during disasters. Other programs, such as Jefferson’s online MS degree, focus on disaster medicine and management. When selecting a program, consider your educational and career ambitions.

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Online Master’s in Emergency Management Careers

Some emergency management directors work for state or local governments; others work for private companies or nonprofit organizations. After earning an emergency management master’s degree online, graduates pursue specialized roles, such as social community manager or logistician. Careers in emergency management span industries, so graduates have a variety of employment options.

Emergency Management Directors
Emergency management directors lead emergency preparedness efforts and direct others during crises. They work with local and state officials, and during crises, they communicate ongoing plans to the public.
  • Median Annual Salary: $70,500
  • Projected Growth Rate: 8%
Computer and Information Systems Managers
These managers provide computer–related assistance during emergencies, including launching and directing an information website at which the community can access logistical information. They also inform the public of where to find supplies and government assistance.
  • Median Annual Salary: $135,800
  • Projected Growth Rate: 12%
Logisticians
Logisticians manage processes during emergency situations. They coordinate supplies, shelter, and services necessary for a community in crisis. Logistician create plans based on population needs for a variety of emergency situations.
  • Median Annual Salary: $74,170
  • Projected Growth Rate: 7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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The Best Online Doctorate in Emergency Management Programs

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