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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.

#1 The Best Online Doctorate in Public Safety Administration Programs

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

  • West Chester, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The doctor of public administration program at West Chester University of Pennsylvania offers a flexible route to a doctorate. At the public university, degree-seekers participate in virtual classrooms to earn a doctorate. Doctoral students meet with career advisors and faculty mentors.

The program requires passing scores on a comprehensive examination and the successful defense of an original dissertation project. With a doctorate in public administration, graduates can pursue academic, research, and industry roles.

Online doctoral students can pay for their degree with scholarships, fellowships, and other forms of financial aid. Contact the program for more information about doctoral admissions.

West Chester University of Pennsylvania at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 4,074

Online Master's Programs: 6

Online Doctoral Programs: 2

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $9,288

Accepts Transfer Credits: Data not available

Average Tuition
Retention Rate
Admission Rate
Students Enrolled
Institution Type
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#2 The Best Online Doctorate in Public Safety Administration Programs

California Baptist University

  • Riverside, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

California Baptist University offers an online doctor of public administration. The private university provides flexible enrollment options to meet the needs of diverse degree-seekers. Doctoral students receive research support, library access, and career advising.

The doctoral program incorporates advanced coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates complete an original dissertation that contributes to the field. As the highest degree in the field, the doctorate meets requirements for research, academic, and leadership roles.

Doctoral students who attend the accredited institution in an online format qualify for several types of financial aid. Prospective applicants can contact the program to learn more about the enrollment process and start dates.

California Baptist University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 6,112

Online Master's Programs: 13

Online Doctoral Programs: 2

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $12,830

Accepts Transfer Credits: Data not available

Average Tuition
Retention Rate
Admission Rate
Students Enrolled
Institution Type
Percent Online Enrollment
55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

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

  • Policy and Analysis in Criminal Justice Systems: Students pursuing a career in criminal justice take this course to learn about the various factors that influence justice policy. Specific topics covered include juvenile justice, corrections, deterrence, drugs and crime, and the use of public registries.
  • Disaster Response and Recovery: Covering critical issues for all first responders and emergency managers, this class teaches students about issues such as evacuation, relocation, and strategic and tactical decision-making during crises. Students also learn how local emergency response efforts fit into established national frameworks.
  • Finance and Budgeting for the Public Sector: Public safety executives must know how to create budgets to ensure that their departments possess the necessary resources to respond to emergencies and investigate crimes. This class provides an overview of taxation, auditing, financial management, and budget-based reform.
  • Leadership Theory: Whether working in law enforcement, fire safety, or homeland security, leaders need a solid foundation in how to marshal resources to solve problems. This course introduces students to various leadership models and theories through case studies.
  • Research Theory, Design, and Methods: This class begins with an exploration of the philosophy of science and the history of research. Students also develop skills related to data collection and organization.

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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