Best Online Master’s in Emergency Management Degrees

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Are you interested in a meaningful career in leadership and public service? Consider a master’s degree in emergency management.

The terrorist events of 9/11, along with a slew of recent natural and manmade disasters, has heightened the need for seasoned homeland security and emergency management professionals. These individuals work to prevent, mitigate, and recover from disasters of all types and scales.

Individuals who are motivated, compassionate, team-oriented, and responsive are the best candidates for this type of work. Careers in emergency management provide an excellent opportunity for those interested in meaningful careers in public service.

A master’s degree in emergency management prepares students to work in infrastructure protection, crisis management, and crisis prevention. Graduates might work in all levels of private and public service, from cybersecurity to border and maritime security, to disaster recovery planning.

These degree paths are excellent choices for current or prospective practitioners in first response, emergency management, health services, military, fire, and law enforcement. As a graduate of a Master of Science in Emergency Management program, you may be eligible for jobs such as emergency response coordinator, disaster coordinator, director of emergency management, biosecurity officer, and many others.

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What kind of emergency management degree should you get?

There are a wide variety of emergency management degrees available, many with special concentrations in fields such as homeland security and public health. In general, candidates should look for a broad spectrum approach to emergency management when searching for degrees. Coursework should cover all elements of emergency management, with the option to specialize in certain tracks if necessary.

Furthermore, students should search for programs that best fit their lifestyles. Busy working adults benefit most from flexible, asynchronous online programs that can be accessed at any time of day. Students should also look for emergency management programs that incorporate a variety of learning technologies and strategies, as well as those that offer affordable financing and tuition rates. To learn more, check out our list of the Best Online Schools.

How much money do people make with an emergency management degree?

Spending on homeland security and emergency management has skyrocketed in the last decade. As a result, emergency management specialists are one of the top jobs, with employment expected to grow by 22 percent in the next decade. This is much higher than the national average.

Emergency management professionals usually see an annual median salary of $70,500. Graduates of master’s degree programs and those with leadership experience tend to earn much more. Many companies also award bonuses and other comparable awards for outstanding service at the end of the year.

What can you do with a degree in emergency management?

Career options for individuals with master’s degrees in emergency management are varied. Many students go on to pursue leadership opportunities in their chosen fields, with graduates working in public safety, emergency response, disaster response, homeland security, law enforcement, first response, intelligence, and fire services, among many others.

Graduates may work for nonprofit, federal, or state organizations, including, but not limited to, FEMA, the Red Cross, the Department of Defense, and the National Guard.

What are the requirements for a degree in emergency management?

Most master’s degrees in emergency management will require a minimum of thirty-six credit hours of study. This baseline provides for ample experience in the foundations of emergency management, as well as skills development. Students will receive extensive training in leadership, disaster response, communication, and interdisciplinary topics.

To apply for one of these master’s programs, most universities will require a similar undergraduate background in an area such as emergency response, medicine, public health, or law enforcement. However, not all require relevant undergraduate training and will accept any baccalaureate degree. Programs typically look for candidates who are level-headed, open to interdisciplinary training, and interested in public service.

What are the best emergency management degrees?

Because emergency management is such a broad field of study, the best degrees will be the ones that allow students to specialize in various aspects of emergency management. Most students pursuing graduate studies in this field are already employed in a specific sector. Therefore, programs that include specialization tracks in homeland security, first response, biosecurity, public health, and other fields offer the most flexibility and customization in designing a relevant set of courses.

The best degrees will also include a wide variety of coursework. Students should look for programs that include hands-on practice, both simulated and in the field, in addition to theoretical and foundational coursework.

Best Online Master's in Emergency Management Degrees

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Northeastern University

    Boston, MA




    With over a century worth of experience in educating students who are prepared to engage with a global community, Northeastern University is an expert in graduate education. It is ranked among the top fifty best national universities by U.S. News and World Report, with a 92% career placement rate. Northeastern’s fully online Master of Arts in Homeland Security is comprehensive and covers all elements of emergency management, including leadership, intelligence gathering, risk management, and legal technological issues.

    Program Features

    In addition to a broad foundation of courses in homeland security and management, Northeastern allows student’s to apply various study0track concentrations to their programs. These include Emergency Management and Geographic Information Technologies, Organization and Infrastructure Continuity, Port Security, and Aviation Security. Independent study programs are also available. In general, required courses include:

    • The Unconventional Threat to Homeland Security
    • Intelligence for Homeland Security
    • Critical Infrastructure: Vulnerability Analysis and Protection
    • Crisis Communication
    • Domestic and International Terrorism
    • Management for Security Professionals
    • Legal and Regulatory Issues for Security Management
    • Negotiation, Mediation, and Facilitation


    This program incorporates a range of experiences, allowing students to become more agile in their learning and giving them the skills necessary to adapt to a range of challenges. Research crosses interdepartmental boundaries, giving students the freedom to explore coursework in a range of fields. Furthermore, the university hosts a powerful alumni network, connecting students with other graduates across the globe to help improve career success.

  2. Bellevue University

    Bellevue, NE




    Bellevue is a small nonprofit university, with a close-knit alumni network of just over 50,000 graduates spread throughout the globe. It is a nationally renowned leader in preparing students with career-relevant coursework at an affordable rate. As a result, its online programs are especially popular for adult learners desiring maximum flexibility and convenience. The university was named as a Top Ten University for Adult Learners twice in a row by Forbes. It is also nationally acclaimed and widely attended by military veterans.

    Program Features

    Students in the Master of Science in Security Management at Bellevue will develop leadership skills consistent with those needed for security management methods and emergency preparedness. The program, also offered on campus, is high-ranked and offers students a variety of career options upon graduation. Required classes include:

    • Homeland Security Principles and Practices
    • Critical Infrastructure: Analysis and Strategies
    • Emergency Preparedness and Management
    • Principles and Theories of Security Management
    • Cyber-Security and Information Protection
    • Vulnerability Assessment and Risk Analysis


    This program was rated one of 2015’s best homeland security training programs by Government Security News, placing it in the top twenty online cyber security programs. The school’s attention to national policy and emergency preparedness has also landed the department several recognitions by the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense.

  3. American Public University System

    Charles Town, WV




    American Military University is a unique online campus, founded in 1991 to service those who serve. It is the top provider of continuing education to the U.S. Armed Forces, and as result, its online programs are beyond comparison in regards to convenience, flexibility, and affordability. Over half of all students receive college credit for prior education or work experience and all receive access to unmatched student support services.

    Program Features

    The program is taught by practicing experts, many of whom are leaders with extensive experience working on scene at some of the most involved emergency and disaster situations in the United States and abroad. The university fosters student partnerships with organizations such as the International Association of Emergency Managers, Masters of Disaster, and the Golden Key International Honor Society. Required classes include:

    • Emergency and Disaster Theory
    • Interagency Disaster Management
    • Crisis Action Planning
    • Emergency Management and Public Law
    • Hazard Mitigation and Resilient Communities
    • Economics of Disaster
    • Mass Casualty Incident Management
    • Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management


    This program is designed for first-responders interested in learning advanced skills in disaster response. The program enhances critical thinking skills necessary for management relief, recovery, and mission planning in a crisis of any scale. Program developers work closely with industry leaders to guarantee that all students receive education in the most cutting-edge techniques and advanced strategies available in the modern field.

  4. Tulane University of Louisiana

    New Orleans, LA




    Tulane’s Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security Studies emphasizes the importance of securing and maintaining the wellbeing of U.S. citizens through real-life applications of security and emergency management. Graduates go on to work in intelligence, emergency management, first response, and law enforcement, and is designed for current members of the workforce hoping to advance their careers.

    Program Features

    Teaching faculty in this program are widely experienced, with members including current or past members of the FBI, emergency response teams, and law enforcement intelligence. Students complete a set of core courses, studying under the close guidance of these supportive faculty members, before moving on to develop an individual plan of study with the program director. Required and elective courses include:

    • Health and Medical Issues in Emergency Management
    • Intelligence Analysis/Critical Thinking
    • Homeland Security and Approaches to Counter-Terrorism
    • Maritime and Border Security
    • Intelligence Research, Methods, and Analysis
    • Critical Infrastructure and Interdependencies
    • Transportation and Border Security Strategy
    • Homeland Security: The National Challenge


    This program is unique in that it is one of the few nationally that is a member and participant in the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security and University and Agency Partner Initiative. This makes it a leading program for establishing homeland security curriculum. Current faculty are either active or have experience in security agencies such as FEMA, the FBI, the CIA, and the U.S. State Department.

  5. Jacksonville State University

    Jacksonville, AL




    Thirty semester hours are required for this hands-on degree at Jacksonville State University. The university also offers a comparable certificate program that allows students to obtain skills acquisition in hazard assessment, crisis management, and other skills in a reduced amount of time. Jacksonville State is a pioneer in the field of distance learning, with 1,200 of the university’s 8,900 students pursuing online degrees.

    Program Features

    Located in Jacksonville, Alabama, this university hosts over forty-five degree programs ranging from certificates to doctoral degrees. Online courses at Jacksonville State take place in virtual classrooms, so that students can complete coursework at any time or place. The curriculum includes core courses in:

    • Disaster Recovery
    • Research Methods in Emergency Management
    • Hazard Mitigation
    • Emergency Preparedness
    • Disaster Response
    • Disasters and the Media
    • Legal Aspects of Emergency Management


    This accredited program is taught by distinguished faculty with extensive experience in the field and an excellent reputation in the field. The university offers comprehensive students for all online students, including access to a prestigious library system. In addition, seventy-nine percent of online students receive some form of financial aid. Scholarships are available specifically for Emergency Management Majors, including the Alabama Association of Emergency Managers Scholarship, making this a low-cost, highly engaging option for distance learning students.

  6. Arkansas Tech University

    Russellville, AR




    The Arkansas Tech University Master of Science in Emergency Management and Homeland Security is the program of choice for working practitioners seeking to further develop their careers. This program can be completed online, on campus, or a combination of both, requiring thirty-six hours of coursework. There is no limitation on how many hours a student can complete per semester, allowing motivated candidates to finish in just four semesters. This specialized program incorporates a multidisciplinary approach that targets the principles of emergency management, such as mitigation, response, and prevention, with state-of-the-art technologies.

    Program Features

    This program may include an original research thesis or practicum project to allow for greater insight into the discipline, if desired. Required courses include a sampling of the following subjects:

    • Foundation of Leadership
    • Principles of Emergency Management
    • Fundamentals of Homeland Security
    • Research Design and Methods
    • Ethical, Legal, and Political Considerations in Emergency Management and Homeland Security
    • Technology for Comprehensive Emergency Management


    The program features various financial aid options, with out-of-state-students eligible for out-of-state tuition waivers under certain conditions. Several scholarships are available exclusively for Emergency Management students, including the James L. Witt Scholarship, the Dr. Richard Ihde Emergency Management Communications Scholarship, and the Ed Leachman Emergency Management Scholarship.

  7. Thomas Jefferson University

    Philadelphia, PA




    The Master of Science in Disaster Medicine and Management program exists as a partnership between Thomas Jefferson and the Department of Emergency Medicine of the Albert Einstein Health Network. It is designed to educate public safety, defense, and medical professionals working in both public and private sectors to respond to and mitigate the effects of both natural and manmade disasters. This program, offered online with a one-week on-campus summer session, features a special focus on national preparedness.

    Program Features

    In addition to the online master’s, Jefferson also offers two certificate programs in Disaster Medicine and Management and also in Business Continuity. These certificates, pursued in conjunction with the master’s or on their own, provide additional background in the field of emergency management. Required classes for the master’s program include:

    • Foundations in Emergency Management
    • Organizational Management and Communications in Disasters
    • Psychological Aspects of Disasters
    • Principles of Disaster Exercises and Drills
    • Public Health Implications of Disasters
    • Logistic Management for Disasters
    • Applied Research Methods and Statistics
    • Capstone Experience in Disaster Medicine and Management


    This program can be completed entirely online with the exception of a one-time, on-campus conference and exercise week. This includes live lectures, hands-on skills labs, disaster drills, and role-playing seminars. Online courses include a variety of interactive activities, including seminars, chat rooms, and lessons uploaded through the Blackboard learning system. Students must also complete one hundred hours of experiential learning, in which they demonstrate the connection between academic learning and real world application.

  8. University of South Florida

    Tampa, FL




    The University of South Florida provides a fully online Master of Public Health in Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief, and Homeland Security that prepares students to work for local and international organizations, governments, and United Nations agencies. Students will engage in a combination of core interactive courses, field experiences, and special projects that prepare them to work in disaster management, humanitarian assistance, and homeland security.

    Program Features

    This program’s online courses are available throughout the day, offering students access to the same outstanding degree programs provided on campus.

    Required classes include:

    • Population Assessment
    • Translation to Public Health Practice
    • Overview of US & International Disaster Management
    • Public Health Implications and Concerns in Homeland Security
    • Disaster Management
    • Disaster Preparedness & Planning Concepts
    • Public Health Emergencies in Large Populations


    The university features alumni across the globe, working in entry level and supervisory positions at organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the military, and international nongovernmental organizations. The university hosts an interdisciplinary research approach that allows students to transform their understandings of global crises situations to solve problems and create healthful living conditions for all mankind.

  9. University of Nebraska Medical Center

    Omaha, NE




    The University of Nebraska Medical Center operates a Master of Science in Emergency Preparedness that prepares professionals for responding to naturally occurring disasters, terrorism, and infectious disease threats. The university is a leader in the field, providing students outstanding access to research to establish evidence-based knowledge. Students receive the same diplomas as their on-campus counterparts as they develop current and nationally endorsed competencies.

    Program Features

    The curriculum is nationally unique, offered by an institution that has offered distance education courses for more than one hundred years. Students will engage with peers and faculty through email, discussion forums, and chat groups, and receive direct access to world-class faculty with real-world experience. Required classes include:

    • Biostatistics
    • Terrorism
    • Emergency Preparedness: Protection
    • Applied Research in Public Health
    • Emergency Preparedness
    • Foundations of Public Health


    Students at the University of Nebraska receive access to the same student services available to on-campus students, such as career services, technical support, library services, and academic advising. Students may engage in coursework from any of the University of Nebraska campuses, including Kearney, Lincoln, Omaha, and Medical Center. Each of these campuses is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and features highly competitive tuition and fees.

  10. California State University-Long Beach

    Long Beach, CA




    The Master of Science in Emergency Service Administration is an entirely online program, focusing on developing the leadership and critical thinking skills necessary for managing communities in times of crises. It is designed for working professionals and those interested in engaging interdisciplinary research and theory of disaster management.

    Program Features

    Students complete a range of core courses, along with elective areas of a specialization. These specializations can be chosen based on individual career objectives and interests. Students also complete capstone projects to help them strengthen their newly acquired skills. This thirty-three credit program features coursework in:

    • Information Literacy and Practical Writing Applications for Emergency Management
    • Emergency Planning and Management
    • Applied Research Methods and Analytical Techniques for Decision Support and Innovation
    • Emergency Management Organizations: Constructs for Influencing Complex Systems
    • Risk, Crisis, and Inter-Agency Communications
    • Emergency Management Leadership across the Megacommunity
    • Strategic Planning and Integrative Practices in Emergency Services Administration


    Online students also have access to unparalleled university resources such as experienced faculty and staff, libraries, and student support services. Instructors are distinguished faculty from the emergency services field. Students’ course work has both practical and real-world applications, and the scheduling of courses is such that students may take classes throughout the entire year for optimum flexibility.

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