Best Online Master’s in Public Safety Management and Leadership Degrees

If you have great leadership skills and an interest in public safety, check out the best online Master’s in Public Safety Management and Leadership.

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These programs prepare you for a variety of challenging and rewarding careers. You may work for a public safety organization, a large corporation, or in a fire or police department. As a public safety manager, you’ll work behind the scenes to ensure the safety of citizens and law enforcement officials.

Leaders in public safety typically have strong planning and organizational skills. They’re also passionate about the safety and wellbeing of others. Sound like you? Then you should definitely explore the excellent programs listed here!

What kind of online Master’s in Public Safety Management and Leadership should you get?

Public safety is a broad field. For this reason, most programs allow you to specialize in a specific area of interest. This might include inspection, security, or event organization. Some programs offer a Master of Science, while others award a Master of Public Administration.

These programs are available both in person and online. However, taking courses online gives you more control and flexibility. Online programs allow you to organize coursework around your schedule.

If you know that an online degree is right for you, but you’re unsure about the field of public safety, check out our list of “Best Online Colleges and Universities.”

How much money do people make with an online Master’s in Public Safety Management and Leadership?

A master’s degree in public safety management and leadership can prepare you for a wide variety of careers. Below is a list of median salaries for several career options, as reported by Payscale and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Emergency Management Director: $72,760
  • Fire Chief: $69,000
  • Chief of Police: $74,553
  • EMS Director: $61,263
  • Safety Coordinator: $52,119

This isn’t an exhaustive list of careers in public safety. However, this list should give you a general idea of salary expectations. On average, projected job growth for these careers over the next decade is 8 percent.

What can you do with an online Master’s in Public Safety Management and Leadership?

We’ve mentioned that a Master’s in Public Safety Management and Leadership can open the door to many different jobs. Potential careers include:

  • Chief of police, fire chief, or EMS director
  • Safety or security consultant
  • Homeland security professional
  • Emergency management director
  • Corporate security manager
  • Anti-terrorism task force coordinator
  • Emergency response specialist
  • Public events security coordinator

Public safety managers work at local, state, and national levels. They coordinate resources that provide for the safety of their communities. This involves preparedness strategies, strategic planning, budgeting, and managing personnel.

What are the requirements for a Master’s in Public Safety Management and Leadership?

Admission to a master’s program in public safety will require a bachelor’s degree. Related coursework or experience is preferred. GPA requirements vary, but you’ll need to send official transcripts. You may also need to submit a resume and/or personal statement.

Successful completion of your program will likely require a minimum of 30 credit hours. Most programs also expect you to pass a comprehensive final exam. Courses focus on leadership strategies, legal aspects of the job, relevant issues, and major organizational functions.

What are the best online Master’s in Public Safety Management and Leadership?

Below, we’ve put together a list of the best online Master’s in Public Safety Management and Leadership. You might be wondering how we determined these rankings.

We’ve considered factors like accreditation, school reputation, tuition costs, and overall return on investment. Our data comes only from trusted sources. These include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Educational Statistics, and U.S. News and World Report.

At any of the programs below, you’ll be in good hands! They’ll teach you the skills and strategies you’ll need to be an effective leader in the public safety field.

2018 Ranking

See our rankings methodology page.


University of San Diego

College Choice Score: 100

Average Net Price: $38,596

School Website


The University of San Diego is a private Catholic university in sunny San Diego, California. The school’s mission is to empower ethical, compassionate leaders to create change in society. It’s one of only 41 universities worldwide to earn designation as a “Changemaker Campus.” USD offers a wide variety of programs and degrees, including many online opportunities. This includes an award-winning online master’s in public safety leadership.

Program Features

USD’s Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership is ranked as one of the top programs of its kind. It’s designed for current law enforcement professionals interested in leadership roles. The 31-unit program teaches leadership skills, ethical practices, and legal and policy matters. It lasts five semesters and can be completed in 20 months. Courses include:

  • Conflict Resolution and Decision Making
  • Budget and Finance for Law Enforcement Leaders
  • Critical Issues in Law Enforcement and Public Safety
  • Community Engagement
  • Organizational Theory and Change


This program is designed to promote ethical and effective leadership for law enforcement and public safety organizations. It was developed in collaboration with law enforcement associations. Faculty consists of experienced criminal justice professionals. Although it’s 100 percent% online, the program provides networking opportunities through learning teams and online collaboration.


California State University, Long Beach

College Choice Score: 98.15

Average Net Price: $9,867

School Website


California State University Long Beach is a diverse and globally-engaged public university. Established in 1949, CSULB is one of California’s largest universities by enrollment. It’s one of the nation’s most diverse colleges. It has also been recognized as a “Best Value University” by Princeton Review. Among CSULB’s 65 Master’s degree programs, the school offers an online MS in Emergency Services Administration.

Program Features

The Master of Science in Emergency Services Administration is a 32-unit program designed for working professionals. It builds the critical thinking and leadership skills required by disaster-resilient communities. The program is well-suited for firefighters, police officers, military personnel, disaster response planners, and emergency medical services personnel. In this program, you’ll take courses like:

  • Emergency Planning and Management
  • Risk, Crisis, and Inter-Agency Communications
  • Emergency Management Leadership Across the Megacommunity
  • Emergency Management Organizations: Constructs for Influencing Complex Systems


The foundation of this program is a 23-unit set of required core coursework. Students then take up to six units of elective coursework in their chosen area of specialization. To complete the program, a thesis or capstone project is required. Capstone projects directly benefit communities or strengthen the student’s organization. Program tuition is especially affordable.


American Public University

College Choice Score: 96.82

Average Net Price: $11,470

School Website


American Public University offers over 200 online degrees and certification programs that start monthly. It’s committed to providing both quality education and affordable tuition. APU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Since 2013, its online programs have been recognized by U.S. News and World Report. APU offers an MA in Emergency and Disaster Management.

Program Features

The Master of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management is a 36-credit program that takes two years to complete. It sharpens the critical-thinking and research skills needed to plan and manage public crises. Case-study examination guides candidates through natural, technical, and human-induced disasters. Students explore the history, theory, response, recovery, and economics of EDM through courses like:

  • Emergency and Disaster Theory
  • Crisis Action Planning
  • Interagency Disaster Management
  • Hazard Mitigation and Resilient Communities
  • Mass Casualty Incident Management


APU’s program is accredited by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. It’s taught by experienced, highly credentialed instructors. Program graduates are employed as emergency management directors, security managers, compliance managers, loss prevention managers, redevelopment specialists, supervisors of police and detectives, and more.


Purdue University Global

College Choice Score: 92.51

Average Net Price: $18,462

School Website


Purdue Global is part of the Purdue University system. Purdue University is a public university ranked by Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges. It’s also designated as a “College That Pays You Back.” Purdue Global’s mission is to expand access to affordable, high-quality education. With multiple start dates throughout the year, it offers flexible scheduling options. Purdue Global has a Master’s program in Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Program Features

Purdue Global’s Master of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management is a 55-credit program. It focuses on the legal, social, business, economic, and political aspects of the emergency management industry. The curriculum is hands-on, project oriented, and problem based to connect theory with practice. Courses include:

  • Critical Issues in Terrorism
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Applied Research in Criminal Justice
  • Mitigation and Preparedness Issues for Emergency Management
  • Homeland Security Policies, Principles, Procedures, and Plans


Purdue Global’s program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Courses are taught by experienced and effective industry professionals. They can be accessed anytime, anywhere (with an Internet connection). Graduates will be prepared for management-level positions with federal, state, and local agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.


Eastern Kentucky University

College Choice Score: 92.42

Average Net Price: $12,255

School Website


Headquartered in Richmond, Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University was founded in 1906. The university is dedicated to high-quality instruction, scholarship, and service. EKU started as a small teacher’s college. Today, the university serves over 14,000 students and offers a wide range of degrees. Online degree programs allow students to take the same courses from the same distinguished professors as on-campus students. One of these programs is a Master’s in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management.

Program Features

EKU’s Master of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management program can be completed in two years. Students complete a set of core courses, then choose one of five concentrations: Occupational Safety, Homeland Security, School Safety, Fire and Emergency Services, or Emergency Management. Each concentration requires four additional courses. This program will build your expertise in a key area of the safety arena, putting you on a path to leadership. Core courses include:

  • Emergency Preparation and Response
  • Issues in Security Management
  • Legislation and Legal Compliance
  • Auditing for Safety, Security, and Emergency Management


Students with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher don’t need to submit GRE scores for admission. Courses are taught by nationally recognized safety experts with both public and private sector experience. EKU’s industry affiliations allow students who meet certain requirements to receive course credit toward their degrees. These programs help you boost your professional credentials and earn your degree sooner.


Lewis University

College Choice Score: 91.47

Average Net Price: $20,232

School Website


Lewis University is a private Catholic university in Romeoville, Illinois. Lewis was founded in 1932 on the traditions of liberal learning, values, and preparation for professional work. Ninety seven percent of students receive some form of financial aid. The university offers over 80 undergraduate majors, 37 graduate programs, and two doctoral programs. It’s recognized by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review. At Lewis, students can earn an online Master’s in Public Safety Administration.

Program Features

The Master in Public Safety Administration is a 36-credit hour program. Students learn to reduce the threat of potential dangers at the local, state, and federal level through applied theories and practices. The focus is on both risk management and crisis intervention. The program offers a comprehensive curriculum that goes above and beyond what is available in many other public safety programs. Courses include:

  • Fiscal Management for Public Safety Administrators
  • Ethics, Integrity, and Social Responsibility
  • Labor Relations in the Public Sector
  • Public Safety Law and Civil Liability
  • Organizational Behavior in Public Safety Systems


Courses are offered in an accelerated eight-week format. At this pace, the program can be finished in two years. However, students may move at their own pace and have up to seven years as needed. To complete the program, students must pass a one-week comprehensive exam. Graduates work in diverse fields such as environmental protection, homeland security, and emergency management.


Jacksonville State University

College Choice Score: 90.56

Average Net Price: $12,474

School Website


Founded in 1883, Jacksonville State University is a public university in Jacksonville, Alabama. It offers more than 49 academic programs designed to help students reach their maximum potential. JSU began as a state teachers’ college. Now, it has more accredited programs than any regional university in Alabama. JSU’s online programs offer affordability and flexibility. This includes a Master’s in Emergency Management.

Program Features

The Master of Science in Emergency Management is a 30-credit hour program. Requirements consist of 21 required Emergency Management courses and nine hours of 500-level electives. Courses focus on crisis management, hazard assessment, and other analytic and management skills. In this program, expect to take courses such as:

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


Successful completion of this program requires passing a comprehensive final exam. JSU also offers a 15-hour Graduate Certificate in Emergency Management and a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Emergency Management. Jacksonville State is a pioneer in distance learning, with over 1,200 of the school’s 8,900 students pursuing online degrees.


Arkansas Tech University

College Choice Score: 90.31

Average Net Price: $10,887

School Website


Arkansas Tech is a public university in Russellville, Arkansas. It’s the third largest university in the state with an enrollment of 12,000. ATU was founded in 1909 on the principles of tenacity, determination, and academic excellence. The university is rapidly growing and boasts several nationally recognized programs. ATU is the #1 online education provider in Arkansas. It offers an online Master’s in Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Program Features

ATU’s Master of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management requires 36 hours of coursework. It can be completed online, on campus, or in a blended format. The degree can be completed in as few as four semesters. Students complete 18 hours of required courses and nine hours of electives tailored to individual career objective. Courses include:

  • Fundamentals of Homeland Security
  • Ethical, Legal, and Political Considerations in Emergency Management and Homeland Security
  • Emerging Technology in EMHS
  • Risk and Vulnerability Assessment for Business and Industry (elective)
  • Principles and Practice of Disaster Relief and Recovery (elective)


ATU offers plentiful financial aid options. Out-of-state students may qualify for in-state tuition with unconditional program admission. Students can apply for unconditional admission with a GPA of at least 3.0, a statement of interest, and a resume. Successful completion of the program requires either an original research thesis or a practicum research project. Both options consist of three courses totaling nine credit hours.


Grand Canyon University

College Choice Score: 88.43

Average Net Price: $21,168

School Website


Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Grand Canyon University is the largest Christian university in the world. The rapidly growing university recently welcomed a record number of students to campus. In addition, GCU has tens of thousands of students worldwide enrolled in online programs. Digital platforms are constantly refined to deliver an outstanding virtual experience. The online Master’s program in Disaster Preparedness is no exception.

Program Features

GCU offers a 38-credit Master of Science in Leadership with an Emphasis in Disaster Preparedness and Executive Fire Leadership. Students learn to help others increase emergency awareness, safety, and readiness. They explore the issues involved in large-scale crises and strategies for planning and management during crisis situations. The rigorous curriculum emphasizes immediate application of practical and ethical leadership skills. Courses include:

  • Organizational Development and Change
  • Emergency Planning and Management
  • Law and Legal Issues
  • Understanding Terrorism’s Threat
  • Power, Politics, and Influence


Courses are offered both online or through evening classes. Coursework offers an expansive look at contemporary challenges such as modern terrorism and environmental issues. Graduates pursue careers as terrorism or disaster preparedness leaders within police departments, fire departments, emergency services, schools, community organizations, and cyber security organizations.


Saint Leo University

College Choice Score: 87.44

Average Net Price: $21,296

School Website


Saint Leo is a values-based Catholic nonprofit university based in St. Leo, Florida. Founded in 1889, the university has 35 education centers in seven states. It’s consistently ranked as one of the South’s top universities by U.S. News and World Report. Saint Leo also offers numerous flexible, accredited online degree programs. These programs are taught by experienced faculty with real-world experience. St. Leo students may enroll in a Master’s program in Emergency and Disaster Management.

Program Features

The Master of Science in Emergency and Disaster Management is a two-year program of study. It requires 36 credit hours. Students may petition for approval to complete the program at an accelerated pace. The program provides the knowledge and skills needed to identify threats, minimize risks, and lead communities and organizations in times of crisis. Choose from courses such as:

  • Impact of Terrorism on Homeland Security
  • Psychological Aspects of Critical Incidents
  • Risk Identification and Assessment
  • Analytical Understanding of Interviews and Interrogation
  • Hostage Negotiations Phase I and II


A capstone project is required for successful completion of the degree. Students earn six credit hours while addressing an important problem or launching a program initiative related to the skills and knowledge acquired throughout coursework. Graduates work as criminal justice administrators, first responders, government officials, or specialists in myriad organizations.


Bellevue University

College Choice Score: 86.74

Average Net Price: $6,349

School Website


A private university in Bellevue, Nebraska, Bellevue University is a non-profit institution founded in 1966. BU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It’s routinely recognized as one of the nation’s top military-friendly universities. The university offers many online programs with rigor and knowledge identical to on-campus courses. Programs receive input from area businesses to ensure students develop the skills employers seek. BU offers a Master’s degree in Security Management.

Program Features

Bellevue’s Master in Security Management develops decision-making and critical thinking skills in crime prevention, threat assessment, public safety, criminal justice, and more. Students complete real-world projects on Homeland Security and security management. The 36-credit program is delivered in cohort format. Courses include:

  • Homeland Security Principles and Practices
  • Terrorism and Homeland Defense Fundamentals
  • Vulnerability Assessment and Risk Analysis
  • Principles and Theories of Security Management
  • Cyber-Security and Information Protection


Students complete two homeland security projects and two security management projects. These include crisis management plans, Information Assurance policies, and a vulnerability study and threat assessment at an actual organization. Each project is worth one credit. They’re designed to give students valuable real-world experience related to individual career goals. Bellevue’s program is significantly more affordable than most similar programs.


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

College Choice Score: 86.64

Average Net Price: $17,149

School Website


Southern Illinois University Carbondale is a public research university in Carbondale, Illinois. SIUC was founded in 1869 and is ranked among the top five percent of U.S. universities for research. It’s a highly diverse university committed to service and outreach. The university offers extensive opportunities in a variety of fields. Many programs are available in both in-person and online formats. SIUC offers a Master’s program in Public Safety and Homeland Security Management.

Program Features

The Master of Science in Public Safety and Homeland Security Management is a 39-credit program. It’s designed for public safety and fire service professionals with relevant experience and a related bachelor’s degree. The program may be completed in as little as 16 months of study. Coursework enhances critical thinking and problem-solving skills to diagnose, analyze, and provide solutions to complex emergency management situations. Courses include:

  • Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Dispute Resolution/Mediation/Negotiation in the Fire Service
  • Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Management
  • Critical Thinking and Decision in Fire, Homeland Security, and Emergency Management
  • Fiscal/Financial Management in the Fire Service


Candidates who have graduated from the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Office program take a 30-credit in-service track. Students will complete a practicum exercise and take an assessment to complete the program. The program provides necessary credentials for career advancement in public safety, fire service, and emergency management fields.


Trident University International

College Choice Score: 86.02

Average Net Price: $13,175

School Website


Trident University International aims to provide a traditional educational experience delivered 100 percent online. It’s a private, accredited university based in California. TUI is the first fully online university accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. It offers many military-friendly programs and a variety of affordable degree programs at all levels. This includes a Master’s in Homeland Security.

Program Features

TUI’s Master of Science in Homeland Security requires 36-40 semester hours. It’s designed for both military and civilian students with experience responding to domestic crises, terrorist-based events, and natural disasters. Topics include crisis management, critical infrastructure protection, security technology, and intelligence analysis. Coursework is closely aligned with Department of Homeland Security mission objectives. Core courses include:

  • Critical Infrastructure Vulnerability and Protection
  • Intelligence Analysis and Homeland Security
  • Introduction to Cybersecurity
  • Domestic Terrorism
  • Emergency Planning and Methodology


Students can choose from concentrations including Cybersecurity, Leadership, Emergency and Disaster Management, and Logistics. A concentration is not required. Crisis simulations and scenarios are used to reinforce students’ skills and knowledge. Graduates work in Homeland Security professions in federal, state, and local governments, as well as industry areas.


Capella University

College Choice Score: 85.48

Average Net Price: $16,538

School Website


Capella University is an online institution of higher learning headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The university offers two online learning formats: FlexPath and GuidedPath. FlexPath lets you set your own deadlines and move at your own pace. GuidedPath is for students who need more structure. Capella University has multiple accreditations, including accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. It offers an MS in Emergency Management.

Program Features

Capella University’s Master of Science in Emergency Management trains students to lead and direct disaster prevention and relief efforts. The program requires seven core courses, four elective courses, and one integrative project. You’ll learn to use research models, apply strategic thinking, support decisions with research, and manage organizations and agencies. You’ll take courses like:

  • Risk Management Application
  • Emergency Management Systems
  • Emergency Management Policy and the Administration of Emergencies and Disasters
  • Application of Emergency Management Theory


Courses are taught by a doctoral faculty actively engaged in the emergency management field. Students are paired with a writing coach in addition to an expert instructor. You’ll interact in a multidisciplinary “courseroom” that mimics the real world. Engaging media stimulations are utilized to help you develop and practice real-world skills in risk-free scenarios. Capella offers a 10 percent military discount.


University of Maryland University College

College Choice Score: 81.83

Average Net Price: $12,483

School Website


Located in Adelphi, Maryland, the University of Maryland University College is a public university. UMUC offers both online and hybrid courses. Students can choose from over 90 programs and specializations. A state university with a global campus, UMUC provides multiple start dates and no-cost digital course materials. The university offers a highly affordable Management Master’s degree with Emergency Management Specialization.

Program Features

UMUC’s Master of Science in Management with an emergency management specialization is a 36-credit program. It helps students master the five mission areas of the National Preparedness Goal. These areas are prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. The curriculum is designed with input from employers, scholars, and industry experts. Courses include:

  • Comprehensive Crisis and Emergency Management
  • Hazard Risk and Vulnerability Assessment
  • Crisis Communication for Emergency Managers
  • Resilience Planning and Preparedness for Disaster Response and Recovery
  • Information Technology in Emergency Management


This program combines theory with real-world application and practical skills. Students use data from real crises in assignments and projects to practice making executive-level decisions. Graduates are prepared for work in hazard risk assessment; prevention, response, recovery, and mitigation planning and management. They develop strategies to secure people and communities from natural and human-induced threats.