Best Online Emergency Management Programs

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Emergency management is a field dedicated to protecting resources and ensuring public safety in the event of a catastrophe, such as an earthquake, hurricane, flood, terrorist attack, or any other crisis. Professionals in the field create contingency plans in order to prepare for different emergency situations. They also coordinate relief efforts with elected officials, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations in order to effectively support all individuals impacted by the emergency. Subdivisions of emergency management include law enforcement, homeland security, cybersecurity, and public health.

Over the last two decades, emergency management has become a popular undergraduate major. The curriculum in an emergency management bachelor’s program covers a range of topics: Areas of focus include supplies and logistics, victim services, natural resource management, epidemiology, law, and policy. Many emergency management degree programs include optional or required internships, which allow students to receive supervised hands-on training from experienced professionals at government offices, call centers, and other working facilities.

Today, many students are choosing to earn their bachelor’s in emergency management online. Distance learners follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, and they have the flexibility to take courses at their convenience. The asynchronous (self-paced) format used by many online emergency management programs is also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare responsibilities, or any other commitments that may interfere with campus-based learning.

Read on to learn more about emergency management, and to discover what kind of career opportunities you can pursue with a degree in the field.


Online bachelor’s in emergency management programs will prepare students for different emergency situations. Many online emergency management programs allow students to earn specializations in disciplinary subfields, such as cybersecurity, law enforcement, or fire protection. These specializations can help direct your professional opportunities after graduation.


Online emergency management programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar classes. The online format is ideal for students who have to juggle schoolwork with other important commitments, such as childcare or a full time job. Distance learners can access course materials, submit assignments, take exams, and contact professors at their convenience. Current technology also allows students to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other portable device with Wi-Fi compatibility.


Most careers in emergency management are attainable with a bachelor’s degree, although a specialized degree or work experience may be required for some advanced positions in the field. Common career pathways for degree-holders include roles as emergency management directors, project managers, logisticians, cybersecurity specialists, and nonprofit administrators. Some jobs, such as positions in epidemiology, are typically reserved for candidates with a graduate degree in their field.


Choosing a program is a very personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs and professional ambitions. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online bachelor’s in emergency management programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online bachelor’s in emergency management, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more about their specific degree requirements and offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Upper Iowa University

 4/538.3%Fayette, IA


Upper Iowa's emergency and disaster preparedness program can be completed online or in a traditional classroom setting. Students are taught to apply theoretical and practical knowledge to manage all types of disasters. UIU's academic year is divided into three semesters; each is further broken into two eight-week terms. Students take two or three classes each term, allowing them to fully concentrate on course content. Popular courses include emergency preparedness, psychology of disaster, and hazard mitigation. Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0.

Online emergency management degree students are required to complete 120 semester credits (approximately 40 courses), with 54 credits from their major. A minimum of 18 credits must be from upper-division courses. UIU accepts up to 90 hours of transfer credits from other approved learning environments. The university maintains learning centers in several military installations and offers a 10% discount on tuition to military personnel and their families.

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Adelphi University

 5/5N/AGarden City, NY


Adelphi's online emergency services administration program requires students to complete 39 credits. Coursework covers all aspects of disaster management including legal, financial, and health concerns. The flexible format allows students to take classes in a hybrid format or entirely online.

The course ends with a two-semester capstone that includes a seminar and independent research. Students may transfer up to 90 credits to Adelphi. Firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and professionals from similar fields may qualify for up to 60 prior learning credits.

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Arkansas State University

 2/539.3%Jonesboro, AR


The interdisciplinary online disaster preparedness and emergency management program at Arkansas State provides students with a foundational background in emergency preparedness. Distance learners can tailor the curriculum to fit their interests by taking courses from several related disciplines.

Arkansas State is home to the Regional Center for Disaster Preparedness Education. The center is a disaster preparedness training center, and is recognized by the American Medical Association and the National Disaster Life Support Foundation. Here, students can complete their practicum at a number of sites, including hospitals, law enforcement agencies, and government offices.

The program requires students to complete 120 semester hours of coursework, which is approximately 40 courses. Distance learners need to take 25 credit hours in an area of emphasis. These include disaster life support, civil disorder in emergencies, radiological and hazardous substances emergencies, homeland security, or project management. The university accepts up to 90 hours of qualifying transfer credits, and students may also receive up to 30 hours of credit for work experience outside of academia.

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Ohio Christian University

 3/531.85%Circleville, OH


The online disaster management and relief program at Ohio Christian is a concentrated area of study within the business major. The program is grounded in Christian values, and coursework helps students develop leadership skills as they learn how to provide relief to those in need.

Students must complete 120 credits to earn the degree. Core business courses address both theological and practical elements of ethics and business. Students learn about victimization, economic loss, and how to help communities in need. A course on trauma and intervention explores the effects of trauma and how to assist those affected. The degree includes a capstone that challenges students to solve complex management problems.

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Union Institute & University

 3/525%Cincinnati, OH


Union's emergency services management program can be completed entirely online. Students may also pursue an accelerated hybrid program covering identical material. Emergency services management students may concentrate in criminal justice management or in leadership, or earn an optional certificate in homeland security. A capstone research paper is also required.

Each concentration includes 12 hours of specific courses. Criminal justice management classes examine the practical applications of policy and the interactions between state, local, and federal organizations during emergencies. The leadership concentration focuses on negotiation, conflict resolution, and developing leadership skills. The homeland security certificate covers terrorism and the resources available to professionals to respond to threats in their communities.

Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA cumulatively and within the major, and need to complete 120 credits to graduate. At least 48 semester credits should come from the major, including 20 upper-division hours. General education courses are typically three credits, while classes in the major are usually four credits. The university accepts up to 90 hours of qualifying transfer credits including life skill assessment, CLEP, professional training, and college credits.

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Immaculata University

 5/561.16%Immaculata, PA

Immaculata's online emergency management degree can be completed entirely online or in a hybrid format. Courses cover the legal aspects of emergency management along with risk analysis, finance, community planning and emergency preparedness, group and organizational behavior, and government structures for crisis management. Several classes introduce research components into the material, requiring students to develop research models and incorporate statistical analysis into their projects. The degree culminates with a capstone project that requires students to create a comprehensive disaster management plan.

Students need a 2.0 cumulative GPA or better to graduate. Additionally, students must complete 126 credits (about 42 classes), including 48 credits of liberal arts core courses, 48 credits in major courses, and 42 in electives. Students can obtain up to half of their credits from prior learning experiences, including CLEP, a stint in the military, previous coursework, or relevant professional experience. Prior learning portfolios are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

 2/523.16%Daytona Beach, FL

Embry-Riddle's online emergency services degree addresses emergency services in all disciplines of emergency response, including firefighting, medical emergencies, aircraft rescue, hazardous materials, the environment, and security. The curriculum incorporates the National Fire Academy's Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education academic model. Upon completing the program, students are awarded a National Fire Academy certificate along with their degree.

Students select one of two areas of specialization: aviation emergency management or fire and emergency services. Aviation emergency management students focus on aviation safety, airport emergency management, aircraft crash investigation, and leadership in emergencies. Fire and emergency services courses cover how people can reduce risk, leadership in emergency situations, and administrative and management during crises. Each area of specialization features 13 core courses. Students must complete approximately 40 total courses to graduate with their online emergency management degree.

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Arkansas Tech University

 2/544.55%Russellville, AR

Arkansas Tech's emergency management degree online is an internationally renowned degree that combines theory, research, and practical applications to prepare students for the field. The curriculum requires students to complete at least 120 semester credit hours, with 30 core hours in the major, along with 12 hours of practical application. Students also complete 21 hours of interdisciplinary electives that can be applied to a minor or an area of specialization. Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA in the major and cumulatively to graduate.

The practical application modules consist of a six-credit externship (started after students complete 60 credits) and a six-credit internship to be completed during the final year of study. The externship requires 150 hours of approved Federal Emergency Management Agency training and hands-on experience; students must also prepare portfolios that document their experience. The internship requires 400 hours of approved work experience; an educational portfolio is also required.

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Barry University

 4/535.96%Miami, FL

Barry's online emergency management degree provides students with the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to respond effectively to manmade and natural disasters. The degree can be completed entirely online or through an on-campus adult learning program. Courses explore leadership and crisis management techniques to successfully plan, implement, and mitigate the effects of a disaster. The degree requires students to complete a capstone project.

Students must complete 120 semester credit hours with a 2.0 cumulative GPA or better to graduate. The university accepts up to 64 hours of transfer credits from approved settings, including military service, college credits, and CLEP. Distance learners need to take at least 56 credit hours at Barry to graduate.

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Everglades University


The online crisis and disaster management program at Everglades University prepares students to evaluate and manage crisis situations ranging from terrorist threats to natural disasters. The degree can be earned entirely online, on campus, or in a hybrid model. Course materials help students develop leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills. The degree combines lower-division general education courses with a focused upper-division curriculum that examines the complex elements of disaster and emergency management.

This online emergency management degree requires students to complete approximately 41 courses. The program includes 60 hours of upper-division required courses in the major, such as hazard analysis and risk assessment, terrorism and homeland security, and disaster health management. The degree culminates with a capstone course that allows students to apply the theoretical and managerial aspects of academic coursework to real-world problems. Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or better.

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4 to 5 years
Program Costs
$10,000 to $30,000 in annual tuition
Related Areas of Study
Homeland Security, Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement/Fire Protection, Public Health, Public Administration, Nonprofit Management, Cybersecurity, Logistics, Project Management
Council for the Accreditation of Emergency Management Education (CAEME)

Job Placement

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), tech-related jobs in emergency management are projected to grow significantly. Positions as computer and information systems managers and information security analysts are projected to grow by 15% or more between 2014 and 2024. Other common jobs in the field are projected to grow at average or slightly below-average rates. A complete breakdown can be found in the table below.

Occupation Projected Industry Growth (2014-24) Change in Number of Jobs (2014-24)
Emergency Management Directors 6% +700 jobs
Logisticians 2% +2,500 jobs
Epidemiologists 6% +400 jobs
Social and Community Managers 10% +13,200 jobs
Computer and Information Systems Managers 15% +53,700 jobs
Information Security Analysts 18% +14,800 jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Earning a Living

The earning potential for college graduates in emergency management will largely depend on their specialization in the field. According to the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, the most lucrative subfields in emergency management include information security, transportation/logistics management, supply chain management, and computer/network administration. The table below highlights salary projections for different emergency management fields during two key career stages.

Bachelor’s Degree Field Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)
Information Security $58,300 $85,600
Transportation and Logistics Management $47,800 $78,900
Logistics and Supply Chain Management $51,800 $77,400
Information Systems Security $57,100 $74,200
Computer and Network Administration $50,800 $66,900
Organizational Leadership $43,900 $65,300
Criminal Justice Administration $39,000 $63,900

Source: The 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

Of the seven majors listed on the table, transportation and logistics management professionals are projected to have the highest rate of salary growth, with a 65.0% increase between entry-level and mid-career positions. Criminal justice administration ranked second with 63.8% projected growth.

In addition to your major and degree specialization, your salary expectations will also depend on a few other factors, including your specific job title, the size of your company, and your location. With that information in mind, take a look at the following table, which features career salary growth projections for five common emergency management pathways.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Emergency Management Specialist $50,000 $59,000 $65,000 $70,000
Emergency Response Coordinator $42,000 $56,000 $59,000 $62,000
Disaster Recovery Coordinator $57,000 $73,000 $102,000 $105,000
Intelligence Analyst $58,000 $72,000 $82,000 $93,000
Logistics Manager $50,000 $63,000 $69,000 $76,000

Source: PayScale

All of these careers are projected to have at least 40% salary growth after 20 years in the workforce. Disaster recovery coordinators experienced the highest rate of growth, with an 84.2% projected increase in salary between early-career and late-career.

Career and Further Education Opportunities

Students who earn a bachelor’s in emergency management will leave school qualified for dozens of positions in the field; those with specialized degrees and work experience will be particularly well-positioned for this competitive and demanding profession. Below, we’ve covered four of the most common professional pathways for emergency management graduates.

Emergency Management Directors: These professionals oversee teams who operate at different stages of emergency preparedness and response. They create comprehensive contingency plans designed to mitigate threats against human life, property, and natural resources. They also help with relief efforts when emergency situations occur.

Logisticians: These professionals specialize in organizing supply chain needs for companies and organizations. In emergency management, logisticians coordinate transportation, medicine, medical equipment, and other relief services. They also develop strategies for delivering essential goods and provisions in the wake of disasters, attacks, and other emergencies.

Computer and Information Systems Managers: Computer and information systems managers oversee the day-to-day computing and IT operations at companies and organizations. They meet with government officials and other leaders to determine specific tech needs, and then perform upgrades and introduce new systems to help their organization operate efficiently.

Information Security Analysts: These tech professionals run software programs and perform tests to evaluate the security of an organization’s computing systems. They are trained to handle hackers, cyberterrorists, and other online criminals, along with viruses, malfunctioning equipment, and other technical issues that can compromise information security.

Occupation Median Annual Salary
Emergency Management Directors $67,330
Logisticians $72,460
Computer and Information Systems Managers $131,600
Information Security Analysts $90,120

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

Making connections and learning as much as you can about emergency management is crucial to your professional success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below, you’ll find information about three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for emergency management professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online training, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • National Emergency Management Association: Founded in 1974, NEMA is a nonprofit professional organization that strives to bolster public safety “by improving the nation’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from all emergencies, disasters, and threats to our nation’s security.” NEMA routinely works with federal agencies and members of Congress in order to reach this goal. The organization also sponsors two annual conferences. Member benefits include continuing education workshops and networking opportunities.
  • International Association of Emergency Managers: Representing more than 6,000 members worldwide, the IAEM is dedicated to improving emergency response and disaster relief procedures across the globe. The organization emphasizes the need for multinational cooperation when addressing events that affect multiple countries, such as large-scale natural disasters or global public security threats.
  • The International Association for Preparedness and Response: This organization works to facilitate collaboration and cooperation between emergency management personnel, volunteer organizations, and relief agencies. Individual membership is available for as little as $20 per person, and members are invited to take part in training seminars, workshops, and networking events.
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


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