Best Online Emergency Management Programs

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The field of emergency management concentrates on effective strategies for reducing threats to the public and responding with relief efforts when catastrophic events occur. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management prepares students to mitigate disasters through collaborative work with government agencies and private organizations.

Many schools offer online bachelor’s degrees in emergency management. These programs are usually ‘blended’, meaning they combine web-based coursework and on-site practicum sessions; students access lectures online and submit most assignments via email, but courses that involve physical demonstrations (such as safety and fire drills) may require on-campus study. Specializations may be available in certain areas of emergency management, such as cyber security. Some graduates go on to obtain a Master of Science in emergency management degree, or even a Ph.D in the subject depending on their final career goals. Graduate-level education, however, is not necessary to get started in the field.

Below, you’ll find our list of the country’s best online bachelor’s degree programs in the field of emergency management. Each school is ranked on the merits of its academic strengths, learning goals, positive student outcomes, course offerings and online classroom experience. If the field of emergency management interests you, this comprehensive list will serve as a useful resource in your search for a suitable online bachelor’s program.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

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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By earning an online emergency management degree, graduates will leave school equipped with the technical, educational and interpersonal skills needed to launch a career in the emergency management sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, emergency managers earn a median annual salary of $64,360. The rate of growth for these positions is expected to rise 6% over the next eight years.

Natural disasters, large-scale acts of violence and public health crises all fall under the umbrella of emergency management. Emergency managers are commonly called on to mitigate the following threats to national security:

  • Global Terrorism: Fighting terrorism both domestically and abroad requires quality intelligence, risk assessment and contingency plans for different types of worst-case scenarios. Emergency managers that specialize in terrorism are summoned to investigate attacks involving bombs and/or chemical weapons; they may also be called upon to facilitate hostage situations or live acts of terrorism as they unfold in real-time.
  • Gun Violence: Mass shootings are an increasingly common threat to American safety. These shootings often occur in crowded or densely populated areas; emergency management professionals work to quell these situations through crowd control and medical relief. Mock trainings and simulations are used to prepare these professionals for real-life scenarios.
  • Cyber Terrorism: Emergency management professionals who specialize in cyber crime may be called in by government agencies or private companies to mitigate large-scale hacks against their data systems. In recent years, the Department of Homeland Security has created task forces specifically designed to battle cyber terrorism.
  • Civil Unrest: Protest is one of the pillars of the American democratic process, but sometimes civil demonstrations get out of hand and peace must be restored. Local police are usually the first to respond when protests turn violent. If the situation escalates, then emergency managers with the Federal Bureau of Investigation may be called in to take control of the scene.
  • Natural Disasters: Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, droughts, and other natural disasters occur on a regular basis throughout the country, and thorough contingency plans can save lives when these catastrophes strike. Emergency management professionals are tasked with stocking warehouses with emergency supplies, planning and executing safety drills and educating the public on how to be safe in a disaster.

Emergency management is an essential component of public safety. An online emergency management degree will give you the knowledge and skills needed to step into the job market and launch an impactful career in this critical field. And thanks to the online format, obtaining an emergency management bachelor’s degree has never been easier or more convenient.

Emergency Management Organizations

  • International Organization for Disaster Preparedness and Response: Founded in 1962, DERA is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to linking emergency management organizations, professionals and volunteers. DERA offers networking opportunities, resource sharing, leadership opportunities and professional support for members.
  • International Association of Emergency Managers: With over 9,000 members worldwide, IAEM is a premier nonprofit organization for emergency management professionals. IAEM serves its members by offering information, education and professional networking opportunities.
  • FEMA Emergency Management Institute: FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute aims to support emergency management professionals in responding to all types of disasters. The EMI offers training programs as well as extensive information on different higher education options for emergency management.
  • National Emergency Management Association: NEMA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to public safety and disaster preparation. The association provides leadership resources and collaborative tools to emergency management directors in all 50 U.S. states.
  • International Disaster Recovery Association: IDRA is an organization of educators, researchers and vendors interested in the capability of telecommunications to assist with emergency management and disaster recovery. The group holds workshops, conferences, seminars and other educational events focusing on the improvement of emergency management through telecommunications.