Best Online Master’s in Emergency Management Programs

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleMaster'sin Emergency Management2017
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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, floods, terrorist attack, or any other crisis. Emergency management directors develop contingency plans for all potential disasters, train personnel to effectively respond to public needs, and oversee the implementation of these procedures when disasters actually strike. These directors often work for government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels, although some may find jobs in the private sector.

Most emergency management careers are attainable with a bachelor’s degree, and job-seekers with a master’s degree are considered top job candidates for management-level positions. Many students who want to earn a master’s in emergency management choose to do so online. The curriculum for these programs will cover the latest tools, resources, and organizational strategies used to plan for and respond to emergencies of different magnitudes, from localized disasters to state or nationwide crises. Students can further bolster their career prospects by focusing their studies on specific areas of emergency management, such as homeland security or public health.

Read on to learn more about what you can do with a master’s degree in emergency management and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to once you have your degree.


Online master’s in emergency management programs are designed to prepare students for the demanding nature of their chosen profession. The curriculum uses case studies to explore effective ― and ineffective ― response strategies for different emergencies. Other key areas of focus include logistics, organizational leadership, and post-response evaluation procedures. Graduates leave school prepared to lead emergency response teams in a range of time-sensitive scenarios.


Online master’s in 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.


Graduates who leave school with a master’s in emergency management will qualify for most top entry-level positions, as well as some managerial roles. Students who earn specialized emergency management master’s degrees will also be top candidates for niche roles in their field of expertise. Some of the most popular career pathways for these degree-holders include emergency management directors, information systems managers, logistical support personnel, and social and community services managers.


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 master’s in emergency management programs in the United States. If you are considering an online master’s in emergency management, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more about their specific master’s degree requirements and offerings.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Millersville University of Pennsylvania 65.75 65% Millersville, PA

Millersville's online masters degree in emergency management is a program geared toward all students regardless of their undergraduate major. The degree is facilitated through the school's Center for Disaster Research and Education, which combines courses taught by faculty, emergency management experts, and disaster studies researchers to offer a rich interdisciplinary education. Graduates of Millersville's master of science in emergency management (MSEM) degree have gone on to pursue jobs in the energy sector, at consulting firms, and in health services, among other occupations.

For those looking to complete their graduate degree while working, Millersville University's Center for Disaster Research and Education instructors primarily conduct their online classes in the evening, allowing students to fit their studies into their existing work schedules. This flexible, 30-credit program is composed of courses that can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. As students complete their degree remotely, they can access resources such as remote office hours, professional organizations, and an online library reserve.

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2 Adelphi University 63.24 66% Garden City, NY

Adelphi serves over 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students across their degree programs in Garden City, NY and over the internet. Those studying through the college's eCampus can earn their emergency management master's degree online. This MS in emergency management program is particularly well-suited for students seeking leadership roles in organizations that focus on natural disaster relief, homeland security, and terrorism mitigation.

The 38-credit degree consists of courses taken across Adelphi University's University College and Robert B. Willumstad School of Business, and finishes with a capstone research project. All students in this interdisciplinary program have the option to specialize in one of the following tracks: environment, homeland security, or health. To further meet students' individual academic and career goals, Adelphi University also offers a Certificate in Emergency Management worth 18 credits for those looking to take fewer courses. The credits taken toward the certificate can also be applied to the master's degree in emergency management online program.

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3 Philadelphia University 61.13 61% Philadelphia, PA

The MS in disaster medicine and management program offered at Philadelphia University is a 36-credit degree that can be completed in as little as one year. This emergency management master's online program is primarily conducted through web courses, but students are required to attend a conference on campus for one week of the program. The main goal of the graduate degree is to prepare individuals for disaster management by teaching emergency preparation and response skills through lectures, hands-on seminars, and disaster drills. Students can access these lectures as well as supplemental educational resources through Blackboard, the online platform used at Philadelphia University.

For students looking for a smaller time commitment, Philadelphia University partners with the Department of Emergency Medicine of the Albert Einstein Health Network to offer two certificate programs: disaster medicine and management and business continuity. Each certificate program can be earned through the completion of three disaster medicine and management courses -- all of which can be accessed remotely.

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4 Arizona State University-Skysong 60.36 40% Scottsdale, AZ

Of the over 100 online programs offered through Arizona State University's eLearning platform, the master of arts in emergency management and homeland security degree program is best geared towards students who want to work to strengthen communities struck by disasters and crises. The curriculum in this degree focuses on risk reduction of natural and human-made hazards, providing relevant, real-world examples to bolster students' learning.

The cost of this program is $552 per credit hour, and over 70% of students taking online courses receive some form of financial aid. The web-based programs offered through this school are supported by several student services. Those in Arizona State University's online master's in emergency management program can access online tutoring, library materials, and career services from wherever they are, making the emergency management master's online courses an accessible, approachable option for remotely located students.

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5 Arkansas State University-Main Campus 60.36 39% Jonesboro, AR

The MS degree in disaster preparedness and emergency management offered through Arkansas State's College of Nursing and Health Professions is ideal for students who are looking to involve themselves in a career that focuses on disaster planning, response, and recovery. While Arkansas State University is based out of State University, Ark., students in this program can opt to take their courses remotely through the school's web platform, A-State Online.

All undergraduate majors are eligible to apply, but one unique feature to Arkansas State's online master's in emergency management is that all applicants must be interviewed by an adviser in-person or over the internet before being admitted to this graduate degree. Students who are accepted into the program can then enroll in courses. To finish their degree, students are also required to complete an internship, research project, or thesis. These various courses and learning experiences in the emergency management master's online program total to 36 credits by the time of graduation.

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6 Adler University 57.33 40% Chicago, IL

Located in Chicago, Ill., Alder University offers an MA in emergency management leadership in two formats: completely online, and through their executive format, which is a blend of online learning with evening or weekend courses held in Chicago. Both degree program formats are catered towards students who are looking to become psychological first aid providers.

Faculty members of the graduate studies program are primarily emergency management professionals who have experience working in natural and man-made disaster situations. As such, the curriculum focuses on real-world examples that teach students how to create disaster response plans, develop leadership techniques to conduct trainings, and work with different health organizations in emergency situations. These skills are taught through courses that total to 37 credits. Web classes in this emergency management master's online program are taken over the course of eight weeks. Online students typically complete this graduate degree in around two years, working full-time jobs as they do so.

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7 Lander University 55.30 40% Greenwood, SC

Lander University's online MS degree in emergency management is designed for students who are already pursuing careers that involve emergency management such as insurance, urban planning, transportation, and first-response personnel (such as police officers and firemen). The curriculum in this online master's in emergency management aims to give emergency management professionals the knowledge and skills to mitigate and respond to disaster situations of various scales that range from local to international. The courses also focus on how to effectively communicate during crises, preparing students to advance their careers into leadership roles within the emergency management field.

There are three 10-credit courses that cover this information from different angles, plus a one-credit capstone course. All together, this program is typically completed within two years. Located in Greenwood, S.C., Lander helps students complete their degree on time by assigning a personal adviser to every student. In addition, the school assists in connecting students with local organizations to provide them with internship and volunteer opportunities that prepare them for their future careers.

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8 Arkansas Tech University 50.83 41% Russellville, AR

Students looking for a master's in emergency management online or in person will find both offered at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Ark. Their Department of Emergency Management has a MS in emergency management & homeland security program that teaches students how to become emergency management professionals at the local, regional, national, and international level. The curriculum takes an interdisciplinary approach to provide a broad overview of emergency management skills and tactics. The large scope of this program aims to be applicable to different emergency management-related positions in non-profits, business, or government.

Arkansas Tech University offers an incredibly flexible timeline for completion of this degree, as students can take up to six years to finish all of the courses -- totalling to 36 credits -- as students integrate this online emergency management master's degree into their existing schedules. Upon graduation, students must submit a thesis or take a comprehensive exam. No matter the pace in which students complete their degree, they are required to maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

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9 Southern New Hampshire University 48.85 59% Manchester, NH

One of the over 50 online master's degrees offered at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett, N.H. is the master's in emergency management. This master's degree in emergency management online program is unique in that no GMAT or GRE is required for admission. Upon acceptance, students can elect to take courses online -- the majority of which focus on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) strategies around planning, preparedness, response, and recovery. The curriculum in this master's degree also touches on how to successfully communicate during crises and be an effective leader in disaster situations. The online courses often use real world scenarios and examples as well as case studies to analyze man-made and natural disaster situations.

These courses are typically taken two at a time per 10-week term. Those who wish to attain their master's degree quickly can complete the program in as few as 15 months. On the other hand, students looking to continue working full-time as they complete their degree at a slow pace have the option to spread out their coursework over several years, adjusting their course load as needed.

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10 Jacksonville State University 48.32 29% Jacksonville, AL

Jacksonville State offers bachelor's, master's, and doctor of science degree programs to students on their campus in Jacksonville, Ala. as well as online. Their MS in emergency management degree in particular focuses on crisis management skills and hazard assessment knowledge. Students must complete 30 total credits to attain their master's degree, 21 of which are specific to the emergency management degree program and nine of which are electives that students can select from 15 different courses.

There is no requirement for any on-campus attendance or internship credit, so all aspects of this online master's in emergency management can be completed remotely and during any time of day. For those looking for a smaller time commitment, a 15-credit Graduate Certificate in Emergency Management is offered through Jacksonville State University's online degree program selections as well. All of these web-based learning options at Jacksonville State are facilitated through the Blackboard eLearning platform.

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18 months to 2 years
Program Costs (when available)
$8,000 to $15,000 in annual tuition
Homeland Security, Information Systems Management, Public Safety, Public Health, Law Enforcement/Fire Protection, Logistics
Council for the Accreditation of Emergency Management Education (CAEME)

Master vs Bachelor of Emergency Management

Emergency management is considered a “recession-proof” industry, due to the constant need for emergency response and disaster relief services. The additional emphasis on homeland security in recent years has also increased the number of jobs in emergency management. A recent article from noted that some experts project the field to grow by as much as 20% in the next few years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate for master’s degree-holders across all industries is 2.4%; by comparison, bachelor’s and associate degree holders face an unemployment rate of 2.8% and 3.8%, respectively. Using BLS data, the following table lists the growth projections for some common career pathways in emergency management.

Profession Number of Jobs (2014) Projected Growth Rate (2014-24)th>

Increase in Number of Jobs (2014-24)
Emergency Management Directors 10,500 6% +700
Logisticians 130,400 2% +2,500
Computer and Information Systems Managers 348,500 15% +53,700
Social and Community Service Managers 138,500 10% +13,200

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

O*Net Online notes that most emergency management professionals hold a bachelor’s degree. The latest data indicates that roughly 15% of emergency management directors have a master’s degree, while 52% of employees in this role have a bachelor’s. For this reason, candidates with a master’s in emergency management are well-positioned to advance in the field.

Earning a Living

In addition to favorable employment rates and enhanced job opportunities, candidates with a master’s degree in emergency management are projected to earn higher salaries than their counterparts with lesser degrees. Your actual salary, however, will naturally depend on your job title, where you work, and other specific variables. The next table examines salary expectations for different emergency management occupations at four key career benchmarks.

Profession Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 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 $50,000td>

$63,000 $69,000 $76,000

As the table reveals, all five professions saw at least 40% salary growth between the entry-level and late-career stages. Disaster recovery coordinators experience the highest gain ― an increase of roughly $48,000, or 84.2%, in annual earnings. Intelligence analysts and logistics managers ranked next with career salary gains of $45,000 (60.3%) and $26,000 (52%) per year, respectively.

Career Opportunities

Students who graduate with a master’s degree in emergency management are qualified for dozens of jobs at the local, state, and federal levels. Your eligibility for specific jobs will depend on a few factors, including degree specialization and work experience. Below, we’ve covered four common careers for master’s degree holders.

Emergency Management Directors: Emergency management directors lead teams that are responsible for developing and implementing procedures for different situations that pose a threat to human life, property, and natural resources. They carefully investigate all of the factors and potential hazards of their contingency plan, and thoroughly evaluate plans that have been enacted in order to make future improvements.

Logisticians: Logisticians are responsible for coordinating supplies, transportation, human support, and other resources used in emergency response procedures. They conduct thorough inventory checks and work to improve the supply chain of their agency or organization in order to prepare for time-sensitive emergency scenarios.

Computer and Information Systems Managers: Also known as information technology (IT) managers, these employees develop, coordinate, and utilize computer-based tools and programs used in emergency response and disaster relief. They also oversee periodic system upgrades and monitor online traffic to ensure that their IT systems are safeguarded from security breaches and other outside threats.

Social and Community Service Managers: Social and community service managers plan, coordinate, and oversee various social services and community programs. In emergency situations, these managers often work on the front lines to help individuals affected by disasters and arrange for support from larger agencies.

Occupation Median Annual Salary
Emergency Management Directors $67,330
Logisticians $72,460
Computer and Information Systems Managers $131,600
Social and Community Service Managers $63,530

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to emergency management is crucial to developing as a professional. These 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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Rankings Archive

Best Online Master's in Emergency Management Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Millersville University of Pennsylvania Millersville, PA
2 Philadelphia University Philadelphia, PA
3 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR
4 Arkansas Tech University Russellville, AR
5 Lander University Greenwood, SC