Emergency management refers to the coordination between the agencies that are responsible for responding to natural or man-made disasters. It involves four phases: preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. Many people only know about the response and recovery phases of emergency management, in which firefighters rush into burning buildings or the National Guard rescues homeowners from the rooftops of their flooded homes. But preparedness and mitigation are just as important to emergency management.
Several schools offer emergency management programs that provide students with a broad overview of all four components and the opportunity to concentrate on the area that interests them most. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employment in the emergency and other relief services industry has grown steadily between 1990 and 2017, and projects that this growth will continue through 2026. Climate change and the threat of global terrorism make emergency management degrees particularly attractive to individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of others.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Emergency Management?
Several schools now give students the chance to earn an emergency management bachelor's degree online. Some programs offer asynchronous classes, which allow students to attend lectures and complete coursework on their own schedule, while others offer synchronous classes that students can access from anywhere, but only at specific times. Online programs provide flexibility and convenience, but brick-and-mortar programs also have advantages. They allow for frequent and immediate interaction between professors and students, which few online programs can match. The rigor and requirements of an online bachelor's degree in emergency management is the same as that of an on-campus program. Deciding whether to take online or on-campus courses depends on your learning style and schedule flexibility.
Emergency management programs offer courses and training in disaster prevention, recovery procedures, emergency preparedness, and public safety. By enrolling in courses that focus on the aspect of emergency management that most interests you, you can tailor your bachelor's degree to fit career goals. However, no matter which concentration you choose, a well-designed bachelor's in emergency management program should develop your critical thinking, communication, and leadership skills.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Emergency Management?
You can choose to pursue a career in any of the four aspects of the emergency management field: preparedness, response, recovery, or mitigation. Dealing with natural calamities and man-made disasters requires the concerted efforts of several professionals from different backgrounds. Because of this, people with varying skills or training can pursue careers in emergency management. For example, someone with medical training can work as an emergency medical technician, while one with an interest and background in information technology can secure critical digital infrastructure against cyber terrorist attacks as an information security analyst.
- EMTs and Paramedics
Often first responders in emergency and disaster situations, EMTs and paramedics perform several roles, depending the nature of the emergency. They may perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, assess a patient's medical condition, determine an immediate course of treatment, and transport patients safely.
Median Annual Salary: $33,380*
- Hazardous Materials Removal Workers
A hazardous materials removal worker can perform his or her duties with just a high school diploma, after completing at least 40 hours of training approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Still, a bachelor's degree in emergency management can qualify them for managerial positions, improve their knowledge and expertise in mitigating hazmat disasters, and devise more effective means of controlling hazardous waste and materials.
Median Annual Salary: $41,400*
You can become a firefighter with training and a postsecondary certificate from a fire academy, but earning a bachelor's degree can qualify you for management positions later on in your career. In addition to putting out fires, firefighters also control and clean up hazardous materials, provide first-aid emergency care, and conduct public education campaigns about fire safety.
Median Annual Salary: $49,080*
- Emergency Management Directors
An emergency management director is responsible for preparing emergency response plans, coordinating rescue efforts with public safety officials and emergency personnel during emergency situations, assessing the damages after a disaster, and applying for federal assistance for recovery. A bachelor's degree in emergency management provides the training and critical thinking skills necessary to meet these and various other duties of the job.
Median Annual Salary: $72,760*
- Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts perform digital disaster and emergency response operations. A bachelor's in emergency management with a concentration in this field prepares students for the following responsibilities: installing and monitoring security software to protect a system from cyber attacks, conducting penetration tests to discover and address vulnerabilities, and restoring systems post-disaster.
Median Annual Salary: $95,510*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Emergency Management Program
Full-time students typically take four years to complete a bachelor's in emergency management program. They may reduce program length by enrolling in summer courses. Online courses are ideal during summer terms, so you can work in a summer job or internship while attending class. Several universities offer online bachelor's degrees in emergency management. If you opt to take an online class from a school other than your own, make sure sure to check your college's credit transfer policy to make sure the credits will apply to your degree.
Most bachelor's in emergency management programs require students to complete an internship or practicum prior to graduation. Schools with this requirement often help their on-campus students find internship opportunities within a reasonable driving distance from where they live. Online students usually have to find these internship opportunities on their own.
It's easier to find internship opportunities in big-city colleges that offer on-campus bachelor's programs in emergency management. However, prospective students should account for the cost of living in a bigger city, including expenses for transportation and entertainment. Tuition often eats up the largest portion of a college budget, but these other expenses can make a big difference, as well.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Emergency Management Programs
Legitimate institutions of higher learning seek accreditation from established accrediting bodies to show that they meet certain stringent academic standards. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recognize several institution-wide and program-specific accrediting bodies, but neither directly provides accreditation. Neither CHEA nor ED can require schools to obtain accreditation. Reputable colleges and universities voluntarily seek accreditation as part of maintaining the rigor and quality of their programs. To date, there is no accrediting body that oversees emergency management programs specifically. In this case, your best option is to choose an institution with school-wide regional accreditation, especially if you hope to qualify for federal assistance. Only accredited colleges and universities can participate in federal financial aid programs from the ED.
Bachelor's in Emergency Management Program Admissions
Application deadlines for most U.S. colleges and universities fall sometime in January for regular applicants. These schools usually notify applicants of their admissions decisions in March or April. However, if you applied to a school with a rolling admissions policy, you learn about your acceptance six to eight weeks after submitting your application. Early decision applicants have an earlier deadline (often in November) and are notified of their acceptance or rejection by mid-December. You may be tempted to apply to as many colleges as possible, thinking this might increase your odds of acceptance. However, application fees add up, making this a costly -- not to mention exhausting -- endeavor. Instead, focus on making sure your application is in the best form it can be and that you submit it on time.
- Minimum GPA: Schools have varying minimum GPA requirements for admission, most bachelor's programs set the threshold at 2.0.
- Application: Several schools accept applications through The Common Application, which simplifies the college application process by allowing students to apply to several schools at the same time.
- Transcripts: Colleges and universities require applicants to submit transcript from their prior colleges and high schools they attended. Most schools charge a fee to produce official transcripts.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most colleges require applicants to submit at least one letter of recommendation from a mentor, such as a teacher or school counselor. Give your letter writers plenty of notice before your application deadline.
- Test Scores: The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT) are the two most popular college admissions tests in the United States.
- Application Fee: The average application fee is $43, but some schools charge more, with fees ranging up to $75. Some schools waive the application fee for students who demonstrate financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Emergency Management Program?
Emergency management may be a specialized area of study, but there are several possible career paths you can pursue after earning a bachelor's degree in the field. Your degree concentration can shape your whole career, so focus on the emergency management phase that most interests you to tailor your degree to support your career goals.
|Disaster Preparedness||Students learn how to plan ahead for various man-made and natural disasters by studying the elements of an effective disaster preparedness program. They enroll in courses such as the following: risk assessment and resource management, management of hazardous materials, protective devices and strategies, and mass public communications.||Emergency services director|
|Business Continuity||This concentration prepares students to anticipate and remediate the effects of disastrous events that can disrupt regular business operations. They study various scenarios that can emerge from different types of disasters and how to return businesses back to normal as quickly as possible.||Operations manager, computer and information technology administrator|
|Homeland Security||Coursework for this concentration focuses on topics including global terrorism, intelligence gathering, cultivating international relations to mitigate the spread of terrorism, and disaster relief. Students who choose this concentration usually find employment with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or other government agencies charged with the task of national security.||FBI agent, CIA operative|
|Fire Science||Required courses for this concentration typically include: fire prevention practices and preparedness, first response and recovery strategies, risk reduction, and public safety. This concentration prepares students to respond to fires and other disaster situations such as terrorist attacks or hazardous materials accidents.||Firefighter|
|Disaster Relief||Students who focus on disaster relief learn to coordinate effective and comprehensive relief efforts in response to disasters. They may examine international and national relief programs to identify and replicate the elements that comprise successful relief efforts.||Relief aid coordinator|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Emergency Management Program
Emergency management includes several different sub-fields, so curricula can vary greatly between colleges. However, there are certain foundation courses that most schools offer, because they give students a firm footing in the field and provide them with a framework for understanding the types of work they can do after graduation.
- Introduction to Homeland Security
Students examine the administrative and operational aspects of homeland security programs. They also study key emergency management issues, such as disaster response, relief operations, and counter-terrorism. The course familiarizes future homeland security personnel with the agency's procedures and processes.
- Management of Information Security
This course emphasizes security policy development and how to use digital forensic tools to safeguard computer and network systems to make them resilient against cyberattacks. Students who plan to pursue a career as information security analysts may find this course helpful, because it introduces them to the aspects of designing secure information systems.
- Disaster Mitigation and Preparedness
This course focuses on the mitigation of disasters' impact on public education, along with disaster exercises and awareness campaigns. Students also learn to identify and integrate the various elements of an effective disaster mitigation plan for different kinds of emergency situations.
- Understanding Terrorism
Students planning to pursue careers as federal agents may find that understanding the history and characteristics of terrorism can help in their line of work. Modern-day terrorism has a long history, and unraveling it can aid in crafting more effective anti-terrorism programs.
- Public Information and Policy
Dealing with the media and general public during and after a disaster is crucial in maintaining order and preventing an escalation of events. This course is especially informative for students aspiring to become public information officers, since it defines their roles and the roles of the media and the public in times of disasters.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Emergency Management?
Like most undergraduate degrees, a bachelor's in emergency management requires 120 credits. Full-time students typically take four years to earn the degree. Part-time students may take longer to complete the program. If you want to expedite your degree, consider pursuing it online or primarily online. Some online programs allow students to “double up” on credits, especially when they enroll in asynchronous courses that they can attend at any time, from anywhere. Synchronous online classes usually follow a more stringent schedule.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Emergency Management?
Your residency status directly impacts the cost of your college education. The average price tag of a bachelor's degree from a public four-year university is $9,970 for in-state students. Out-of-state students pay an average of $25,620 for similar programs. Students at private nonprofit colleges pay even more, with the average tuition falling at $34,740. The U.S. News and World Report estimates online emergency management programs cost less, ranging from $6,300 to $17,250 per year. Some colleges offering online programs charge students an additional technology fee, costing up to $150 per course.
As college expenses continue to rise, more students are enrolling in two-year community colleges to complete their general education requirements before transferring to four-year universities. Community colleges cost less for in-district students than public four-year universities do; on average, community college students pay $3,470, as opposed to $9,970 for public university students. You can save a considerable amount of money by completing the first half of your bachelor's degree at a two-year community college. Several community colleges have articulation agreements in place with in-state public universities to simplify the credit transfer process.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Emergency Management Prepares For
- Associate Business Continuity Professional
Applicants with less than two years of professional experience in the business continuity field can apply for this certification. The program also accepts applicants with work experience in related fields such as emergency response, business enterprise technology, and marketing. The application fee is $200.
- Associate Emergency Manager
This certification program is for industry professionals who do not yet meet the requirements to become certified emergency managers. The program requires 100 contact hours each in general and emergency management training. Attending a professional conference can reduce the number of required training hours for initial certification.
- Certified Emergency Manager
Certified Emergency Managers develop and implement comprehensive emergency management programs. They also coordinate and monitor interagency communications and cooperation before, during, and after emergencies. The certification exam is two hours long and has 100 questions. Applicants must have at least three years of verifiable experience in the emergency management field.
- Certified Functional Continuity Professional
This certification tests an applicant's mastery of a specific area in the business continuity field, such as application testing or IT recovery. Applicants must have a minimum of two years of experience in the industry with demonstrable skills and knowledge in three of the subject matter areas of the professional practices. There is a $400 certification fee.
- Emergency Medical Technician
Functioning as part of a comprehensive emergency medical response system, EMTs provide on-site emergency medical care for critical patients. They also stabilize and transport patients, and perform intervention procedures with basic equipment. Future EMTs must pass both the cognitive and psychomotor portions of the EMT exam, which is administered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.
Resources for Emergency Management Students
EMI offers onsite and online training programs for emergency management professionals at different points in their careers. Some EMI programs come with stipend reimbursements for qualified enrollees.
This is an informative digital publication that delivers up-to-date news on homeland security and emergency management issues. It also publishes scholarly papers on topics including the importance of social media in crisis communications and emerging roles in emergency medical services.
This FEMA page reaches out to emergency and disaster management professionals who want to pursue a career in government. It provides a list of open job positions in the field and various career resources.
This is an excellent resource for emergency management professionals and the general public. It provides access to a variety of national preparedness materials on diverse areas such as risk assessment and threat and hazard identification.
This is part of a national public service campaign to educate the general public about disaster preparedness. The website is updated regularly and includes the government's latest initiatives and programs on disaster mitigation, which can be useful for emergency management professionals.
Professional Organizations in Emergency Management
No matter where in the world a disaster strikes, it almost always has global repercussions. This is one of the reasons why international cooperation in the emergency management and disaster preparedness field is so important. Professional organizations play a crucial role in preparing for, responding to, and mitigating disasters and emergency situations. They also provide networking opportunities and professional support in a field that has become indispensable in the face of climate change and threats from global terrorism.
DRI focuses on the business continuity field. It provides native-language training in business disaster recovery in more than 50 countries and offers certification programs in addition to networking and continuing education opportunities.
DERA maintains a comprehensive digital archive with articles, reports, and research findings on various emergency management topics. Members receive a digital newsletter with up-to-date information and developments in the disaster preparedness arena.
With more than 6,000 members from all over the world, IAEM provides emergency management professionals with networking and news-sharing opportunities. The organization also has a scholarship program for emergency management students.
The NEMA website has a career center that is free for members to access. It also maintains a digital document library that houses white papers and reports on various emergency management topics.
USFRA is a professional and social networking association that welcomes emergency management professionals from various fields, including firefighters, EMTS, and law enforcement officers. The site features career resources and a disaster preparedness e-store.