The skills of emergency management professionals are vital when communities experience crises and natural disasters. Students can earn a master's degree in emergency management online to prepare for crisis relief, emergency response, and disaster preparedness careers in government agencies and the private sector. The 24 schools we've listed make up the most affordable options for obtaining an online master's degree in emergency management, with all of their annual tuition rates priced at less than $12,000.
Master of Public Administration - Concentration in Emergency Management
Can You Get a Master's in Emergency Management Online?
Yes, you can earn a master's in emergency management online or a master's degree with a concentration in emergency management. In fact, a 2020 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) survey found that these programs are increasingly being offered online. Over 64% of programs offer a majority of their curriculum through distance learning. This can be a flexible way to earn a degree while maintaining a busy schedule. The curriculum covers the hazards, risks, and theories of disaster to help you prepare for careers in crisis management.
Emergency Management Master’s Degree Quick Facts
Average Credits: 36
Average Duration: 1-2 years
General admission requirements for this program usually include a bachelor's degree, official college transcripts, a 2.7 GPA or better, and a nonrefundable application fee of approximately $30. Program admission may also require certifications in Health Care Provider CPR, Basic Disaster Life Support, and/or Core Disaster Life Support. Some may even require the prior completion of FEMA introductory courses that are offered online for free.
Online master's degree programs typically call for the completion of 15 core classes, 15 major-related courses, three electives, and three final semester credit hours. In addition, students may need to complete either an internship or practicum hours as well as a capstone course or thesis. Core course content helps students develop critical thinking skills, identify the social determinants of risk, communicate effectively when disaster strikes, and understand emergency management's integration with public policy.
Emergency Management Master's Courses
Emergency management personnel use skills gained in degree programs in the face of life-threatening emergencies, including communication, leadership, critical thinking, and data analytics. Degree curriculum supports the four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Courses cover ethics, emerging technology, infrastructure attacks, biosecurity, and risk management. They are also designed to build skills, such as identifying vulnerabilities in an organization or community and applying theories and practices to minimize risks.
Course titles may differ, but learning outcomes are similar:
Economics of Disaster
This course is designed to teach students about the economic impact of local, national, and international disasters. Students often research and analyze the resulting indirect financial losses to private and public sectors.
Mass Casualty Incident Management
Students may enroll in this class to explore the consequences of large-scale emergencies and disasters. Topics may include public health, casualty, and mortuary services. Students typically study examples of real-world casualty incidents.
Social Justice Issues in Emergency Management
Students must be prepared for the various challenges that arise during a crisis. Coursework often covers the socioeconomics of disaster and its disproportionate impact on minorities, women, and individuals experiencing poverty.
Faculty often cover the public announcements, press releases, and other notifications that may be necessary to inform and protect the public during a crisis. Students reflect on recent incidents to gain fresh perspectives, and they engage in classroom discussions about best practices
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and the New Terrorism
This class is intended for students who want to examine the threat of WMD to U.S. security and safety. Students strive to gain national and international historical perspectives of the destruction caused by these weapons and how they disrupt everyday life.
Funding an Online Emergency Management Master's Degree
Annual tuition from our rankings list above ranges from $4,986 to $12,000 for online programs. Although online tuition and fees are typically cheaper than on-campus programs, the Emergency Management degrees on our rankings list are often similar in cost to traditional, in-person programs. While other online programs may charge students in-state tuition regardless of residency, many programs on our list do not offer this benefit and charge based on a student's residency status. However, some schools may have reciprocity agreements with participating schools in other states, which could potentially lower tuition rates for online graduate students in this field.
Annual tuition from our rankings list of online emergency management master's programs ranges from $4,986 to $12,000.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Emergency Management?
Employment in the emergency and disaster relief field has more than doubled between 1990 and 2017 and is expected to continue growing through 2026. Graduates often work for the federal government in FEMA or the Department of Homeland Security to help communities prevent and recover from disasters. Some work in local government or private industries, including hospitals, schools, and corporations. Some workers report finding gratification in improving the lives of those experiencing desperate situations.
Graduates may choose from several occupations, but these typically only require a bachelor's degree. Emergency management directors help build community resilience and create disaster recovery plans while earning an annual median salary of $76,250. Another role to consider is an occupational health and safety specialist. They analyze work environments to prevent disease and injury, earning a median wage of $72,530 per year. Some graduates could choose to become business continuity planners who develop, maintain, and implement an organization's recovery strategies. They earn an annual median salary of $77,420. The job outlook for all of these occupations averages between 5-10%.
Is an Online Master's in Emergency Management Worth It?
The decision to earn an online emergency management master's degree is ultimately up to you, but it’s important to determine whether it will help you meet your career goals. While emergency management jobs may pay well, they can often be attained with only a bachelor's degree. Instead of a graduate program, employers may prefer a Certified Emergency Manager credential or completing an online
Work experience is highly valued for emergency management jobs because it helps develop decision-making abilities during real-life emergencies. In fact, hands-on experience is crucial in disaster recovery. According to John Fredenberg, the lead emergency management specialist for a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “You learn by doing, so you need to try as early and as often as you can to go to disasters. … In our field, lives literally hang in the balance.” Military, paramedic, and healthcare experience may provide such training in crisis management.