Getting Your Emergency Management Master’s Degree Online

Emergency management professionals play a crucial role in public safety by preparing for and responding to natural and manmade disasters, national security threats, and other crisis events. Obtaining an online master’s degree in emergency management can train you for supervisory roles in this critical field. Read on to learn how these programs work and find the best one for you.

Last Updated: 05/11/2022

2022’s Best Online Master’s in Emergency Management Programs

Many quality colleges offer online emergency management master’s programs, each with its own mix of admission requirements, specializations, course offerings, and more. Finding the right program to meet your needs can be confusing and time-consuming with so many options. An excellent place to start your search is our list of the top online emergency management master’s degree programs. Selections were made based on our review of several key program components, including accreditation, online program availability, affordability, and student support services. Online availability and overall affordability play a substantial role in a school’s position. See which schools rose to the top of this year’s list.

About the ranking

Methodology for the STEPS Best Online Programs in 2022

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

Assign Impact of Data Points

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability. Online program availability and overall affordability received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. When unable to verify this number, a star-based system was used to signify the number of programs relative to peers.

Affordability

  • Cost:
    Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid:
    Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

1
New England College

Henniker, New Hampshire

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 13:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 95%
Online Students 2,456
2

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 80%
Online Students 1,263
3
Idaho State University

Pocatello, Idaho

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 13:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 70%
Online Students 782
4
Arkansas State University

Jonesboro, Arkansas

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 77%
Online Students 103
5
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Fairbanks, Alaska

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 11:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 50%
Online Students 204
6
Arkansas Tech University

Russellville, Arkansas

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 75%
Online Students 74
7
Eastern Kentucky University

Richmond, Kentucky

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 15:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 77%
Online Students 404
8

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 26:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 55%
Online Students 1,296
9

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 31:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 50%
Online Students 2,092
10
Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 1,920
11
Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Millersville, Pennsylvania

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 37%
Online Students 126

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 20:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 42%
Online Students 109
13
Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville, Alabama

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 21:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 99%
Online Students 258

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 4%
Online Students 29
15
Saint Leo University

Saint Leo, Florida

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 130
16
University of New Haven

West Haven, Connecticut

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 98%
Online Students 289
17
Adelphi University

Garden City, New York

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 12:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 89%
Online Students 1,033
18
Tulane University of Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 8:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 73%
Online Students 1,292

Degree Options for Your Online Master’s in Emergency Management

Prospective students can choose from a surprisingly wide range of program variations for their online masters in emergency management. Some focus on an emergency management subfield, such as homeland security or disaster relief, while others take a more rounded approach, covering subfields equally. In rare cases, emergency management programs can be housed as a specialization within other master’s programs, such as public health. Here are a few examples of degree titles for emergency management master’s degrees currently available online:

Master of Science in Emergency Management

The foundational degree in emergency management takes a holistic approach to the preparation for and response to emergency and disaster events of all kinds. A good choice for those in law enforcement, public service, and similar professions seeking advancement into supervisory positions.

Master of Arts in Emergency Management & Homeland Security

This degree provides high-level knowledge and skills in emergency management with an emphasis on community preparation and response to homeland security threats. A good choice for those seeking positions as first-line law enforcement supervisors and medical administrators.

Master of Science in Disaster Medicine & Management

Designed for current defense, public safety, and medical professionals seeking skills for responding to the public health and psychological effects of manmade and natural disasters.

What You Can Expect from an Emergency Management Master’s Degree Online

The online masters in emergency management gives students with a broad base of practical knowledge and skills (organization, administration, communication, etc.). Students learn how to effectively manage teams to prepare for and respond to emergency and disaster events of all types and sizes. Additionally, students are often able to tailor their academic work to focus on specific emergency management subfields. Examples of such specializations include:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Criminal Justice
  • Public Health
  • Environmental Hazards
  • Fire Administration
  • Homeland Security

Keep reading for a more detailed look at some of the key components and features you can expect to find in any online emergency management master’s program you consider.

Core Curriculum for Online Master’s in Emergency Management Degrees

Emergency management master’s curriculums consist of required core subject classes, as well as elective courses that allow students to explore unique emergency management topics they’re most interested in. Below are descriptions of core subject courses similar to those you’ll encounter as an emergency management master’s degree student.

Foundations in Emergency Management

This course explores the various types of disaster events and the core concepts of risk assessment and disaster prevention/management. Specific topics covered include the phases of disasters, ethical issues of disaster response, dealing with the media, and how to handle disruptions to public services resulting from emergency and disaster incidents.

Hazard Economics

Students are presented with a comprehensive examination of the costs involved in responding to and dealing with hazardous events, both manmade and natural. A wide range of topics are covered including the financial costs of specific types of hazards, the role of insurance, the influence of climate change, and the moral issues surrounding decisions about the use of disaster response funds.

Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Emergency Management

This course teaches students how to conduct, collect and analyze data that can be used to inform critical emergency management decisions. Included is a discussion of the ethical issues that must be considered with conducting research.

Geographic Information Systems for Emergency Management

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are playing a greater role in emergency and disaster management, and students need to know how to use GIS equipment and software in the field. This course covers the concepts and capacities of GIS systems, along with basic skills for operating GIS applications in emergency situations.

Leadership and Organizational Behavior for Emergency Preparedness

Emergency managers are required to deal with behavioral issues concerning their organization’s systems and personnel on a daily basis. This course takes a look at leadership theories used in emergency preparedness, including conflict management and group dynamics, and how to properly use the power that comes with one’s position and authority.

Disaster Planning and Evaluation

Planning for potential and impending disasters is at the heart of emergency management. This course introduces students to the most commonly-used strategies in disaster preparedness. Students assess and evaluate existing plans, and are taught the importance of constantly updating plans due to changes in vendors, personnel, etc., as well as the gaps revealed through specific exercises.

In-Person vs. Online Elements in an Emergency Management Master’s Program

Convenience and flexibility are the hallmarks of an online college degree program. However, some majors are more adaptable to online study than others. Emergency management is a particularly good fit for distance learning. In fact, many master’s degree programs are available in a 100 percent online format.

Alternatively, some emergency management master’s programs are available in a hybrid format, meaning that the program consists of a combination of distance learning and traditional program elements. For example, Jefferson University’s predominantly online MS in Disaster Medicine & Management program requires participation in two courses during a six-and-a-half day summer on-campus session. And Nova Southeastern University’s MS in Disaster & Emergency Management online program includes an on-site meeting where students present their practicum project for evaluation. Also, many online programs include a mandated or optional internship which is typically completed in an off-campus emergency management setting.

Common Graduation Requirements for Master’s in Emergency Management Students

No two online emergency management master’s programs are exactly alike, and graduation requirements vary from program to program. Nevertheless, most programs include graduation requirements similar to the following:

Didactic Coursework/Advancement to Candidacy

Students must complete all required pre-candidacy didactic coursework, typically with a stated minimum GPA (3.0 is common). Programs may include meeting other pre-candidacy requirements.

Internship

Programs often require an in-the-field internship to provide students with hands-on experience working with actual emergency managers in real-life professional settings.

Culminating Project/Exam

Following advancement to candidacy, most programs require students to complete a culminating project, such as a thesis, practicum, or capstone project. In most cases, projects are presented personally by the student to a faculty committee for evaluation. Some programs offer a comprehensive examination option in lieu of a culminating project.

Admission Requirements for Online Master’s Degrees in Emergency and Disaster Management

As with graduation requirements, specific admissions requirements for online master’s emergency management programs vary from school to school. To be admitted to most programs, however, you’ll likely need to meet the following criteria:

  • Prior College Education
    Almost all programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s or higher-level degree from a properly accredited college, typically in a major related to the emergency management field. Examples of these majors include criminal justice, criminology, fire service management, public administration, public health, and public service.
  • Minimum GPA
    Applicants typically need to have completed their prior postsecondary coursework with a stated minimum cumulative grade point average. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is not uncommon.
  • Professional Experience
    Current employment or prior professional experience in emergency management or a closely-related field is often required.
  • GRE/GMAT
    Submittal of a standardized test score is preferred by some programs but is rarely required.
  • Other Typical Requirements
    Letters of recommendation; current resume or CV; statement of intent or personal statement/essay; proof of English proficiency (for non-native English speakers).

Typical Tuition Costs for Online Emergency Management Master’s Degrees

Like other degrees, the range of tuition costs for online emergency management master’s degrees is quite broad. To give you a better idea of what college will cost, we’ve collected tuition data from five schools that offer online emergency management programs at the master’s level. Keep in mind that these figures are for tuition fees only, and your total costs will include additional fees and charges.

School NameNo. of CreditsCost/CreditTotal Tuition Cost
Adelphi University39$690$26,910
Georgetown University33$1,392$45,936
Nova Southeastern University36$594$21,384
Southern New Hampshire University36$627
$470 Military*
$22,572
$16,920 Military*
University of New Haven36$950$34,200

*U.S. service members (full-time and part-time) and spouses of those on active duty.

What Can I Do with a Master’s in Emergency Management?

When it comes to careers in the emergency management field, diversity is the key word. Positions in emergency management – ones with good pay and real growth potential – exist at agencies on all levels of government, including federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Jobs are also available in private industry and with nonprofit organizations. Dozens of nonprofits involved in disaster prevention and response employ emergency management professionals, including familiar names like the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Save the Children, and the United Way. Here are a few of the most popular career options that a master’s degree in emergency management can help prepare you for:

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors are responsible for developing procedures and plans for responding to natural and manmade disasters and emergencies. They may also be called upon to lead response efforts both during and after emergency events.

Epidemiologist

Epidemiologists are scientists in the public health field that are involved in the causes and patterns of injury and disease in human beings. They work to reduce the occurrences and risks associated with those injuries and diseases through research, policy development, and community education and outreach.

First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives

First-line supervisors of police and detectives supervise and coordinate criminal investigations, including those involving emergency and disaster events. First-line supervisors are employed by police departments and law enforcement agencies on all (local, regional, state, and federal) government levels.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers are responsible for planning, directing, and managing the services provided by an entire department or facility. Tasks include developing goals and objectives, preparing budgets and managing finances, improving services quality and efficiency, and recruiting and training staff members.

Risk Management Specialist

Risk management specialists are experts at both analyzing and managing issues of risk in a variety of contexts. Tasks include recommending ways to reduce and control risk and developing contingency plans for managing disaster and emergency events.

Career Outlook in the Emergency Management Field

Disaster and emergency events are continuing to escalate in number, size, and intensity. Because of this, the need for knowledgeable and well-trained emergency management professionals should continue to grow into the foreseeable future. This chart shows the projected job growth and median salary estimates for the career types listed above. All figures are taken from the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*NET.

CareerProjected Job Growth
(2016 – 2026)
Median Salary
(May 2018)
Emergency Management Director8%$74,420
Epidemiologist9%$69,660
First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives5% to 9%$89,030
Medical Health Services Manager20%$99,730
Risk Management Specialist10% to 14%$70,280