Online Master’s in Emergency Management Programs 2021

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Emergency management professionals prevent disasters and other hazards. An emergency management degree equips learners with education and training in key areas including disaster mitigation, response, and community resilience.

Emergency management master’s degree-holders work at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and municipal governmental agencies. These professionals also find employment with private and nonprofit organizations. They assume roles such as emergency management specialist and emergency management director.

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Emergency management workers receive good compensation for their efforts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that emergency directors with a bachelor’s and five years of experience earn $74,590 in median annual salary. This guide provides more information about emergency management programs, career opportunities, and scholarship funding.

Top 10 Programs for Emergency Management


  • How do I start a career in emergency management?

    A master’s program provides education and hands-on experience such as internship opportunities. Those without experience may want to consider programs such as FEMA Corps to build professional experience.

  • Is emergency management a good career?

    Emergency managers play a vital role in protecting and serving their communities. They earn a good wage and may experience a 4% job growth rate between 2019-2029, according to BLS projections.

  • What kinds of jobs can you get with an emergency management degree?

    An emergency management degree-holder qualifies for roles including emergency management coordinator, planner, and specialist. FEMA also notes that graduates become business continuity planners.

  • What is the difference between emergency management and disaster management?

    Emergency management focuses on assessing, mitigating, and responding to hazards, disasters, and other emergencies. Disaster management focuses primarily on response and recovery during and after these events.

Why Get a Degree in Emergency Management?

Emergency management professionals bear significant responsibilities. An advanced emergency management degree equips them with the proficiencies needed for their public service roles. Emergency managers and specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree and work experience in an area such as emergency management, law enforcement, or fire safety.

A master’s degree suits those with emergency management experience wanting to advance to leadership roles. It also enhances employment prospects for those entering the field with less experience. Employers value the advanced skills and on-the-job training that the best online emergency management degrees provide. Students can build real-world experience through internships and by volunteering with FEMA Corps, Peace Corps, or AmeriCorps VISTA.

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How Much Does an Emergency Management Degree Cost?

Emergency management degree costs depend on factors such as institution, location, and format. Students can expect to pay between $499-$1,483 per credit, or about $15,968-$48,939 total for an online emergency management master’s degree.

Virtual learning increases access to programs nationwide. The learning format also provides flexibility for working professionals wanting to advance their education. Enrollees save on the cost of relocation, transportation, childcare, and related expenses. Many schools now offer a flat tuition for students learning exclusively online, thereby saving on more expensive out-of-state tuition.

Colleges offering a generous financial aid package and interest-free payment plans help make the degree more affordable. Prospective students affiliated with the military or law enforcement benefit from tuition discounts at some schools. An emergency management degree may prove a worthy investment given the well-paying jobs and favorable job growth projected for graduates.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

With some basic information, this affordability calculator can help students determine the price of tuition and the monthly payments they can afford.

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How Much Do Emergency Management Majors Make?

Wages for emergency management degree-holders vary based on factors such as occupation, sector, and employer. March 2021 PayScale information highlights the most popular emergency management specialist employers: FEMA, public health departments, and the U.S. Air Force. PayScale reports that FEMA pays the highest salaries to these professionals, with a $71,280 annual salary.

FEMA currently hires for positions such as reservists, emergency management specialists, and supervisory emergency management specialists. Many positions require advanced education or experience, and pay reflects this level of professional accomplishment.

Emergency management directors with advanced education and the most experience can earn median annual salaries greater than $141,230, according to the BLS. Local and state governments pay the least with $67,060 and $64,710, respectively. Employers in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector pay the most at $106,420. The median pay for all emergency management directors stands at $74,590 per year.

Courses in Emergency Management

An evolving field such as emergency management requires employees well-versed in the latest trends, developments, and best practices. The curriculum for an online emergency management degree varies by program. Students can expect to complete between 30-36 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree.

Some programs offer fully online learning. Others offer the best of both worlds with a blend of in-person and online learning. Coursework explores topics including risk identification and assessment; emergency management leadership; and continuity of operations, recovery, and emergency management.

Degree-seekers may use an internship or capstone project to demonstrate mastery of learned concepts. See below for three other courses in many emergency management degrees, representative of a sample curriculum.

  • Law and Legal Issues in Emergency Management

    This course introduces federal, state, and municipal legislation governing emergency management response during disasters. Participants explore topics including citizens’ constitutional rights, emergency management legal issues since 9/11, and legal and ethical considerations in implementing measures during emergency situations.

  • Hazard Mitigation Planning

    Students examine theories and practices in hazard mitigation. They study how emergency management professionals develop plans and evaluate them for efficiencies and implementation challenges. They explore case studies, evaluate hazard mitigation plans, and apply their learning during individual and team projects.

  • Management of Critical Incidents

    The course explores various disaster scenarios and response operations. Learners examine the roles of responding emergency management personnel and their respective organizations. They examine the challenges that personnel face during these operations, and the best practices used to address them. Faculty may use simulations, role-playing, or other teaching tools as part of the class.

Certifications and Licensure for Emergency Management

Certifications provide emergency management workers with credentials that verify their professional competencies. States may establish certain requirements for first responders and emergency management staff. Various national organizations offer the following key certifications.

Associate Emergency Manager and Certified Emergency Manager

The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) offers these two certifications to advance emergency management managers’ careers. Candidates pay a certification fee and must pass a 100-question multiple-choice exam.

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Certified Public-Safety Executive

The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International awards the CPE credential to public safety communications professionals including agency executives, managers, and supervisors. Candidates must complete two 12-week online courses and a culminating capstone to earn CPE designation.

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Certified Emergency and Disaster Professional

The International Board for Certification Services and Management awards the CEDP designation to emergency personnel from various backgrounds, including municipalities, law enforcement, and emergency management agencies. Candidates pay a fee and must pass a 100-150 question multiple-choice exam focused on emergency management, disaster preparedness, and safety and environment.

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Scholarships for Emergency Management

Students use scholarship funding to help defray the cost of earning an online emergency management degree. The sponsoring organization establishes eligibility criteria, which may include academic performance or financial need. Below, we list three scholarship opportunities for emergency management students.

  • International Association of Emergency Managers Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: IAEM offers this scholarship to help cultivate graduate students well-prepared for the disaster management field. Candidates submit an application that includes school transcripts and two essays.

    Amount: $1,500+

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  • CIA Graduate Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The CIA offers a generous needs-based financial package for graduate students pursuing various majors. Candidates need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must pass minimum requirements to join the CIA.

    Amount: Up to $25,000 per year

    Explore Here

  • Niche Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Niche offers monthly scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing any major at a college. Candidates create an account and submit an application.

    Amount: $2,000

    Explore Here

Online Master’s in Emergency Management Programs 2021

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