Earning an online emergency management degree can increase your career options and improve your salary potential. This guide can help prospective students gain an understanding of the benefits of earning an emergency management bachelor’s degree. It also explains the application process, typical curriculum, and potential career paths after graduation. We also discuss the pros and cons of getting a graduate degree in emergency management, explain the importance of attending an accredited program, and conclude with a list of professional organizations in the emergency management field. This information will help you understand the value of getting an online emergency management degree and find the best school and program to help you achieve your academic and professional goals.
Overview of Emergency Management Degrees
The best bachelor’s in emergency management programs prepare graduates for a variety of careers protecting public safety and property in the event of emergency situations. Students learn to plan for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from all kinds of emergencies, including natural disasters and terrorism. They gain leadership, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. Emergency management proves an ideal field for natural leaders who want to contribute to the public good and who thrive in stressful situations. Many online emergency management programs offer specializations to increase knowledge in areas like law enforcement, cybersecurity, or homeland security.
Some emergency management bachelor's programs focus heavily on homeland security issues, and the two fields share many similarities in that both seek to protect public safety. Homeland security degrees flourished following 9/11, while academic programs in emergency management date back many years.
Emergency management programs tend to take a broader approach than homeland security, which focuses heavily on combating terrorism. Graduates find work as public safety managers, disaster response coordinators, intelligence analysts, fire chiefs, and emergency management directors. They work for government agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nonprofits, and private corporations. The career outlook for people with a bachelor's in emergency management looks good in the post-9/11, climate change-impacted world, as societies increasingly face more frequent threats to public safety, including those from natural disasters and terrorism.
Prospective students applying for emergency management bachelor's programs go through a typical undergraduate application process. Make sure to set aside a few hours to gather all of the materials needed to complete the application in one sitting. Most programs require the completion of a short application and submission of a variety of supporting documents. Filling out an application for a bachelor's in emergency management program usually takes about an hour. Learners applying to multiple bachelor's programs might consider creating a Common Application account, which simplifies the process of applying to more than one program by saving your personal information.
Gathering and submitting other required documents can take longer. Most schools request transcripts from all previously attended schools, letters of recommendation, and SAT or ACT scores. Many programs require prospective students to hold a minimum GPA of 2.5 to 3.0. Applicants generally do not need to hold any relevant experience to qualify for admission to bachelor's in emergency management programs. Sometimes applicants will need to submit an essay or statement of purpose. Most programs also require an application fee, typically around $50. Students facing financial hardship can often request a fee reduction or waiver.
What Will I Learn?
Emergency management students learn how to prepare for, respond to, mitigate, and recover from a variety of disasters and emergency situations. Programs typically foster leadership, decision making, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. They explore concepts like risk mitigation, collaboration across agencies, statistics, emergency management strategies, communicating during disasters, and evaluation of hazardous events.
Most bachelor's in emergency management programs take about four years to complete and require students to complete around 120 credits. The general credit distribution varies depending on the school and program, but usually includes around 50-60 general education credits, 30-40 core requirements, and 20-25 credit hours of electives. Students who add a concentration typically must complete 15-20 credits in that area. Courses vary by program and school, but the sample curriculum below includes descriptions of some courses that programs typically offer.
Principles of Emergency Management
This course introduces the field of emergency management, including an overview of the typical job duties of emergency managers. Students learn about the four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. They also learn how to identify emergency resources at local, state, federal, and international levels.
Learners explore the theories and practices of planning for a variety of emergencies. They learn how to tailor emergency plans so that they will work better for every community. This includes identifying unique risks, resources, and circumstances for each community or organization.
Emergency Management Capstone Project
Students complete a culminating project in an area of emergency management, either individually or as part of a team. They must complete extensive research to create an emergency management plan related to a potential real world situation. In some cases, students create plans for actual government agencies or organizations. They must write a report and deliver a presentation.
Leading Diverse Groups and Teams
This course teaches leadership, management, and supervisory skills relevant to the emergency management field. Topics covered include dealing with diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender, and education. It also explores the decision making process and the role of leaders in working with diverse groups.
Students receive a broad introduction to threats to information security and the growing problem of cyberterrorism. They explore the problem from a local, state, national, and international perspective. They learn how to detect potential risks, mitigate risk, and react to security breaches. The course also explores the technological, legal, and policy side of information security.
This class looks at incident assessment and teaches students methods for determining a crisis is in progress. They also learn to develop strategies for managing crises and their aftermaths. The class explores the role of local, state, and federal agencies in preventing and responding to crisis situations.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Emergency Management?
Earning an online emergency management bachelor's degree opens doors to a variety of different careers, including fire chief and intelligence analyst. Most graduates take on leadership roles with responsibility for protecting human health and safety, as well as physical property. The type of position graduates qualify depends on what area they specialize in and the type of previous relevant experience they hold, if any.
Emergency management bachelor's students gain a wide variety of skills and competencies that can apply to positions in numerous industries. They learn the fundamental principles of emergency management, including mitigation, planning, response, and recovery. Students also learn about the role of local, state, federal, and international agencies and how to effectively collaborate with different government agencies and other groups. They learn to critically evaluate emergency plans at every stage and to consider ethical issues the government and other industries face in the context of emergency management. Most programs include the study of homeland security issues and terrorism, as well as other types of potential natural and human-caused disasters and emergencies.
Graduates of the top emergency management bachelor's programs typically have skills in leadership, critical thinking, problem solving, communications, collaboration, and report writing. Some programs also focus on data analysis and interpretation. Students learn the importance of staying calm in intensely stressful and chaotic situations. These skills apply to the careers listed in the next section, which include emergency response director, fire chief, intelligence analyst, public safety director, and disaster recovery coordinator.
Potential Careers & Salaries
Graduates with an online emergency management degree can find employment in a variety of different sectors and industries. Many career opportunities include taking a leadership role and assuming substantial responsibility for protecting property and human health and safety.
Some typical career paths in emergency management include emergency response director, fire chief, intelligence analyst, public safety director, and disaster recovery coordinator. Annual median salaries for these types of positions exceed the national average and typically fall between $67,000 and $75,000. An individual's previous education, experience, and range of skills affects eligibility for the following positions. Earning a bachelor's in emergency management does not automatically qualify you for all of these careers, and some may require additional training or certification.
Emergency Response Director
Annual Median Salary: $72,760
Emergency response directors make plans regarding how to respond to emergencies like natural disasters. They help coordinate and lead responses to emergency situations, working with numerous other entities, including government agencies, nonprofits, elected officials, and public safety officials.
Annual Median Salary: $74,969
Fire chiefs manage and provide administrative direction to fire departments. They act as leaders to firefighters, supervising firefighting operations and building inspections, coordinating fire programs, reviewing equipment, and creating annual budgets. They also continue to actively fight fires alongside their teams. Most fire chiefs begin as firefighters.
Annual Median Salary: $66,769
Intelligence analysts investigate and provide information regarding security threats to the organizations they work for. They need research and writing skills, as well as an advanced understanding of computers. They often need to know how to analyze large quantities of data.
Public Safety Director
Annual Median Salary: $75,532
Public safety directors ensure public health and safety. They coordinate public safety programs, develop safety strategies, and create budgets. They also monitor safety programs and track their effectiveness. They collaborate with other agencies and need effective communication skills.
Disaster Recovery Coordinator
Annual Median Salary: $74,604
Disaster recovery coordinators manage disaster recovery plans for government agencies or businesses. They help create, implement, and maintain these plans. During a disaster, they make sure operations continue as best they can. The need leadership, problem solving, and excellent public speaking skills.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Emergency Management?
An affordable bachelor's program can prepare students for a variety of entry-level careers in emergency management and related fields, but individuals interested in senior-level positions or more specialized roles may want to think about pursuing a graduate degree in emergency management.
Many emergency management professionals manage to move up the career ladder with only a bachelor's degree. Experience is highly valued in this field, because many important skills can only be honed with real world experience in responding to and planning for emergency situations. Individuals with a bachelor's can also advance in this field by taking professional development and continuing education courses, volunteering, and networking with other emergency management professionals.
Accreditation for Emergency Management Bachelor’s Programs
Online emergency management degrees that hold programmatic accreditation meet important quality standards. Students who graduate from accredited emergency management programs typically have the skills necessary to succeed in a career in the emergency management field. The main accrediting bodies for programs in emergency management include EMAP and International Fire Service Accreditation Congress.
Accreditation is a voluntary process, and some emergency management programs do not hold programmatic accreditation. Make sure that the university holds at least regional or national accreditation. Organizations that accredit schools offering emergency management bachelor's degrees include the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and the New England Commission of Higher Education. Students can find out if a college or university holds accreditation by consulting the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's database of accredited institutions.
Emergency Management Professional Organizations
Becoming a member of an emergency management professional group often proves one of the best ways to network with and meet people in your field. You can use these connections to find out about job openings before they go public. Joining an emergency management professional organization can also be a great way to stay up-to-date with new developments in the profession. Members of these groups often receive professional development and continuing education opportunities, discounts on group events, subscriptions to professional publications, and access to job boards and career services.
National Emergency Management Association
NEMA promotes public safety by helping the United States prepare for and recover from disasters, emergencies, and national security threats. Emergency management directors from all states participate in NEMA, as do other emergency management professionals.
The International Association of Emergency Managers
IAEM represents emergency management professionals from around the world and promotes the profession. It facilitates networking and professional development among members and provides access to information. It also manages the Associate Emergency Manager and Certified Emergency Manager certification programs.
The International Association for Disaster Preparedness and Response
DERA members include organizations, volunteers, and professionals involved in all aspects of emergency management and disaster preparedness. It offers professional support as well as disaster assistance. DERA members receive networking sessions, training opportunities, and invitations to workshops.