Why Earn an Emergency Management Degree

One of the most quickly growing types of degrees in the US today are emergency management and related degrees. Many students are now able to find undergraduate and graduate degrees in emergency management and/or homeland security.

Many ambitious professionals want to earn an emergency management degree so that they can earn a good salary, enjoy steady work in what is usually a public sector position, and to help their local communities in a time of trouble.

These types of degrees have become more popular in the 21st century, as it has become clear that communities need to have plans in place to respond quickly and effectively to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

Many Strong Job Possibilities in Emergency Management

An emergency management degree helps you to build your career in many emergency management-related roles, such as emergency management director. This is an upper management, public sector professional that prepares plans for responding to many emergencies, whether natural or terror related. These experts in emergency response also lead responses during and after emergencies. This work is done in coordination with many public safety personnel, nonprofit organizations and elected officials.

Most emergency management directors have at least a bachelor’s degree in emergency management and usually have years of experience in law enforcement, military or fire safety.

The job demand in this field will grow by six percent by 2024, which is about average when compared with other careers. It is thought that demand will increase for local and state government agencies as there is more focus on being prepared for natural and human made emergency events.

A degree in emergency management also can be appropriate if you want to move up the career ladder in a police department, fire department or emergency medical technician facility.

Types of Degrees in Emergency Management

Of course, determining which degree in emergency management to earn will take plenty of work and research. As you look online at the various options, you will generally find emergency  management degrees as follows:

Associate’s Degree in Emergency Management

An associate’s degree in emergency management usually will take up to two years, and are usually earned at a local community college or vocational schools. There are a limited number of online associate’s degrees in this field.

As you are looking for an online associate’s degree in this field, you may see many different degree titles. Some of the programs names could include some of these:

  • Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Emergency Response Management
  • Emergency and Disaster Management

Common classes at the associate’s degree level are basic, core courses in disaster prevention, homeland security, communications, emergency planning and effective infrastructure planning.

An example of an associate’s degree in emergency management is at the Frederick Community College in Maryland. This is available entirely online and will provide you with the skills that you need to help areas to recover from local disasters and emerging threats.

Required courses are:

  • Comprehensive Emergency Management
  • Principles of Emergency Management
  • Emergency Operations
  • Incident Command System
  • National Incident Management System

Bachelor’s Degree in Emergency Management

One of the advantages of earning an associate’s degree in this field first is that you can work for two or three years in the field, and after that you can then also earn your bachelor’s degree in emergency management in as little as two years.

Many of the professionals who earn their bachelor’s degree in emergency management may have years of experience as EMTs, paramedics, fire fighters and more. Some public administrators also may get into a bachelor’s program in emergency management so that they can change the focus of their career.

Common courses in a bachelor’s program in emergency management are:

  • Emergency planning
  • Disaster response and recovery
  • Public safety leadership
  • Labor relations and public sector bargaining
  • Chemical, biological and radiological hazards
  • Border and coastal security

American Military University offers a fully online Bachelor of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management. This program will provide you with an excellent overview of courses in preparation for a career in public safety or emergency management.

You will learn about the all hazards approach and will also learn about proper risk assessment, hazard identification, prevention and management skills, the several phases of emergency and disaster management and how to recover from man made disasters and natural disasters.

You will take these courses to prepare you for an emergency management career:

  • Research methods with writing and analytical skills
  • Emergency management, including responses and recovery
  • Emergency planning, operations, and post-incident analysis
  • Emergency and disaster incident command
  • Natural disaster management principles and training
  • Chemical, biological, and radiological hazards
  • Emergency medical services special operations
  • Public policies, disaster psychology, and meteorology
  • Emergency response to terrorism

Master’s Degree in Emergency Management

This is an advanced degree that is designed to offer you the advanced skills and training for people who want to work in a senior position in an emergency management career. You will usually need to commit two at least two years after you finish your bachelor’s degree. There are some intensive, online master’s programs that may be done in just one year.

An excellent quality master’s degree to consider in this field is offered by Arizona State University. It is a Master of Arts in Emergency Management and Homeland Security. It will help you to promote stronger, more resilient communities as it prepares you to be able to effectively manage crises and hazards.

This highly rated online master’s degree will provide you with the skills needed to enjoy an exciting career in public service. People who have this degree are able to help their communities be resilient in a time of trial, and to reduce risk of natural and terror related disasters. Also, you are able to contribute meaningfully to public safety and homeland defense.

Many top level emergency management positions are in the public sector, and this degree program at ASU will provide you with the skills and perspective to compete for one of those positions.

Choosing a Quality Emergency Management Degree

For those who are going to spend the time and money on a degree, especially an online degree, you should do substantial research to determine if the program you are thinking about is of high quality. Some of the vital things to consider in an emergency management degree program are:

  • Accreditation: This is probably the single most important thing to look for in an online degree program. At the least, you should want to see that the university has been fully accredited by one of six regional agencies that have been recognized by the Department of Education. More about this is noted later in this article.
  • If your state requires emergency management professionals to be licensed and certified, you want to see if the university will provide you with the training to lead to appropriate certification in your state. One possible certification that you may want to get is Certified Emergency Manager or Certified Business Continuity Professional.
  • Internships: You could need to complete some type of internship when you earn your degree, especially if it is at the master’s level. Doing an internship where you are using your skills in the real world can help you to get an edge in the competitive job market.
  • Student resources: You should have a lot of access to resource and support services online at your university, such as career counseling, homework and exam study assistance, financial aid, tutoring and library help.


Choosing a good emergency management degree program is vitally important. Be sure that your university has been accredited by one of these regional accreditation agencies that are approved by the US Department of Education:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities


Getting a degree in emergency management can lead to a very rewarding and exciting career in public service, police work, fire fighting and similar careers. Whether you earn an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree, you can find many excellent career paths with a good salary and rewarding work.

Avatar photo
Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

More posts from Robert Sanchez