Emergency Management Degree Program Information

Oct 13, 2019

Emergency management programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate degree levels. Students develop skills needed to coordinate the efforts of various agencies, respond to disasters and develop notification systems to prevent terrorist activities.

Essential Information

Students of an associate's degree program in emergency management may examine the response models of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Bachelor's-level students learn about terrorism and environmental safety concerns. Graduates who complete a bachelor's degree program in emergency management are eligible to take the Certified Emergency Manager exam offered by the International Association of Emergency Managers.

Aspiring executives might enroll in a master's degree program that consists of business and emergency management coursework. Programs typically take two to four years to complete or more depending on the program level. Professional experience in public safety, particularly in the areas of law enforcement, corrections, government or firefighting are recommended by some programs.

Associate of Science in Emergency Management

The emergency management curriculum includes the study of emergency response policies, planning and systems, and disaster planning and control. A high school diploma or equivalent (GED) and satisfactory scores on the COMPASS placement test are generally required for admission. Areas of study include the implementation and direction of search and rescue operations, public safety, media communications and disaster prevention. Some programs are designed with the option to choose an area of specialization, including options like emergency medical technology, fire science and police officer training. Coursework draws largely on federal and state emergency response models, including methods used by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. Topics in the program include:

  • Emergency management principles
  • Incident command systems
  • Emergency planning for schools
  • Terrorism in the U.S.
  • Hazardous materials

Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management

An emergency manager might coordinate response efforts for victims of flooding and other natural disasters, including assembling clean up, rescue and recovery teams. Emergency managers might also develop programs to help victims recuperate material and financial losses in the event of natural and provoked disasters like weather events, arson or acts of terrorism. Designed for both non-professional students and students who work in the field of emergency management, the curriculum introduces students to emergency response theories, disaster preparedness, emergency planning and homeland security. Coursework explores national and global issues in emergency management, including the threat of terrorism, environmental safety and psychosocial effects of disasters. Areas of focus in the course list include:

  • Catastrophic disasters
  • Operations planning
  • Emergency management policies
  • Risk assessment
  • Hazard mitigation

Master of Science in Emergency Management

Designed for students who are seeking executive management positions in an emergency services setting, the curriculum is a combination of emergency management and business management courses. The program usually requires a bachelor's degree, letters of reference, a personal statement essay, resume, and GRE scores (for applicants with an undergraduate GPA below 2.75). Topics of discussion include organizational behavior, management theories and ethics in emergency management, in addition to coursework in statistics and research studies. Students are prepared to act as leaders of emergency response teams, managers of response efforts and planners of disaster prevention programs. The program culminates in a graduate thesis or capstone course and a field practicum where students apply their knowledge to real world situations. Coursework requires students to conduct research and apply practical reasoning and emergency management theories to real world situations like natural disasters or terrorist threats. Course topics include:

  • Natural hazards
  • Emergencies and trauma
  • Crisis management
  • Disaster analysis
  • Biosecurity

Popular Career Options

Graduates are prepared to take a variety of positions in government agencies, including jobs in the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. They're also able to go on to careers in local, state and government agencies, hospitals, non-profit organizations and more. Popular career choices for graduates include:

  • Law enforcement officer or Corrections officer
  • Firefighter or Fire marshal
  • Emergency medical technician
  • Campus safety officer
  • Emergency Medical Services trainer
  • Emergency management coordinator

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), emergency management directors held 9,900 jobs in the U.S. in 2018, with most emergency directors holding positions in local government ( The average median salary for an emergency management director was $74,420 in 2018.

Continuing Education Information

Associate's degree program graduates can enroll in a variety of bachelor's degree programs to improve job prospects and boost salary expectations. Degree options include a Bachelor of Science in Public Safety, Emergency and Disaster Management, Fire and Emergency Management and Emergency Services Administration.

Bachelor's degree program graduates who have at least two years of experience in emergency management are eligible to take part in the Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) program offered through the International Association of Emergency Managers. In order to obtain the CEM credential, graduates must write a comprehensive essay, submit three letters of reference and receive satisfactory scores on a multiple choice and written examination.

Master's degree program graduates who are interested in a career in research or teaching at the college level can enroll in a doctoral (Ph.D.) program in public administration or fire and emergency management administration. FEMA offers a number of programs for emergency managers who are seeking additional training, including the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), which is a weapons of mass destruction training center overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA also offers training through the National Fire Academy and the National Training and Education Division.

Emergency management degree programs may prepare students to find work as law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, and firefighters. Additional training is also available through FEMA, as well as certification through other agencies.

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