Earning a Master's in Emergency Management Online

Emergency management professionals work to prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from disasters and other emergencies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% growth rate for emergency management directors between 2016 and 2026 — on pace with the national average occupational growth rate.

Online master's programs create opportunities for working professionals to return to school to expand their career opportunities and raise their earning potential while maintaining their current employment. Advanced degrees place many professionals into higher pay brackets, qualifying them for more advanced and specialized career opportunities. Some colleges offer accelerated online programs, as well, allowing students to expedite their degrees.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Emergency Management?

Many emergency management students enter master's programs immediately after earning their bachelor's degrees to continue building upon the skills and knowledge they learned. Online master's degrees in emergency management best serve students pursuing specialized careers that require additional education, along with working professionals who want to expand their career opportunities or increase their salaries.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Emergency Management?

Pursuing Specialization

Master's degrees in emergency management allow professionals to specialize their careers. Advanced coursework equips students with the skills, knowledge, and experience they need to take their careers to the next level. Some programs let students choose career-specific specializations.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Holding a master's degree in emergency management online enables professionals to pursue more advanced career opportunities with higher earning potential. Professionals with advanced degrees tend to make more than those with just their bachelor's, even if their positions entail the same responsibilities.

Online Learning Technology

Students pursuing online master's degrees in emergency management use the latest communication technologies, which may give them a leg up upon entering the workforce.

Prerequisites for Online Emergency Management Programs

Each emergency management program lists its own unique prerequisites, but students can expect to see similar admission requirements across the board. Most prospective students must complete an application, submit letters of recommendation, and hold a bachelor's degree in a related field.

  • Work Experience: Online master's in emergency management students rarely need to complete work experience to qualify for their program, since most students come straight from their bachelor's programs. Master's students who enter their programs with prior work experience may relate their field knowledge to their coursework.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Most online master's in emergency management programs do not require students to submit GRE or GMAT scores, though requirements vary among schools. Students who do need to submit test scores can usually find minimum score requirements on their prospective program's website.
  • Coursework: Most master's in emergency management applicants should hold a bachelor's degree in a related field. Colleges typically require a minimum GPA of around 3.0, which prospective students must demonstrate by submitting their official transcripts.
  • Recommendations: Most admissions departments require applicants to submit two or more professional letters of recommendation. Professional and educational contacts should write these letters rather than family members or friends. Students can turn in these materials with their application forms.
  • Essays: Several online master's in emergency management progams require students to complete a written essay with their admissions application. Program websites outline essay requirements for students to review before submission, including subject, length, and style specifications.
  • Interviews: Few emergency management master's programs require admissions interviews, but some do. These interviews help admissions officers get to know the applicants better, giving officers a better idea of how well each prospective student matches their program.
  • International Students International students must demonstrate English proficiency through an English as a second language test, such as the TOEFL. Each college, university, and program lists its own minimum score requirements for English language proficiency tests.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Emergency Management?

Emergency management graduates can pursue a variety of career opportunities, many of which offer high earning potential. The BLS reports that emergency management professionals in the bottom 10th percentile of the industry earn $38,270 annually. The median annual salary for emergency management workers amounts to $72,750, and those in the 90th percentile earn about $141,620. Many employers offer higher salaries to professionals who hold seniority with the company, and some offer higher wages to workers with advanced degrees who demonstrate a broader set of hard skills.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Emergency Management Graduates

Careers Stats Description

Emergency Management Directors

Median Pay: $72,760

Projected Job Growth,

Emergency management directors meet with private companies, public safety officials, and the general public to obtain recommendations for emergency response plans. They maintain the facilities used during emergency operations, review local emergency operations plans and make any necessary revisions, and analyze and prepare damage assessments after disaster situations.

Management Analysts

Median Pay: $82,450

Projected Job Growth,

Responsible for working with managers to ensure certain changes and processes work effectively and efficiently, management analysts make recommendations for improvements to management through presentations and written reports. They also propose solutions and alternate courses of action.

Social and Community Service Managers

Median Pay: $64,100

Projected Job Growth,

In charge of collaborating with community members and stakeholders to point out necessary services and programs, social and community service managers write proposals for social services funding. They also manage and plan outreach activities, advocating for increased awareness.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Median Pay: $139,220

Projected Job Growth,

Computer and information systems managers direct and plan the maintenance and installation of computer software and hardware within a company or organization. They adapt to and learn about new technology to keep their organization's system up to date and running effectively.

Source: Bureau of labor Statistics

Nontraditional Careers for Emergency Management Graduates

An advanced degree in emergency management can qualify graduates to work in some positions outside of the traditional emergency management field. The section below outlines non-emergency management jobs that utilize many of the same skills an emergency management degree imparts.

Career Stats Description


Median Pay: $74,590

Job Growth: 7%

Logisticians manage the lifecycle of a project from design to disposal. They also direct the allocation of supplies, materials, and products.

Skills Overlapped: Much like emergency management professionals, logisticians demonstrate excellent management and communication skills.

Urban and Regional Planners

Median Pay: $71,490

Job Growth: 13%

Urban and regional planners review site plans, administer government plans that impact land use, and review proposals to help determine whether they should gain approval.

Skills Overlapped: Many professionals in the emergency management field must deal with troubleshooting, like urban and regional planners do. They must possess the ability to identify when and where processes require improvement to promote efficiency.

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners

Median Pay: $48,290

Job Growth: 11%

Meeting, convention, and event planners work with their clients to coordinate events. They plan all aspects of the event including transportation, rooms, and food service; they also review event bills and approve payments.

Skills Overlapped: Similar to emergency management professionals, meeting, convention, and event planners need excellent communication skills and the ability to work well with others.

Source: Bureau of labor Statistics

Paying for an Online Master's in Emergency Management

All prospective college students should begin their search for financial aid by completing the FAFSA form to determine the types of aid for which they qualify. Aid is available through grants, loans, and scholarships. Tuition rates differ across schools and programs, so students can evaluate the affordability of each prospective school based on the amount of aid they receive. Accelerated programs may also help students earn their degrees more quickly, saving money along the way.

Scholarships for Online Emergency Management Master's Students

Students at all levels of their emergency management education should explore scholarship opportunities. Some scholarships require applicants to demonstrate financial need, while others focus more on merit, asking students to submit their transcripts and a written essay. Students can review scholarship requirements online before they apply.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Emergency Management Program

Most emergency management master's degrees online take about two years of full-time study to complete, though many factors may impact program length. For example, students who enroll part time might take between 3-5 years to graduate. Program milestones vary by university, but most schools require students to complete a capstone or thesis to demonstrate their learning. Course offerings also differ among programs, but students can expect most emergency management degrees to entail some common courses.

Major Milestones

  1. Capstone Coursework

    Capstones require students to complete a culminating project reviewing everything they learned over the course of their program. Students incorporate research into these projects, applying their knowledge to real-world scenarios to demonstrate how their education can function in their careers.

  2. Thesis

    Some programs require students to fulfill a thesis requirement instead of a capstone. Students in these programs must use the skills, knowledge, and research garnered during their program to write a thesis demonstrating what they learned and how they can apply their degree to a specific goal.

  3. Internship

    Students often participate in internship opportunities. Some schools require or grant credits for internship participation, while others do not. Either way, interns gain valuable first-hand work experience.

  4. Intent to Graduate

    At the end of their senior year, students can apply for graduation, at which point they may order their cap and gown invite friends and family to their graduation ceremony.

  5. Licensure Exam and Exam Prep

    Students can prepare for licensure exams at the end of their program, completing the requirements to obtain licensure after graduating with their master's degree.


Master's degree in emergency management courses vary depending on the college or university, but students can expect to see similar curriculum topics across the board.

Social Vulnerability Approach to Disasters

In the social vulnerability approach to disasters course, students learn how to examine geographical, social, cultural, and historical conditions that put people at risk after, during, and before disasters.

Sociology of Disaster

Students in this course come to understand the various social dimensions of disaster. They analyze the main social-psychological concepts, including community, uncertainty and risk, technology and media, and the sociological assessment of class.

Homeland Security

The homeland security course provides both current practitioners and traditional students with a comprehensive assessment and overview of contemporary homeland security problems, including immigration and custom enforcement, domestic terrorism, and international travel and commerce.

Emergency Management

In this course, students delve into the four phases of emergency management: mitigation, response, recovery, and preparedness. They also explore the history and development of emergency management.

Crisis Communication

Students in the crisis communication course cover common communication issues for public safety officials during crisis and emergency situations, including the foundations of nonverbal and verbal communication used by military, hazmat, law enforcement, and ham radio.

Degree Timelines

Students pursuing their online master's degree in emergency management can choose the enrollment status that best fits their life. For example, students who require maximum flexibility can enroll part time, or those in a rush to enter the workforce can enroll in an accelerated or full-time program.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description


3-5 years


Part-time students typically take between 3-5 years to complete their online master's degree in emergency management. Students who enjoy a slower-paced learning format and require more balance between their education and personal/professional life may benefit from part-time enrollment.


2 years

Students who can dedicate their time and attention to their educational program should enroll full time. Full-time students typically earn their master's degree within two years. Most students enroll on a full-time basis.


1-1.5 years

Some colleges and universities offer accelerated programs, which allow students to earn their degrees in as little as one year. Students in these programs take more credits per semester than typical full-time learners do, expediting their degrees.

Licenses and Certifications

Certification demonstrates professionals' knowledge and skills in a particular area, offering opportunities for career advancement and professional growth and development. Many employers require certain certifications to ensure that their employees meet certain quality standards. Most certification programs require professionals to complete a specific amount of work experience and pass an exam.

  • Certified Emergency Manager: Individuals pursuing their emergency manager certification prove they possess the skills and knowledge needed to effectively manage a comprehensive emergency management environment. Candidates must satisfy work history requirements, emergency management experience, hold a bachelor's degree, complete training, and pass an exam.
  • Certified Fire Protection Specialist: To become a certified fire protection specialist, individuals must hold a bachelor's degree in a related field, complete field experience, and pass a comprehensive exam. The certification serves more than 4,000 professionals including fire protection consultants, engineers, and fire inspectors.
  • Certified Life Safety Specialist: Certified life safety specialists gain recognition for their expertise, enhance their professionalism, work on their professional development, and demonstrate competence with life safety within healthcare environments.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Graduates with their online master's degree in emergency management can explore memberships at various professional organizations in the field. These organizations often offer opportunities to attend networking events, explore new job opportunities, and build lasting professional contacts. Members may also participate in professional development activities to build their knowledge and skills.

  • National Emergency Management Association This nonprofit, nonpartisan association commits to improving public safety by advancing the nation's ability to respond to, prepare for, and recover from all types of emergencies, threats, and disasters. NEMA identifies as the professional association for and of emergency management directors.
  • International Association of Emergency Managers: The International Association of Emergency Managers boasts more than 6,000 members around the world, functioning as a nonprofit educational organization focused on promoting the "principles of emergency management" and representing emergency management professionals.
  • Disaster Recovery Institute: This nonprofit helps organizations around the world recover from and prepare for disasters of all kinds by providing accreditation, thought leadership, and education in business continuity and other related fields. The Disaster Recovery Institute boasts more than 15,000 members.
  • The International Association for Disaster Preparedness and Response Known as DERA, this organization operates as a nonprofit membership organization connecting volunteers, professionals, and organizations active in all areas of emergency management and disaster preparedness.
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs: Representing the leadership of emergency responders and firefighters around the world, the International Association of Fire Chiefs boasts members from a variety of backgrounds including emergency medical services, terrorism response, firefighting, and natural disasters.
  • Medical Countermeasure Readiness Guide: Students and professionals in the emergency management field can access the medical countermeasure readiness guide to understand what medical countermeasures are, how they reach the public, and the CDC's role in medical countermeasures.
  • National Public Health Radio Network: The National Public Health Radio Network provides state, local, CDC, and territorial health departments with a wireless redundant communications capacity.
  • Epidemic Information Exchange: Emergency management students and professionals can access the Epidemic Information Exchange to investigate, identify, and respond to public health threats. The secure, web-based network functions as a powerful information exchange.
  • Public Health Emergency Response Guide: The Public Health Emergency Response Guide helps train and prepare health professionals by establishing priorities in disaster responses. The guide reviews the most efficient ways to respond to disaster situations.
  • CDC's Response Worker Health and Safety Page: Users can access the CDC's web page for response worker health and safety to unlock a variety of tools, including a list of evacuation centers and shelters and information about infection control after a disaster situation.