Best Bachelor's Degrees in Emergency Management

Oct 20, 2021

Emergency Management Degrees

Emergency management is a field that focuses on disaster preparedness, mitigation, and relief. Disasters may be natural like hurricanes or floods, man-made such as oil spills, or related to terrorism or disease pandemics. Professionals who work in emergency management protect the public through developing appropriate response plans and executing them in the face of a catastrophic event. After the event has concluded, they also work on recovery to help restore a sense of normalcy and order. Disaster management job options vary by level of education.

The Top Bachelor's Degree Programs in Emergency Management developed this ranking list for the Best Bachelor's Degrees in Emergency Management through information collected on university program offerings, stats from the U.S. Department of Education, graduation rates, tuition costs, accessibility to financial aid, and other unique opportunities on campus. Many of these universities also offer opportunities for students to become involved in related student clubs on campus or national organizations that present unique opportunities for learning outside the classroom. If you are looking for a rewarding career in disaster and emergency management, any of these schools would be a great choice to prepare you for your future.

1. Columbia College

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$18425 97% 60% 100% Yes Yes AP Credits

South Carolina's Columbia College took the number one spot on our list thanks to its Bachelor of Arts in Disaster & Emergency Management program, which boasts short, flexible 5-week classes with small 24-student cohorts and Fire and Emergency Service Higher Education (FESHE)-based curriculum. The university has managed to keep tuition remarkably low for a private college and they also reimburse students for their application fees and cover textbooks. All students who are current members of the South Carolina Firefighters' Association receive a 10% discount on their first nine credit hours.

2. Western Carolina University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$4277 69% 62% 85% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

Western Carolina University's Bachelor of Science in Emergency and Disaster Management program is ranked number two on our list because of the breadth of its program -- it offers both on-campus and online course options within a robust, interdisciplinary curriculum covering every aspect of emergency response. The university even offers some unique courses in the discipline such as cyber terrorism, missing persons and search and rescue, unmanned aircraft systems, emergency mapping, agriculture, and farm disaster, and riots, civil unrest, and crowd control, just to name a few. Students have the opportunity to get hands-on experience through internships, and working with a Cullowhee, NC community organization in the related field for course credit.

3. University of Alaska Fairbanks

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8757 76% 35% 88% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

The degree program in a Bachelor of Security and Emergency Management at the University of Alaska Fairbanks gives students a huge range of choices, allowing them to choose from SIX different concentrations including cybersecurity, emergency management, emergency medical and public health management, fire administration, homeland security, and law enforcement management. The flexible in-person and online courses provide real-world experiences like exclusive Urban Search & Rescue Training courses and their unique location between two U.S. military bases. The program, which is a member of the University Agency Partnership Initiative (UAPI) and the FEMA Higher Education Program University through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, boasts a nearly 100% employment rate for its alumni, some of whom obtain a job even before graduation day.

4. University of Nebraska at Ohama

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7980 83% 50% 85% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

The University of Nebraska Omaha's Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management is ranked within the top 5 on our list because it offers many unique concentrations including options like aviation administration, geospatial science, planning and preparing for urban hazards and unmanned aircraft systems. The program also features a curriculum that's not offered anywhere else in the country, plus a one-of-a-kind certificate in Tribal Management and Emergency Services that can be taken as a concentration within the bachelor's program. The program has a student-led Emergency Management Student Association that focuses on career networking, local community activism, and creates awareness and preparedness for campus emergencies.

5. Northwest Missouri State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8238 73% 52% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits

Northwest Missouri State University finishes out our top 5 schools on this ranking with their highly customizable Emergency and Disaster Management major Students can choose from three core areas: emergency management, humanitarian relief with homeland security, and defense. From the first day of this four-year program, students will have opportunities to network and participate in field experiences and internships with access to a top-notch disaster simulation village, three and four-day disaster relief field training and opportunities to earn their Missouri state EMT license or be part of the Campus Community Emergency Response Team. Northwest Missouri State, located in Maryville, Missouri, offers extensive study abroad programs, grants and scholarships, and a textbook and laptop program for all their students.

6. SUNY College of Technology at Canton

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8650 85% 47% 95% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

State University of New York (SUNY) Canton makes our ranking by providing an entirely online degree with their Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management program, one of the few in the nation. This program focuses on the development of emergency managers and administrative personnel through hands-on education with virtual training exercises, disaster simulations and modules, and the operational aspects of both an Emergency Operations Center and Incident Command Center. SUNY Emergency Management program also provides a culminating experience internship at the local, state, or federal level or a senior project for those currently working in the field.

7. Rowan University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$14000 74% 73% 86% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

The Bachelor of Arts in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management degree at Roman University is a stellar, rigorous academic program that's well-equipped to prepare students for their future. This full- or part-time program, located at the Camden, New Jersey, campus, focuses on vital aspects of emergency management; students choose one of three focus areas: public administration and policy of crisis decision leadership, justice, safety, and homeland security administration, and, lastly, emergency health preparedness and biomedical safety. This undergraduate degree also offers students the unique opportunity to complete a certificate in counterterrorism response operations or social justice and social change.

8. North Dakota State University-Main Campus

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9736 81% 61% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits

Located in Fargo, North Dakota State University makes our ranking with their Emergency Management Major, which provides students with the necessary foundational skills through required internships, and evidence-based research opportunities through the campus' Center for Emergency Management Education and Research. North Dakota State University's Emergency Management program is home to just five faculty members, all of whom are focused 100% on this program at the university, each with a doctorate and years of experience both teaching and emergency management. This provides a tight-knit group where students get a more personal relationship with each professor.

9. Pacific Union College

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$30813 53% 57% 100% No Yes AP Credits

Pacific Union College, an accredited Seventh-day Adventist Christian liberal arts college, offers a Bachelor of Science with a major in Emergency Management. Students will be able to choose from some unique course options such as emergency scene management, search and rescue, death and dying, medical terminology, cultural anthropology, and Spanish basics for healthcare professionals. The college boasts an intimate 12-to-1 ratio of student to faculty and students are encouraged to create a mentorship with a faculty member to stay connected even after graduation.

10. Arkansas State University-Main Campus

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8900 80% 53% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

Arkansas State University ranks 10th on our list with its Bachelor of Science in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management because of its online, interdisciplinary program with one-of-a-kind course topics such as managing mass casualties, radiological emergencies, politics of disaster, and suicide bomb attacks. Students can even complete a prior learning assessment detailing work experience, training programs, military service, or community volunteer hours to earn up to 30 credit hours towards their degree. This Jonesboro, Arkansas-based university boasts small class sizes (with an average of 29 students) and limited admission groups to create a close-knit community of students.

11. University of Akron-Main Campus

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11636 73% 46% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

The University of Akron's main campus made our list for being a pioneer in the field. The school's Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management and Homeland Security was the first accredited program of its kind in the country and the only one offered in the state of Ohio. It's also the only one accredited by the prestigious International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. This program's flexible schedule allows for course options either online or traditional face-to-face format. Along with the university's extensive training and course options, students can also extend their education by earning a certificate in cyber disaster management, computer security, or computer forensics.

12. Crown College

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$26970 50% 50% 97% No Yes AP / ACE Credits

Located in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, Crown College delivers an online Bachelor of Science in Disaster and Emergency Management degree. It provides a Christian-focused major or minor in the field with small class sizes and a one-on-one academic advisor to help facilitate your plan of study. The college strives on being custom-built to their students' lives with a 24/7 virtual campus for courses that take place over 8-weeks with six different start date options. Crown College also provides at least 98% of its students with financial assistance of some type to ensure every applicant will be able to afford the degree of their choice.

13. Barry University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$30014 51% 35% 100% Yes Yes AP Credits

The Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, comes in at number thirteen on our ranking list with its adult learner undergraduate program, which is ideal for students who are current professionals in the field. The university will assist students through their experiential learning portfolio (ELP) orientation to help translate their real-life learning experiences into college credits. This degree program, which is also available in an online format, offers an approach for graduates to integrate both their knowledge and applied skills to go beyond the foundations and apply their experiences to expand on their individual career choices.

14. Pennsylvania College of Technology

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$17160 No Available Data (2019-2020) 45% 89% Yes Yes AP Credits

Pennsylvania College of Technology, located in Williamsport, offers a great Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management and Homeland Security for those students whose passion is to be involved in the planning and preparation for disasters and catastrophes. This program provides hands-on training from day one through average class sizes of just 17, a 100% career placement ratio, and over 275 hours of collective field experience. Students accepted into this program will complete foundation courses, along with specialized classes, such as crisis communication, technological elements of emergency management, criminology, international relations, terrorism, civil war, and genocide. Students can also get involved in the unique Emergency Management Club, which promotes and advocates for professional development opportunities in the career field.

15. Ohio Christian University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$14883 No Available Data (2019-2020) 32% 94% No Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

Last on our ranking but most certainly not least, Ohio Christian University provides students with extensive fieldwork opportunities and a rigorous academic course load with their Bachelor of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management. Located in Circleville, Ohio, this degree program is available through on-campus and online formats which allow for flexibility to those students needing to balance work, school, and family obligations. The university integrates a Christian worldview with the critical thinking and decision-making necessary in the field of emergency management.

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit's ranking methodology page.

What Kinds of Emergency Management Degrees Are There?

A variety of options exist for those motivated to pursue a degree in emergency management. These programs range from short-term certificates to full degree programs. Students interested in this area can earn an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctorate. Each degree has different requirements in terms of credit hours and time to completion.

Associate Degrees in Emergency Management

This degree level takes two years to complete with a requirement of around 60 credit hours. This degree is a good introduction to the field and could lead to various entry-level positions. Associate of Applied Science in Emergency Management degrees are generally comprised of core general education courses including English, science, and math. Typical classes for the major are principles of management, hazardous materials, search and rescue, crisis management, and emergency communications. This degree lays foundational knowledge and aims to prepare students for the possibility of further study. Some programs may include an internship or practical component.

Bachelor's Degrees in Emergency Management

A Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management typically consists of 120 credit hours taken over the course of four years. Of those 120 credits, students will be required to take general education requirements and electives in addition to classes in the major. The third and fourth years of this bachelor's degree are usually devoted to a focus on emergency management. Classes seek to prepare students for positions that require decision-making and problem-solving skills. Programs may include an internship component, capstone, or both to complete the degree.

Master's Degrees in Emergency Management

Master of Science in Emergency Management programs are designed to provide greater insight into disaster planning and relief. Master's programs in this field can be completed with around 30-36 credit hours taken part-time or full-time. Courses delve deeper into the principles of project management and disaster preparedness and mitigation including organizational and budgetary concerns. Depending on the university, programs will include an internship component and/or culminate in a thesis or comprehensive exam. Graduates of emergency management master's degrees usually enter leadership, policy, or analysis roles in state, local, or federal government organizations or the private sector.

Doctoral Degrees in Emergency Management

As the highest level of educational achievement in emergency management, doctorates equip graduates with the skills to enter research, teaching, or policy development and analysis. Ph.D. in Emergency Management programs are undertaken over a period of 3-5 years and focus heavily on qualitative and quantitative methods, research methods, and policy. Students usually take classes alongside a thesis or dissertation that they must successfully defend in front of a faculty committee to be awarded the doctorate. Availability of electives means students can choose a specialization in an area of interest.

Certificates in Emergency Management

Certificates are available for those already in possession of a bachelor's degree in another field who would like some education and training in emergency management. Certificates are typically offered at the undergraduate or graduate level and include foundation classes such as introduction to emergency management, disaster and response planning, incident command control. The level of education necessary for admission depends on the level of the certificate with some requiring a high school diploma or GED for an undergraduate certificate or a bachelor's degree for a graduate certificate.

Emergency Management Bachelor's Degree Concentrations

Because emergency management covers a wide variety of fields, students have the option within some university programs to pick a concentration. Concentrations are specialized areas of focus and allow the student to more deeply explore an area of interest. Concentrations are helpful for those who already have an idea of the career direction they are planning to pursue. Within emergency management, some typical concentrations are:

  • Homeland security
  • Fire science

Curriculum for a Bachelor's Degree in Emergency Management

Coursework for a bachelor's degree in emergency management aims to equip students with the skills to adequately plan for and respond to major disasters. Classes cover pre-disaster planning as well as what happens directly during and after an event. Common courses for this bachelor's program include but are not limited to:

  • Disaster planning and mitigation
  • Introduction to emergency management
  • Hazards mitigation
  • Disaster response

Some universities offer opportunities for on-site disaster relief field training, internships within public or private emergency management organizations, and/or capstone research projects to further explore an area of interest. These experiences can help students gain practical knowledge useful for entering the workforce.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor's in Emergency Management?

Most Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management programs will last four years. Four-year universities generally accept transfer credits from accredited community colleges so if you have an associate degree or have taken some classes for credit, this could transfer into a bachelor's program reducing the overall time to completion. The time it takes to complete a bachelor's in this field includes general education requirements, elective, major courses, and internship or practicum if applicable. Classes are taken during fall and spring semesters, but some universities offer classes during winter and summer terms as well.

Should I Get a Bachelor's Degree in Emergency Management?

A Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management is an attractive degree program for anyone interested in public health and safety. Emergency management professionals should enjoy solving problems and finding solutions to sometimes complex and intricate situations. An interest in current events and challenges facing the US and world is also helpful as professionals in the field must monitor potential and/or evolving risk situations in order to avoid them.

This degree program is also a good choice for career advancement for EMTs, paramedics, police officers, firefighters, or other first responders who may not have a four-year degree. Emergency management is a complementary field of study for professionals who already have experience dealing with disasters, accidents, and other public safety threats. The combination of practical job experience and a bachelor's in emergency management can lead to higher-paying competitive roles within the government or private sectors.

Accreditation for Bachelor's in Emergency Management Degrees

Although there is no special accrediting body specifically for emergency management degrees, students should ensure the university they wish to attend is regionally accredited. These organizations include, among others, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). These organizations handle university accreditation in specific US states.

While the U.S. Department of Education is not involved directly with the accreditation process, they provide guidance and oversight to regional accrediting bodies. Attending an accredited school provides several benefits including eligibility for federal financial aid, the ability to transfer credits to other institutions, acceptance of educational credentials by employers including the federal government, and the knowledge the school has passed rigorous academic review.

Emergency Management Licensure & Certification

Becoming certified isn't a requirement for a career in emergency management but it can help enhance career prospects and demonstrate competence in the field. The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) is the world's leading non-profit organization for the promotion of emergency management with over 6,000 members globally. They offer two certifications:

  • Associate Emergency Manager (AEM): prospective candidates must have completed 100 hours of emergency management training, 100 hours of general management training, write an essay, provide references, and pass a certification exam in order to earn the AEM credentials.
  • Certified Emergency Manager (CEM): applicants seeking the CEM must have 3 years of emergency management experience, a bachelor's from an accredited university, must have participated in two full-scale training events, and show proof of six separate professional contributions within the past 6 years.

Once certification is obtained, credential holders must show documented proof of continuing education and professional development every 5 years.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Emergency Management?

A Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management can lead to jobs across various public and private sectors. The career outlook for emergency management professionals is positive. Graduates may work in the private sector or take on roles in government. Emergency management professionals work in state or local government or at the federal level for organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Some titles graduates have attained include:

  • Response and recovery program manager
  • Emergency management specialist
  • Homeland security officer
  • Police officer
  • Customs and Border Protection officer
  • Transportation Security Administration agent
  • Emergency planner

How to Become an Emergency Management Specialist

Emergency management specialists work with a team of professionals to assess risk and create plans in the face of possible disasters and mass casualty events. They interface with elected government officials, local non-profit and governmental organizations, community leaders, and those involved in public safety. These specialists are responsible for staying informed about current disaster plans and updating them as necessary according to changing variables in the wider community and nation. They also organize staff training to ensure all members of the team are ready in the event of an emergency.

A bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement for this position. Emergency management specialists usually have substantial work experience in emergency management including time spent in the military or as a police officer, paramedic, or firefighter. Work experience in these fields generally demonstrates the ability to function in pressure situations including time-sensitive decision-making. Candidates for this position may also be required to hold current certification or become certified as a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM).

Professionals in this career can expect to earn an average of $74,590 per year. The highest 10% of earners in this field saw an annual income of $141,230. In 2019, there were 10,400 emergency management specialist positions across the US and this number will likely continue to grow. According to the BLS, job outlook shows a growth of 4% between 2019 and 2029.

How to Become a Customs and Border Protection Officer

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are federal government employees that protect the country by securing borders, managing threats of terrorism, and combatting the drug trade. Officers analyze threat levels and work to prevent emergency situations before they occur. They also collaborate with foreign officials to manage international risk situations.

Prospective applicants need a minimum of a bachelor's and some experience in law enforcement or as an EMT or paramedic is preferred. Candidates must first pass an entrance exam and undergo a background check. Next, applicants must pass a series of physical fitness, medical, and drug tests. They must also pass an interview and polygraph test. The interview process is rigorous and can take 6 to 9 months from start to finish.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the average yearly salary for an entry-level GS-5 officer is around $45,704. Officers are eligible for a yearly promotion to the next GS level and have the possibility of earning a minimum of $76,721 by the time GS-12 is achieved. Salary depends on duty location, with some locations paying higher wages. Officers are also entitled to overtime pay and bonuses for working weekends, holidays, and night shifts.

Financial Aid & Scholarship Information for Bachelor's in Emergency Management Degrees

Students wishing to seek financial aid have several options. Student loans must be repaid after graduation and are offered by private institutions or the federal government. To receive government aid, students must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility, award amount, and type of loans they are entitled to. Federal financial aid is paid directly to your college or university with any overages for books, housing, or other educational expenses dispersed to the awardee.

Scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid. Scholarships are open to any interested student and tend to require an application including a personal/career goals statement, recommendations, and/or minimum GPA. Grants are awarded to students who demonstrate financial need. Many universities, state, federal, and private organizations offer scholarship programs ranging from a few hundred dollars to full tuition coverage. For example, the International Association of Emergency Managers holds an annual worldwide scholarship competition for students pursuing coursework in emergency management at the bachelor's and master's levels. Awards for successful students change yearly but begin at least $1,500.

Professional Organizations in Emergency Management

Joining an emergency management professional organization is an optional but potentially beneficial move for graduates. Professional organizations provide opportunities for valuable career networking, access to education and training, and the ability to help influence policy and promote the interests of the field. There is a range of groups for those studying or working in emergency management. Some of these include:

  • Association of Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Professionals (AHEPP): Founded in 2014, AHEPP's mission is to link healthcare professionals to the world of emergency management. Members can enjoy a variety of benefits such as earning continuing education credits, attending conferences, and getting involved in research publications. It also provides leadership and mentoring opportunities.
  • U.S. First Responders Association (USFRA): USFRA's goal is to link first responders, military, police, and civilian personnel in order to share and standardize current best practices for fire and public safety. This organization has a focus on advocacy and education and members can get involved in hands-on efforts to advance the field of fire and rescue. Among its programs it also focuses on pet fire safety, internet and stranger safety for children, and family emergency preparedness.
  • International Association for Preparedness and Response (DERA): DERA is an international, non-governmental organization established in 1962. It focuses on three main areas of emergency management: logistics, communications, and preparedness. Member benefits range from professional support and networking to leadership opportunities designed to enhance experience and knowledge.
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