What Master’s Degree Choices are there in Emergency Management?

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DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.


Emergency management and its related services handle all aspects of natural and human-made disasters in a community. Often at the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), they perform an invaluable function to promote the safety of citizens when catastrophes occur.


Emergency management (EM) personnel have the primary mission of taking the necessary measures to mitigate and ensure the safety of a community. Whenever there is the likelihood of a natural disaster or an act of terrorism happens, emergency managers are vital.

Education Overview

FEMA lists over 70 colleges with bachelor degree programs in EM and related majors. You don’t need a degree in EM before applying for a graduate program. However, it will likely benefit you professionally if both degrees are in the same major. An emergency management bachelor’s degree typically teaches students about public safety issues, human psychology, and cultural considerations. You may also learn about the role of government agencies in disaster response. Students also learn how to respond to different emergencies, including terrorism, natural disasters, and possible exposure to hazardous materials.

At the undergraduate level, there are many of the same areas of specialization as a master’s program. Some of the degrees include specialties as Homeland Security, Health Management, Disaster Management, Leadership, Maritime Safety, Fire Services, and more. This post looks at some of the diverse master’s programs, which should illustrate the diversity of a master’s degree.

Fire and Emergency Management

A  Master of Science (M.S.) in Fire and Emergency Management Administration will benefit the careers of current and future emergency managers. Anyone in an administrative role in fire services, homeland security, police department, or related occupation will profit from additional education.

RELATED: The 10 Best Online Fire Science Degree Bachelor’s Programs

Public Safety Leadership and Administration (PSLA)

The Master of Arts in PSLA prepares students to engage in the effective management of emergency services. The program contributes to the professional development of current or future practitioners as the next generation of leaders in law enforcement, emergency medicine, and fire services. There are three sub-specialties within this major. They are Emergency Medical Services, Executive Police Administration, and Executive Fire Administration (EFA). The EFA program teaches finance, budgeting, and the operations of fire and emergency services.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management

The above title is a favorite pairing in the post 9/11 era of heightened concerns about national safety. The Master of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management (MSHSEM) combines matters associated with homeland security and emergency management. This dual major and other similar programs generally entail concerns with domestic terrorism, immigration issues, infrastructure protection, and recovery from disasters.

Another example is a Master of Arts that allows, in addition to choosing either EM or Homeland Security, the choice of concentrations in Biosecurity and Threat Management and Community Resilience. The former prepares students to utilize best practices toward protecting living organisms against hazardous biological agents.

Disaster Preparedness and EM

Schools are offering an M.S. in this discipline. The curricula cover a range of topics including bioterrorism, as well as the sociological and environmental effects of disasters on the public’s health. You will also learn leadership skills and organizational behavior. Both are crucial to preparing, planning, mitigating the impact of catastrophes on the community.

One program has the choice of five specialty tracks, which are Maritime Safety and Security, Cyber Security, Criminal Justice, Public Health, and Fire Administration. All of these relate to disaster and emergency management.

RELATED: The 20 Best Masters in Cyber Security Online

EM and Crisis Management

This M.S. degree provides those in leadership positions the skills to respond to all types of disasters. Students will learn about the legal and governmental issues about terrorist activities and natural catastrophes. Graduates will have a grasp of the principles of prevention, planning, mitigation, risk, response, and recovery.

Safety, Security, and EM

The degree title captures all aspects of emergency management. There is an online master’s concentration in Emergency Management and Disaster Resilience. The coursework studies intergovernmental relations and disaster policies, community-wide mitigation and preparedness strategies, and research and planning, among others. Graduates will have the specialized skills to qualify for positions in emergency management or information security analysis.

Why earn a Master’s Degree?

One of the roles in this field is the emergency management specialist. This rapidly growing profession includes training individuals who will be at the forefront when an emergency strikes. Specialists also work coordinating resources and communicating directly with first responders. They plan and implement strategies when a disaster is imminent. The master’s education can prove to be a precious asset to the advancement of one’s career in emergency management.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median wage for EM Directors at $72,760 as of May 2017. Data based on a bachelor’s degree. A higher degree may bring a higher salary and more job offers. However, the experts advise that there is no substitute for experience. If so, then you could launch your career in EM with a bachelor’s degree with the option to earn an online master’s while employed.

Additional Resources

What is the Benefit of a Degree in Fire Science vs. Emergency Management?

What is the benefit of a health and safety engineering degree vs an occupational health and safety degree?

What is the Benefit of a Degree in Occupational Safety vs. Emergency Management?