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2023 Most Affordable Online Master's Programs in Emergency Management

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 1/11/2023
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A master’s in emergency management is designed for either full-time students or established professionals who looking to assume administrative and managerial roles in emergency or fire management. These programs, whether online or in person, provide an overview of the theories and concepts of risk assessment and helps students develop their managerial skills. Many of the online master’s programs in emergency management have courses that cover risk mitigation, terrorism, and disaster response. In addition to coursework, online students can expect to complete a practicum, capstone project, or thesis in order to graduate. Afterward, they may pursue careers like emergency management specialists, security officers, and business community managers.

View our methodology for details about rankings or learn more about us. You can also check out similar programs to an online master’s in emergency management — such as healthcare management — or our overall list of the most affordable online degrees.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Locations Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Oklahoma State University - Main Campus Stillwater (OK) $5,824
# 2 #2 Arkansas State University Jonesboro (AR) $5,958
# 3 #3 Columbia Southern University Orange Beach (AL) $6,030
# 4 #4 Ohio University - Main Campus Athens (OH) $6,324
# 5 #5 Lander University Greenwood (SC) $6,540
# 6 #6 American Public University System Charles Town (WV) $6,660
# 7 #7 Sam Houston State University Huntsville (TX) $7,583
# 8 #8 Jacksonville State University Jacksonville (AL) $7,800
# 9 #9 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks (AK) (and 1 other) $8,085
# 10 #10 University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh Oshkosh (WI) $8,293
Annual Tuition: $5,824
Annual Tuition: $5,824
Annual Tuition: $5,824

Oklahoma State University - Main Campus (OSU) is a public institution that offers an online Master of Science in Fire and Emergency Management Administration totaling 33 credit hours. It can take full-time students one year to complete this master's program online.

OSU facilitates asynchronous and synchronous online learning through the learning management system (LMS) Canvas, which means that some classes may have rigid schedules while others are study-at-your-own-pace. The fire and emergency management program gives students the knowledge and skills to assume administrative roles in this field, with sample courses such as Hazard, Vulnerability, Risk Analysis, Disaster Response, and Mitigation. Faculty may also require students to finish a thesis. Potential career options include emergency response team leaders, hurricane program managers, and nuclear emergency planners.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Average SATs: 1060 -1280
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 821
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 849
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Arkansas State University

Jonesboro (AR)
Annual Tuition: $5,958
Annual Tuition: $5,958
Annual Tuition: $5,958

Arkansas State University (A-State) is a public institution offering an online Master of Science in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management that requires 36 credit hours. Prospective students may complete the program within one year if they maintain a full-time pace. The program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (CAEMHSE).

At A-State, online students complete coursework in asynchronous and synchronous formats via the LMS Blackboard. This master’s degree delivers coursework on the theories and risks of disasters and emergencies, featuring courses such as Pandemic Planning, Crisis Communication in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, and Radiological Emergencies. A practicum and capstone project are both required. Graduates may pursue careers like safety specialists, disaster recovery managers, and emergency services directors.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Average SATs: 1013 -1220
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,064
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,414
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Columbia Southern University

Orange Beach (AL)
Annual Tuition: $6,030
Annual Tuition: $6,030
Annual Tuition: $6,030

At Columbia Southern University (CSU) — a private, for-profit institution — prospective students can pursue an online Master of Science in Emergency Services Management that totals 36 credit hours. Full-time students can spend one year completing the coursework online. This graduate program offers several flexible learning options: (1) LifePace Learning, (2) Term Enrollment, and (3) Veterans Flexible Enrollment.

CSU students can complete coursework asynchronously on Blackboard, meaning that they can complete assignments at their own pace. The emergency services program delivers a comprehensive overview of the disaster cycle. Sample courses include Interagency Disaster Management, Global Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Some prospective career opportunities are homeland security agents, emergency management directors, and emergency management planners.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 14,364
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 5,670
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: DEAC
Annual Tuition: $6,324
Annual Tuition: $6,324
Annual Tuition: $6,324

Ohio University - Main Campus is a public institution, which offers an online Master of Public Administration - Crisis and Emergency Management. Requiring 36 credit hours, this online program can take full-time students one year to complete. Additionally, the Crisis and Emergency Management concentration requires nine credit hours.

Ohio facilitates asynchronous and synchronous online learning through the LMS Blackboard. This master's degree emphasizing crisis and emergency response prepares students to assume careers with federal agencies, community organizations, and both state and local governments. Students may choose from courses such as Crisis Collaboration, Crisis Leadership, and Crisis and Emergency Planning. Potential careers for graduates may include control room operators, public information officers, and environmental health and safety officers.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 4,926
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,892
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Lander University

Greenwood (SC)
Annual Tuition: $6,540
Annual Tuition: $6,540
Annual Tuition: $6,540

Lander University is a public institution offering an online Master of Science in Emergency Management, which totals 31 credit hours. Full-time students typically spend at least one year completing the program. Students may also choose to add the All-Hazard Emergency Management certificate to their degree.

At Lander, remote students can complete coursework in asynchronous and synchronous formats via Blackboard. This graduate program in emergency management is designed for students who are interested in addressing natural and manmade disasters. Sample courses include Preparedness and Mitigation, Continuity of Government, and Nuclear Incident Management. Students must also complete a capstone course before they can graduate and enter careers, such as disaster recovery managers, emergency management specialists, and emergency response team leaders.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Average SATs: 940 -1130
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 65
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 59
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Can You Get a Master's in Emergency Management Online?

Yes, you can earn a master's in emergency management online or a master's degree with a concentration in emergency management. In fact, a 2020 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) survey found that these programs are increasingly being offered online. Over 64% of programs offer a majority of their curriculum through distance learning. This can be a flexible way to earn a degree while maintaining a busy schedule. The curriculum covers the hazards, risks, and theories of disaster to help you prepare for careers in crisis management.

Emergency Management Master’s Degree Quick Facts
  • Average Credits: 36
  • Average Duration: 1-2 years

Program Requirements

General admission requirements for this program usually include a bachelor's degree, official college transcripts, a 2.7 GPA or better, and a nonrefundable application fee of approximately $30. Program admission may also require certifications in Health Care Provider CPR, Basic Disaster Life Support, and/or Core Disaster Life Support. Some may even require the prior completion of FEMA introductory courses that are offered online for free.

Online master's degree programs typically call for the completion of 15 core classes, 15 major-related courses, three electives, and three final semester credit hours. In addition, students may need to complete either an internship or practicum hours as well as a capstone course or thesis. Core course content helps students develop critical thinking skills, identify the social determinants of risk, communicate effectively when disaster strikes, and understand emergency management's integration with public policy.

Emergency Management Master's Courses

Emergency management personnel use skills gained in degree programs in the face of life-threatening emergencies, including communication, leadership, critical thinking, and data analytics. Degree curriculum supports the four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Courses cover ethics, emerging technology, infrastructure attacks, biosecurity, and risk management. They are also designed to build skills, such as identifying vulnerabilities in an organization or community and applying theories and practices to minimize risks.

Course titles may differ, but learning outcomes are similar:

Economics of Disaster

This course is designed to teach students about the economic impact of local, national, and international disasters. Students often research and analyze the resulting indirect financial losses to private and public sectors.

Mass Casualty Incident Management

Students may enroll in this class to explore the consequences of large-scale emergencies and disasters. Topics may include public health, casualty, and mortuary services. Students typically study examples of real-world casualty incidents.

Social Justice Issues in Emergency Management

Students must be prepared for the various challenges that arise during a crisis. Coursework often covers the socioeconomics of disaster and its disproportionate impact on minorities, women, and individuals experiencing poverty.

Risk Communications

Faculty often cover the public announcements, press releases, and other notifications that may be necessary to inform and protect the public during a crisis. Students reflect on recent incidents to gain fresh perspectives, and they engage in classroom discussions about best practices

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and the New Terrorism

This class is intended for students who want to examine the threat of WMD to U.S. security and safety. Students strive to gain national and international historical perspectives of the destruction caused by these weapons and how they disrupt everyday life.

Funding an Online Emergency Management Master's Degree

Annual tuition from our rankings list above ranges from $4,986 to $12,000 for online programs. Although online tuition and fees are typically cheaper than on-campus programs, the Emergency Management degrees on our rankings list are often similar in cost to traditional, in-person programs. While other online programs may charge students in-state tuition regardless of residency, many programs on our list do not offer this benefit and charge based on a student's residency status. However, some schools may have reciprocity agreements with participating schools in other states, which could potentially lower tuition rates for online graduate students in this field.

Annual tuition from our rankings list of online emergency management master's programs ranges from $4,986 to $12,000.

Completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines a student’s eligibility for federal grants, scholarships, and low-interest loans to help make college more affordable. Grants and scholarships are the best way to pay for college because they don't require repayment. Students studying emergency management may also turn to organizations offering private funding, such as the International Association of Emergency Managers Scholarship.

For college affordability tips, students can check out our resources about paying for a college degree.

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

Employment in the emergency and disaster relief field has more than doubled between 1990 and 2017 and is expected to continue growing through 2026. Graduates often work for the federal government in FEMA or the Department of Homeland Security to help communities prevent and recover from disasters. Some work in local government or private industries, including hospitals, schools, and corporations. Some workers report finding gratification in improving the lives of those experiencing desperate situations.

Employment growth in emergency and other relief services
*Source: BLS

Graduates may choose from several occupations, but these typically only require a bachelor's degree. Emergency management directors help build community resilience and create disaster recovery plans while earning an annual median salary of $76,250. Another role to consider is an occupational health and safety specialist. They analyze work environments to prevent disease and injury, earning a median wage of $72,530 per year. Some graduates could choose to become business continuity planners who develop, maintain, and implement an organization's recovery strategies. They earn an annual median salary of $77,420. The job outlook for all of these occupations averages between 5-10%.

Is an Online Master's in Emergency Management Worth It?

The decision to earn an online emergency management master's degree is ultimately up to you, but it’s important to determine whether it will help you meet your career goals. While emergency management jobs may pay well, they can often be attained with only a bachelor's degree. Instead of a graduate program, employers may prefer a Certified Emergency Manager credential or completing an online

Work experience is highly valued for emergency management jobs because it helps develop decision-making abilities during real-life emergencies. In fact, hands-on experience is crucial in disaster recovery. According to John Fredenberg, the lead emergency management specialist for a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “You learn by doing, so you need to try as early and as often as you can to go to disasters. … In our field, lives literally hang in the balance.” Military, paramedic, and healthcare experience may provide such training in crisis management.

Are you unsure about pursuing a master's degree in emergency management? Explore related master's programs, including healthcare management, human services, and public health.

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