2024 Best Online PhD in Emergency Management [Doctoral Programs]

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If you want to pursue a senior role in an exciting field that requires complex administrative, operational, and communications management, then you may want to consider getting an online PhD in Emergency Management.

PhD in Emergency Management

Disaster readiness and response involve many logistical challenges, operational complexities, and organizational leadership demands. Earning a PhD is a strategic way to develop a wider field of competencies and qualify for more senior or leadership positions.

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A Ph.D. can also give you additional research credibility, helping you position yourself for jobs in public policy or academia.

Online Emergency Management PhD Programs

Emergency management happens at all levels: federal, state, regional, and local. It also involves a whole cycle of administrative work, including risk assessment, planning and preparedness, and response and recovery efforts.

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Leading and managing the teams, organizations, and organizational networks that perform this work is a big task in itself. The emergency management field has a need for highly-trained individuals who are committed to developing the breadth and depth of skill needed for success.

Emergency management PhD programs will likely cover:

  • Trends in emergency management issues and practices
  • Dynamics of crisis management and public relations
  • Large-scale emergency and disaster relief operations
  • Organizational leadership and public administration skills
  • Preparation for your comprehensive exams
  • Quantitative and qualitative research skills

Different online programs will offer you different course concentration options, so you can look for programs that best align with your learning goals and your areas of professional interest.

Emergency Management Careers & Salaries

Emergency Management Careers & Salaries

A PhD can help you qualify for a number of job opportunities in any number of public and private organizations. Federal organizations involved in emergency management include FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security.

Emergency management professionals also work in local and regional government agencies or in large school systems, medical facilities, and similar settings.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many occupations depend on professionals with training and expertise in a range of management, public administration, and public planning skills, just some of the things you can do with an emergency management degree.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $185,950
Emergency Management Directors, Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services $106,570
General and Operations Managers $103,650
Administrative Services and Facilities Managers $98,890
Emergency Management Directors, Hospitals $87,920
Management Analysts $87,660
Postsecondary Teachers $80,790
Emergency Management Directors, Local Government $70,130
Social and Community Services Managers $69,600
Emergency Management Directors, State Government $66,730

Large private organizations and businesses also have a need for emergency planning and response expertise. They may hire qualified emergency managers or contract with private consulting firms that provide these services.

A PhD program in emergency management can boost your credentials in the field. It may also help you develop your skills in management, organizational planning, and public administration.

How to Choose an Online PhD in Emergency Management Program

PhD in Emergency Management Program

When it comes to choosing the emergency management doctoral program that’s right for you, there are many factors you may consider:

  • Format. What kind of full-time or part-time study options are offered?
  • Curriculum. Do the course offerings align with my learning needs and my career interests?
  • Accreditation. Are the school and program fully accredited?
  • Student resources. Is there support for my success in passing my comprehensive exams and for designing and completing my research dissertation?

If you’re trying to streamline your learning process, you might consider looking for more accelerated learning options, including options with no dissertation requirement.

Emergency Management Doctoral Curriculum

Emergency Management Doctoral

Courses will vary by program, but emergency management PhD programs typically help students explore advanced topics in the field while developing senior management competencies.

  • Principles of Emergency Management: You’ll review and do case study analysis related to key aspects of the disaster cycle, including prevention and mitigation, risk analysis, and response and recovery.
  • Policy and Leadership Principles: This course examines key issues in emergency response leadership, ethics, and communications in light of common social and political challenges.
  • Emergency Communications: You’ll explore strategic frameworks for managing communications operations during different stages of the disaster cycle and in relation to various political, social, and public relations dynamics.
  • Risk Assessment and Mitigation Planning: You’ll learn advanced approaches to disaster-related risk assessment and mitigation planning.
  • Emergency Response Design Practicum: Through case studies and hypothetical scenarios, you’ll engage in applying and critiquing a range of emergency management theories and principles.
  • Management Systems: You’ll be exposed to up-to-date frameworks for designing and managing large emergency response organizations and networks.
  • Survey of Emergency Management Trends: This course provides a wide-angle view of the history and development of emergency management trends and topics over the past century.
  • The Politics of Emergency Management and Response: This course gives insights into understanding and managing political forces and public perceptions in the context of external communications and public relations strategies.
  • Leadership Ethics: This course explores essential legal and ethical topics in the context of crisis response decision-making and communications challenges.
  • Disaster Management Research Methods: This course provides training in quantitative and qualitative research methods in the context of dissertation requirements.

In addition to providing training in advanced topics, most doctoral programs are designed to help students apply what they know and get critical feedback, pass comprehensive exams, and develop reliable research methods.

PhD Admissions

PhD Admissions

Admissions requirements for emergency management doctoral programs will vary by school. Having a masters is required for admissions to some online emergency management doctorate programs, but not all. Just as there are online doctorate programs, there are also online masters in emergency management programs that you may want to consider.

Some programs are designed to let you earn a masters on your way to completing the PhD requirements.

Common admissions requirements include:

  • Masters in emergency management or a related field
  • Satisfactory GPA
  • GRE or GMAT scores (if required)
  • Letters of recommendation

Some schools may have specific requirements related to professional qualifications, work experience, or prior coursework. Not sure you want to go the long mile to completing a doctorate degree? You can consider looking for doctoral programs that don’t require a traditional dissertation or for ones that allow you to get a masters degree along the way.


PhD in Emergency Management Accreditation

It’s strategic to limit your online study prospects to schools and programs that are fully accredited. Regional accreditation means that a school meets recognized standards for academic quality and student services.

Regionally accredited schools should have highly qualified faculty and up-to-date curriculum based on current professional standards. Accreditation can also be a precondition for some forms of financial aid.

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Organizations such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) have more information on accreditation and resources for finding accredited schools.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

PhD in Emergency Management financial aid

It can take many years to finish a doctoral program, and many students rely on financial aid to help them finish learning on time.

Common forms of financial aid include state and federal grants, need-based or merit-based scholarships, work study programs, and student loans. Financial aid packages may combine several types of aid, and their terms can vary, so it’s beneficial to review all offers carefully.

With the right circumstances, you might also be eligible to apply for employer-sponsored tuition assistance, research assistant jobs, or even a research fellowship. If you anticipate applying for need-based financial aid, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be a good first step.

Emergency Management Professional Organizations

Emergency Management Professionals

If you’re interested in joining a professional organization, here are a few common ones in the emergency management field:

Your membership may help you find professional development opportunities and follow career trends. Joining an organization can also make it easier to build a professional network.

Is Emergency Management a Good Career?

Emergency Management Career

Yes, emergency management is a good career for many professionals. High-level training and the right work experience in this field can help you qualify for management or policy roles in federal and local organizations.

Getting a doctoral degree in emergency management can help you develop the skills and confidence you need to pursue senior management or leadership roles. Emergency management directors make a median annual salary of $76,250 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The top 10% earn more than $142,870.

You can also find additional opportunities outside of government agencies, nonprofits, and NGOs. Many large organizations and multi-national corporations rely on emergency planning and disaster response professionals to manage readiness planning, risk assessments, and response coordination efforts.

What Can You Do with a PhD in Emergency Management?

Professionals in emergency management

Professionals trained in emergency management might work for government agencies or nonprofit organizations.

This can include job roles related to operational management, logistics, risk assessment and mitigation policies, disaster and emergency response, or response planning and readiness.

While many of these jobs are in the public sector, you might also pursue jobs in large private organizations and in consulting firms offering emergency management services.

Common careers in emergency management and related fields include emergency management director, management analyst, medical and health services manager, and operations research analyst. Completing all the requirements of a PhD program can help you qualify for jobs in academia too.

Which Careers Benefit from Emergency Management PhD Online Programs?

Emergency Management PhD

If you already work in the emergency management field, getting an advanced degree in disaster management or emergency preparedness may help you qualify for promotions. A PhD often leads to higher starting salaries.

In addition to making a pathway for promotion in the field, a PhD in Emergency Management can also open doors to new opportunities in research, policy development, and academia.

If you are pursuing a career with FEMA or another large organization, getting doctorate-level training and additional specialization in the field may help you qualify for senior management and leadership roles.

What Does an Emergency Management Director Do?

Emergency Management Director

The job of an emergency management director involves detailed planning and assessment work as well as challenging communication and coordination efforts.

A key responsibility of emergency management directors is maintaining up-to-date emergency or disaster response plans. These plans guide the strategic deployment and coordination of a whole range of response resources and assets based on diverse disaster scenarios.

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The director is also responsible for ensuring that relevant community groups receive response preparedness information, updates, and training, as needed. An emergency management director must also communicate effectively with other public agencies or nonprofit organizations as well as with emergency responders.

Among many other roles, directors must manage their own operations, staff, and budgets. They may also initiate, help design, and evaluate disaster and emergency response drills and exercises.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Emergency Management Online?

PhD in Emergency Management Online

Getting a PhD in Emergency Management online generally takes 3 to 5 years, but this timeframe can vary by program.

Completing a PhD program typically includes designing, researching, and writing a dissertation as well as passing comprehensive exams. Some students may need more time to complete these requirements.

Professional doctorate programs—such as a Doctor of Emergency Management (DEM) or a Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)—may not require a dissertation. A professional doctorate program may make it easier to finish sooner, but a PhD program can better prepare you for research roles and postsecondary teaching jobs.

Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in Emergency Management?

Doctorate in Emergency Management

Getting a PhD is not for everyone, but if you have a passion for emergency management work and policy, then a PhD may help you advance in the field and eventually qualify for senior roles.

A PhD program can also equip you with research credentials. You can leverage these qualifications to pursue opportunities in academia or policy research and development. Advancing your education tends to result in increased job opportunities and increased salaries over the long term.

While a doctorate in emergency management can help prepare you to pursue senior job roles or a career in academia, these top jobs may prove to be highly competitive too.

Is a PhD in Emergency Management Worth It?

emergency management PhD program

Yes, an emergency management PhD program is worth it for many professionals. Climate change and increasing population density in urban centers indicates that the future may hold even greater need for emergency management professionals.

A PhD in Emergency Management can help you explore and apply best practices in organizational leadership and public administration. With the right education, work experience, and specialization, you may be a stronger candidate for meaningful management and leadership roles in organizations like FEMA or Homeland Security.

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Professionals in the field also work for NGOs, multi-national corporations, and large organizations that deliver or manage emergency management services and resources.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for emergency management directors are forecast for 4% job growth over the next ten years. Jobs for social and community service managers are slated for 17% job growth.

Universities Offering Online PhD in Emergency Management Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Capitol Technology University

Capitol Technology University

Capitol Technology University offers an online PhD in Emergency and Protective Services program.

To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a master’s degree, 5 years of work experience, and 2 letters of recommendation. The program usually takes 3 years to complete and has a heavy focus on independent studies. To graduate, students must either complete a thesis or be published in 3 academic journals.

Capitol Technology University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University offers an online Doctor of Management in Homeland Security program.

To graduate, students must complete 100 credits, including a residency and dissertation. Applicants interested in the program must connect with an admissions advisor and submit an online application with official transcripts from any post-secondary institutions they’ve attended.

Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

George Washington University

George Washington University

George Washington University offers an Emergency Management and Public Health Graduate Certificate.

Students must complete 18 credit hours by taking 4 required courses and 2 electives. Those interested in the certificate must complete an online application. They must also submit transcripts, a 250 to 500 word statement of purpose about why they wish to attend the program, and a resume.

George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville State University offers a Doctor of Science in Emergency Management. To graduate, students must complete 60 credit hours, with 18 hours dedicated to a dissertation.

After all courses are completed, students must pass 3 qualifying exams. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, official transcripts, GRE scores, and 3 graduate reference forms.

Jacksonville State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

National University

National University

National University offers an online program for a Doctor of Psychology with a specialization in Trauma and Disaster Relief. The program requires 20 courses to be completed and can usually be finished in 48 months. To be eligible for the program, applicants must submit an online application. Classes begin within 30 days after the admissions process is completed.

National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

New Jersey City University

New Jersey University

New Jersey City University offers a Doctor of Science in Civil Security with a specialization in Leadership, Management, and Policy.

To graduate, students must complete 30 credit hours, with 18 dedicated to a dissertation. Applicants must have a master’s degree with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, 4 years of work experience, and 2 letters of recommendation.

New Jersey City University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma State University offers a PhD in Fire and Emergency Management Administration. To graduate, students must complete 60 credit hours, with 15 hours dedicated to a dissertation.

Students need to pass both an oral and written exam as well. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 and need to submit GRE scores, 3 letters of recommendation, and an essay about previous personal and professional experience.

Oklahoma State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

St. John’s University

St Johns University

St. John’s University offers an online program for a Doctor of Professional Studies in Homeland Security.

Students must acquire 78 credit hours, including 6 credit hours from an internship, complete a dissertation, and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher to graduate. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, GRE scores, and 3 letters of reference.

St. John’s University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Maryland – Baltimore

University of Maryland Baltimore

University of Maryland—Baltimore offers an online program for a PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Emergency Services.

To graduate, students must complete 48 credit hours and an additional 18 hours of dissertation research. Applicants must submit GRE scores, 3 letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a current resume.

The University of Maryland – Baltimore is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Walden University

Walden University

Walden University offers an online program for a PhD in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Emergency Management.

Students must complete 88 credit hours, including four residencies, within 8 years of starting the program. An online application must be submitted along with official transcripts and a resume. The school also offers enrollment specialists to help those applying.

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Earning Your PhD in Emergency Management Online

PhD in Emergency Management

If you have strong communication skills and a passion for improving public services, you may consider earning a PhD in Emergency Management.

If you’re ready to commit to your own professional learning, then you may want to consider earning a PhD in Emergency Management online. Online emergency management degree programs tend to offer various schedule and format options.

If you’re ready to increase your expertise and credentials in this rewarding field, you can start searching for the accredited emergency management PhD online program that has the features and options you most care about.

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Keith Nickolaus
Keith has a Ph.D. and Master's in Comparative Literature from the University of California - Berkeley and a Bachelor's in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A retired educator, Keith lives in Berkeley and researches and writes about trends in innovation, policy, and education leadership.