Top 6 Online PhD’s in Emergency Management

The work of anticipating emergencies is handled by professional managers who can remain calm and decisive in critical situations. Emergency management professionals are employed by organizations like the American Red Cross and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare for the worst situations possible. In a 2018 interview with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Red Cross disaster director Sara Hicks-West highlighted the satisfaction of providing shelter, relief, and a path forward for people in the midst of disasters. The variable elements of an emergency management career mean that successful professionals are organized, logical thinkers, and able to quickly switch from task to task.

The emergency management field spans from on-the-ground response teams to executive offices. BLS cites four general categories of emergency management jobs: preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. Preparedness is the planning stage for any public or private organization trying to anticipate storms, riots, and other emergencies. Response personnel is tasked with the step-by-step elements of carrying out plans including how materials are transported and delivered to affected populations. Recovery staff members spring into action as the immediate emergency ends to deal with repairs and relocation needs. As an emergency situation concludes, mitigation teams are necessary to identify causes and amend plans. These four job categories intersect at all stages of an emergency, requiring well-trained personnel familiar with the latest trends.

BLS estimates continued job growth in the emergency management field through 2026. This estimate draws on a doubling of these jobs from 1990 to 2017. This growth comes from seasonal preparations for weather emergencies as well as ongoing preparations for law enforcement and national security issues. The State of Virginia laid out an example career path in its Career Guide for Emergency Management Specialists. Professionals in this line of work often start out as an Emergency Management Specialist I, which includes dispatcher and communications staff vital to first responses. The state offers advancement paths for experienced professionals through three levels of specialist jobs as well as three managerial levels. With this knowledge in hand, an aspiring emergency management professional should also examine their personal reasons for pursuing this career.

Why Become an Emergency Management Professional?

The annual salaries for emergency management professionals in the United States offer good compensation for the work. PayScale found an average salary of $58,602 for emergency management specialists in 2019. This average included a top salary of $93,000 and a starting salary of $38,000. The BLS published an average salary of $74,420 for emergency management directors for 2018. Emergency management directors typically require bachelor's degrees and at least five years of experience. These salaries deal with mid-level professions with opportunities for higher salaries after completion of advanced degrees. Even at these salary averages, professionals earn more than the $57,652 median household income for 2017 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Emergency management professionals also hold the skills and experiences necessary to find work in a variety of fields. For example, a first responder who has some managerial experience can move from a municipal position to a position with a nonprofit. Emergency personnel is needed in the public sector from local governments to federal agencies. National and international corporations need emergency managers to anticipate costly disasters that can harm customers and lead to regulatory issues. There are non-governmental organizations and nonprofits throughout the world that would struggle to help communities without emergency management skills. The high demand for these professionals makes it an attractive career option.

There are few professions that offer the immediate sense of fulfillment that comes from emergency management jobs. In an emergency, you could be responsible for saving lives and protecting communities through good planning and quick responses. Mitigation professionals help victims of storms, natural disasters, and acts of terrorism get close to a return to their previous lives. The constant challenges of managing emergency responses make this an intellectually stimulating field that can offset stresses. You can pursue advanced studies through an online Ph.D. program in emergency management in preparation for leadership positions in the field.


Top Management Degrees uses seven data points to rank college programs. Here they are in order of importance:

  1. A Reputation Aggregate Score from other rankings
  2. Graduate Average Salary
  3. Alumni Reviews
  4. Percentage of Admitted Students Who Graduate
  5. Price
  6. Admitted Students' Test Scores
  7. Acceptance Rate


#6. Northcentral University – San Diego, California

Doctorate of Business Administration in Homeland Security Leadership and Policy

Program Website

Northcentral University offers an online Doctorate of Business Administration with a specialization in Homeland Security Leadership and Policy. This program can be completed 100 percent online within four years of the first class. Doctoral students complete 16 required courses that advance the skills necessary for high-level emergency management jobs. Classes in transportation security, maritime terrorism, and risk management can be completed in eight weeks. Doctoral program applicants benefit from regular individual assignments and course starts each week. Northcentral University only selects doctorate holders in the field to train students. Each online course allows for one-on-one feedback between instructors and students, ensuring high levels of comfort with course materials.

Northcentral University has been offering online courses in business, psychology, and education since opening in 1996. These programs range from bachelor's degrees in business to doctorates in technology. In 2019, the university was acquired by the National University System, a California-based education group that focuses on non-traditional college students. College Factual rated this online-only university No. 2 in Most Focused on General Education and No. 20 in Most Focused on General Psychology for 2019. Northcentral University also received Top 5% badges in Psychology and Education. The Best Schools ranked the university No. 25 in The 30 Most Popular Online Colleges for 2019.

TMD Ranking Score: 96.42


#5. Capella University – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Doctor of Emergency Management

Program Website

Capella University's online Doctor of Emergency Management program provides students with opportunities to differentiate their studies through concentrations. The university features specializations like continuity management and higher education that separate degree holders from other job applicants. Students complete 14 core classes and four electives before focusing on research-intensive work. Capella University requires doctoral students to complete two research seminars prior to studying real-world emergency management issues in their doctoral projects. Doctoral applicants can potentially transfer 20 credits from other institutions to help offset degree requirements. Emergency management doctoral candidates can opt for part-time status each quarter or pick three classes per quarter on full-time schedules.

Capella University has been teaching students around the world through distance education courses since 1993. This Minneapolis-based institution caters to adult graduate students with 71% of students pursuing master or doctoral degrees at an average age of 39 years old in 2016. Programs vary from counseling certificates to doctoral degrees in public administration. The Best Colleges placed Capella University at No. 4 in its Top Online Colleges for 2019 rankings. College Factual featured the university in its 2019 rankings including a No. 110 spot in Location Diversity, No. 145 in Most Popular in Business, Management & Marketing, and No. 25 in Most Popular in Human Resource Management.

TMD Ranking Score: 97.45


#4. Colorado Technical University – Colorado Springs, Colorado

Doctor of Management in Homeland Security

Program Website

Colorado Technical University's online Doctor of Management in Homeland Security blends management and technical lessons to train future leaders in the field. The typical doctoral candidate can complete the coursework online in about three years. This program features start dates beyond the fall and spring semesters to attract students at different career stages. Colorado Technical University requires students to complete 10 courses covering topics like management theory and leadership development. Additional courses in homeland security strategy and innovation in security strategy impart real-life lessons about international security. Doctoral candidates later complete multiple research method courses in preparation for their dissertations. Once research courses are completed, the school invites students to two residential symposia to complete their work.

Colorado Technical University has conferred undergraduate and graduate degrees since 1965. The school evolved from a vocational school for military veterans to a mostly virtual university with students throughout the United States. Niche gave the university a ‘B-' overall grade in 2019, which included a No. 325 ranking in Most Diverse Colleges in America and No. 655 in Colleges with the Best Professors in America. College Factual concurred on Colorado Technical University's diversity with a No. 109 in Overall Student Diversity and a No. 24 in Location Diversity for 2019. U.S. News & World Report placed the school No. 144 in Engineering Programs in its 2019 rankings.

TMD Ranking Score: 97.91


#3. New Jersey City University – Jersey City, New Jersey

Doctor of Science in Civil Security Leadership, Management, and Policy

Program Website

New Jersey City University blends virtual lessons and in-person experiences through its Doctor of Science in Civil Security Leadership, Management, and Policy. Ten required courses teach doctoral candidates advanced lessons in current issues in the field, data analysis, and research skills. Students in the program attend two-week summer sessions and occasional weekend sessions each year to strengthen their skills. New Jersey City University maintains a policy of allowing doctoral candidates to return to the program at their previous points when dealing with approved leaves of absence. The university requires each student holds at least four years of experience in national, corporate, or cybersecurity prior to admission. New Jersey City University has designed this doctoral program to prepare students for Certified Protection Professional certification along with executive positions in the field.

New Jersey City University began its life as a teaching college in 1927. The university has since expanded to cover more than 60 academic disciplines through in-person and online courses. The National Security Agency's designation of the school as a National Center for Academic Excellence in 2009 helped students receive research grants and resources. U.S. News & World Report ranked the university No. 142 in Regional Universities North for 2019. Niche's 2019 grade of ‘B-' included a No. 429 ranking in the Most Diverse Colleges in America and a No. 441 rank in the Safest College Campuses in America for New Jersey City University.

TMD Ranking Score: 97.91


#2. Oklahoma State University – Stillwater, Oklahoma

Ph.D. in Fire and Emergency Management

Program Website

Oklahoma State University's Ph.D. in Fire and Emergency Management train online and in-class students through live courses. All doctoral candidates participate in real-time courses on topics like populations at risk and organizational behavior in disasters. The College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology requires all applicants to possess a minimum 3.0 GPA and graduate degrees in comparable fields prior to admission. Undergraduates interested in the field can complete their master's and doctoral degrees at the university. Oklahoma State University also requires online students to complete at least nine hours of campus coursework. Working professionals can opt for one-week summer courses to fulfill this residency requirement.

The breadth of programs at Oklahoma State University has grown from vocational learning in 1890 to most academic disciplines in the 21st century. The university's online offerings range from bachelor's degrees in interdisciplinary studies to the doctorate in fire and emergency management. Forbes emphasized the university's overall value to students with a No. 120 placement in America's Best Value Colleges for 2019. U.S. News & World Report's 2019 college rankings included a No. 80 rank in Top Public Schools and a No. 129 rank in High School Counselor Rankings for the university. Niche issued an overall grade of ‘A' to Oklahoma State University in 2019. This grade included a No. 42 rank in Best Big Colleges in America and a No. 43 place in Top Public Universities in America.

TMD Ranking Score: 99.07


#1. Jacksonville State University – Jacksonville, Alabama

Doctor of Science in Emergency Management

Program Website

Jacksonville State University offers an online Doctor of Science in Emergency Management with minimal residency requirements. This doctoral program requires a one-week integrative seminar at its main campus each summer. Students are asked to complete three administration and policy courses, two courses in practice areas, and three courses in research methods. The university's emergency management electives range from risk communications to GIS spatial analysis. As doctoral candidates advance, the program features annual exams each year that must be passed before dissertation projects are started. Jacksonville State University also houses the Center for Disaster and Community Resilience and the Emergency Management Coalition of Eastern Alabama, which provides workshops and other events for doctoral students.

Jacksonville State University's degree programs have expanded significantly since its origins as a teaching college in 1883. The school's online programs range from graduate certificates in nursing education to bachelor's degrees in marketing. Jacksonville State University ranked No. 107 in Regional Universities South and No. 350 in Business Programs on the 2019 college rankings from U.S. News & World Report. Niche's ‘B' overall grade for the university included No. 206 in Top Public Universities in America and No. 296 in Colleges with the Best Professors in America. Jacksonville State University did well in College Factual's 2019 rankings including a No. 585 in Best Colleges for the Money and No. 247 in Most Popular programs for Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, and Firefighting.

TMD Ranking Score: 100.00