Earning a Ph.D. in Emergency Management Online

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Become Team
November 18, 2020

The ideal student pursuing an online Ph.D. in emergency management thrives in high-speed, high-intensity, pressure packed situations. Students in these programs should enjoy planning for all possible outcomes, as the emergency management profession involves both preparation and response.

Online Ph.D. programs in emergency management prepare professionals for two career options: emergency management director, and emergency management professor. Students who enroll in emergency management doctorate programs should prepare to pursue one of those two paths for the foreseeable future. Prospective students who enjoy planning, crisis management, and meaningful work can find a good fit in the emergency management field.

What Can You Do With an Online Ph.D. in Emergency Management?

Earning an online Ph.D. in emergency management may seem like a specialized choice, but it prepares students to pursue either emergency management or academia. Much like other doctorate degree holders, students who complete a Ph.D. in emergency management online often become professors, working to train the next generation of great emergency management professionals. They may also work as EMTs or paramedics. In all cases, individuals must feel comfortable operating under pressure.

Emergency Management Director

Median Annual Salary: $72,420
Projected Growth Rate: 8%

Emergency management director job descriptions include two components: preparation and response. These professionals plan for emergencies, such as natural disasters, and take charge of implementing those plans when emergencies occur. The profession does not require a Ph.D., but professionals with doctorates have a much better chance of earning jobs as emergency management directors.

Professor/Postsecondary Teacher

Median Annual Salary: $78,470
Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Professors in emergency management programs perform original research in the field and teach classes to future emergency management professionals. Many emergency professionals go into academia after building careers in the field. Either way, Ph.D. graduates may pursue professorship as soon as they graduate, as all professor positions require a doctoral degree.

EMT or Paramedic

Median Annual Salary: $34,320
Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Also known as first responders, EMTs and paramedics arrive in emergency medical settings to perform treatment and transport injured people to hospitals. Students who complete online Ph.D. programs in emergency management build stronger educational foundations than most paramedics, but gaining valuable experience in the trenches can help provide perspective as graduates move into managerial and academic roles.

The Top-Paying Industries for Emergency Management Director

  • Employment: 200
  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.01
  • Annual Mean Wage: $149,710

Traits of a Successful Emergency Management Graduate

Emergency management directors must thrive under pressure and in difficult situations. They must make difficult decisions — often snap decisions — under pressure. They use databases and spreadsheets to prepare meticulously and remain organized, and communicate clearly in times of crisis, both verbally and electronically through email and other communication tools. These professionals must understand public safety and security and the laws of local, state, and federal governments, as well.

Below, we list the three most important skills for future emergency management professionals.

Emergency management directors lead large groups of volunteers and employees, carrying out plans in response to what are often shapeshifting crises. As such, leadership matters a great deal in the field, as lack of leadership can lead to loss of life.
Emergency management directors must make quick decisions under heavy deadline pressure, as they work in the most challenging circumstances.
Each emergency or natural disaster poses a new, unique challenge, and emergency management directors must use their problem-solving skills to create the best possible outcomes for the people they protect.

Salary by Experience Level

As a field primarily consisting of hands-on fieldwork, emergency management values experience over almost any other characteristic. As a result, emergency management professionals' salaries tend to increase with more experience in the field. Furthermore, many professionals in the field pursue higher education, such as a master's or an online Ph.D. in emergency management. These degrees lead to higher salaries, as well.

Pay by Experience Level for Emergency Manager

Source: PayScale

Certifications and Licenses a Ph.D. in Emergency Management Prepares For

Steps to Earning a Ph.D. in Emergency Management Online

Details for the process of earning a Ph.D. in emergency management online vary by program and school. Even so, the general steps remain the same across all programs. Below, we spotlight those steps in more detail.

Find the Right Program for You

When choosing a program, consider your prospective schools as potential matches. Online programs differ in format, with each fitting a unique type of student. The most common distinction involves whether the program delivers coursework synchronously, through live online video conferencing, or asynchronously, with students completing assignments at their own convenience. Consider whether you need extra flexibility or plan to work while earning your degree. If you plan to work, an asynchronous program may provide the best fit.


Most Ph.D. applications require one or more essays, multiple recommendation letters, and an application form. The essays, recommendation letters, and undergraduate or master's-level transcripts often play the largest role in whether or not applicants earn admission. Students should plan to spend between six and eight hours on each application.

Capstone, Dissertation, or Thesis

Most Ph.D. programs conclude with some sort of experience involving original research. Ph.D. graduates may enter academia, but they must first prove they can contribute to the larger academic conversation regarding emergency management. Both theses and dissertations involve a significant amount of research — often relayed through a paper and presentation — addressing a real-world problem in the emergency management field.

Fellowship or Internship

In addition to preparing for academia, doctoral students in emergency management should prepare to work in the field. For that reason, students in Ph.D. programs usually need to complete a fellowship or internship in an emergency management department. Internships involve temporary employment, but merit-based scholarships typically include funding that allows students or postgraduates to make a living while they work.

Curriculum for an Online Ph.D. in Emergency Management

  1. Introduction to Emergency Management: As its name suggests, this course provides a basic overview of how the current emergency management system works. It also covers the history and philosophy underpinning the current system, exploring topics such as FEMA and other local, state, and federal agencies. It provides the foundational knowledge necessary for any career in emergency management.

  2. Emergency Management - Preparedness and Response: This course focuses on how to plan for emergencies and what actions to take when an emergency has occurred. The course focuses on the roles of managers and workers alike, and students typically learn the material through case studies and other real-world examples.

  3. Emergency Response - Recovery and Mitigation: This course mirrors its preparedness and response counterpart, except it focuses on recovering from a disaster after the preparation and the response have taken place. Like the preparedness and response course, this class uses case studies and real-world examples to teach material.

  4. Quantitative Methods: As in most doctorate-level programs, students pursuing a Ph.D. in emergency management must complete a quantitative methods course so that they can properly conduct research for their dissertations. Topics include data analysis and computer data manipulation.

  5. Thesis or Dissertation: Ph.D. programs in nearly all fields require students to complete some sort of dissertation or thesis, and emergency management is no exception. In this field, students generally write a thesis or dissertation about a real-world emergency, contributing research to the field.

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