Performancing Metrics

Degree Choices: MPA, MS or MA in Emergency Management?

mpa emergency managementImage source

Emergency Management is one of the most popular online master’s degree programs for good reason. Many programs can be completed in as little as a year, and the expertise of the faculty (very often the same professors as any on-campus offering) is impressive and extensive–and many times the online faculty members are still actively participating in Emergency Management on a statewide, national, or global level. So if the question for you is not whether or not you should pursue the emergency management degree, but rather which kind of emergency management degree, read on to learn some of the ways you can study emergency management and the degrees you can be awarded.

Master of Public Administration in Emergency Management

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree is ideal for individuals who desire to go into politics, lead organizations that serve the public, or provide executive leadership. Students gain the skills to become leaders in many settings–non-profit, public organizations, and many levels of government. In general, students take classes in relevant subjects like leadership ethics, budgeting and finance for the public sector, human resource management, research methods, data analytics, and organizational behavior. Adding the emergency management component means that, in addition to learning the skills to manage and lead within a public setting, professionals are gaining further skills to be able to lead when something goes horribly wrong. Coursework often includes topics in homeland security policies and procedures, disaster communications, mitigation and continuity management, community and vulnerability assessing, biostatistics and communicable diseases, public health disaster preparedness, and geographic information systems. This marriage of public administration skills and experience with disaster and emergency management translates into a professional who can seamlessly guide the public through natural hazards, environmental events, and human-designed violence. The MPA can be particularly useful in understanding organizational structures and lines of communication within local communities, large organizations, statewide government, or even occurrences on a national level.

Master of Arts or Master of Science in Emergency Management

Many emergency management programs are offered as Master of Science (MS) degrees or Master of Arts (MA) degrees. The MS degree tends to focus more on scientific applications and practical experience, often requiring an internship or practicum in order to practice the skills learned. An MA degree is generally more broad-based and examines theory, with an emphasis on research and written work. Both, however, are focused entirely on emergency management, with coursework such as risk assessment, survey of terrorism, crisis communications, advanced toxicology, hazardous materials, global perspectives and international emergencies, homeland security, and interagency disaster response. (For a more thorough examination of the differences between a Master of Arts degree and a Master or Science degree, check out this article that provides more detail).

What kind of degree you choose to pursue might direct the focus of your commitment to emergency management, but ultimately, whichever degree you obtain means you are helping to save and protect society when disaster strikes. For a collection of different degree options, we’ve compiled a list of the 50 Best Online Master of Emergency Management Degree Programs to point you in the right direction.

Related Rankings

Best Online Masters of Emergency Management Degree Programs

Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor