Studying Crisis Management: Master's and PhD Degrees at a Glance
Students in a crisis management degree program acquire emergency and conflict management skills and prepare for careers in public safety, public administration and security. Degree programs specifically in crisis management may be rare; however, emergency management degree programs typically cover the same information and may be more widely available.
The employment outlook for emergency management directors was expected to grow by 13% from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Graduates of master's degree programs in crisis management typically pursue advanced positions with local, state or federal security agencies, or with private organizations. Typically, a bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement for entry-level careers, while management positions may require a graduate degree and several years of work experience. Careers in research and academia generally require a PhD.
|Who is this degree for?||- Experienced crisis management professionals who want leadership positions in their field|
- Students with bachelor's degrees who want to enhance or specialize their skills in crisis management
|- Individuals who want to work in crisis management policy or research|
- Master's or bachelor's degree holders, particularly those with a background or interest in public safety, security or law
- People who want to teach at the post-secondary level
|Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary)||- Emergency management director ($63,000)* |
- Occupational health and safety specialist ($67,300)*
- Crisis management specialist (salary unavailable)
|- Post-secondary professor ($74,400)*|
|Time to Completion||Typically 2 years (full-time)||Typically 5-6 years (full time) or 3-4 years beyond the master's|
|Common Graduation Requirements||- Complete coursework (approximately 60 credits)|
- Maintain GPA standards
- Pass proficiency examinations
|- Complete coursework (approximately 72 credits)|
- Workshops/seminars, if applicable
- Pass qualifying exams
- Complete field or research practicum
|Prerequisites||- Undergraduate transcripts|
- Meet GPA requirements
- Letter(s) of recommendation
- Personal statement
- GRE scores
- Relevant work experience
- Prerequisite courses, if applicable
|- All of the master's requirements plus|
- Master's thesis, if applicable
|Online Availability||Courses and degree programs are available||Degree programs are rare; individual courses may be available depending on the academic institution|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures).
Crisis Management Master's Degrees
Students in a crisis management master's degree program analyze emergency procedures and learn to identify various types of crises, including natural and intentional disasters. Typically, the purpose of this degree program is to prepare you for careers in crisis management by emphasizing the distinguishing principles behind various types of disasters and studying effective approaches for prevention planning, risk mitigation, response and recovery efforts. You will likely specialize in a concentration, such as emergency management, business continuity, public health administration or homeland security. To be admitted into a master's degree program, you will likely need an undergraduate degree and several years of work experience, preferably in a related field.
Pros and Cons
- Master's degree programs are typically taught by respected faculty who bring their real-world professional experiences into the classroom.
- Because a bachelor's degree is typically the minimum education requirement in this field, you may stand out from the crowd with an advanced degree.
- Law enforcement and government agencies may provide tuition assistance benefits for employees who want to advance their careers by obtaining a master's degree.
- Most entry-level positions do not require a master's degree.
- Employers generally seek candidates with professional experience. By attending a master's program immediately after undergraduate studies, you may be delaying valuable job training.
- Jobs in the public sector are tied to government funding, so when state and federal budgets experience cuts, layoffs and hiring freezes may occur.
Common Courses and Requirements
Master's degree programs emphasize how crisis management fundamentals apply to real-world events, such as environmental disasters, technical emergencies and security breaches and acts of terrorism. If you specialize in a particular concentration, you may have to take some classes outside your department (for example, a concentration in business continuity may require some business or economics courses). In addition to coursework requirements, some degree programs may require you to pass a qualifying exam and research and write an original thesis.
Sample courses may include:
- Conflict and conflict resolution
- Emergency preparedness
- Technology for emergency managers and first responders
- Crisis communications
- Hostage negotiation
- Handling chemicals and hazardous materials
Online Course Options
Online crisis management master's degrees and distance learning courses are available. Some schools may offer a fully online course option and a hybrid option (a combination of online and on-campus classes).
Online degree programs are typically geared for individuals who are currently working full time. Similar to a traditional on-campus master's program, online courses may require you to have several years of relevant work experience and a basic understanding of crisis management issues. If you are interested in pursuing an online master's degree in crisis management, you should be aware that you may be required to occasionally visit campus for lectures or exams.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
Consider volunteering with relevant emergency management organizations in your local community. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests that field experience can be gained in several organizations, including your local American Red Cross, town/city emergency management agencies or through the FEMA Regional Disaster Reservist Program. Volunteering with one of these organizations is also a good way for you to gain the professional experience required by some degree programs.
If you meet experience and education requirements, you may also stand out by obtaining the Certified Emergency Managers (CEM) qualification from the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM).
Crisis Management PhD Degrees
Generally, crisis management PhD programs provide an interdisciplinary education if you're seeking a professional career in crisis, disaster, emergency and risk management. Graduates of a crisis management PhD program typically obtain careers in the government, nonprofit, or academic sectors. A PhD can provide a significant edge if you want to become a subject matter expert in your field; however, consider that you may be over-educated for some positions, particularly those outside academia.
Admission to a PhD program typically requires a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited institution and evidence of a strong academic career and/or relevant work experience. If you're interested in pursuing a PhD in crisis management, you should also consider that degree programs may also fall under similar names, including emergency or disaster management.
Pros and Cons
- PhD candidates typically have the opportunity to specialize in a concentration that interests them.
- A PhD is required for most postsecondary teaching positions.
- PhD candidates may be eligible for grants or financial aid for research projects and conference/seminar travel.
- Generally, job security in academia is limited to tenured positions (which are very competitive).
- Careers in the crisis management field can be stressful, particularly in time-sensitive or hazardous conditions.
- Compared to bachelor's and master's degree programs, PhD programs are smaller and more selective.
Common Courses and Requirements
PhD candidates in a crisis management program must satisfy several graduation requirements beyond completing coursework. Though requirements may vary depending on the school, you will likely be expected to pass a qualifying examination and research, write and defend an original dissertation. You may also need to complete a relevant field or research practicum.
You can expect courses on the following topics:
- Managing information and security systems
- Disaster recovery
- Hazard mitigation and safety management
- Crisis and emergency management
- Emergency management theory
- Applied statistics
Online Class Options
At this time, fully online PhD degrees in crisis management are not widely available. Some schools may offer limited online courses that count toward a PhD degree program, particularly for prerequisite courses. As will all educational investments, you should consider whether online courses are part of an accredited academic institution.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
If you plan to pursue a career in crisis management research or policy, take advantage of your school's literary journals and publications. Published research or articles are a great way to set yourself apart from your peers and impress potential employers.
Additionally, if you plan to work in the public sector, you may want to consider obtaining a certification in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Incident Management System (NIMS). The NIMS certification is available online and trains you on critical technology frameworks.