Which online master’s degree in emergency management and homeland security concentration is right for you?

November 14, 2018 · 5 min read · By ASU Online
An online master’s in emergency management and homeland security can help students enter various leadership positions. Discover which concentration in this degree program is the best fit for you. 

Emergency management and homeland security are two large issues concerning the nation today. Terrorism, natural disasters and biological agent threats are increasing, and dealing with such events and their aftermath is growing more complex.

For example, several weather-related incidents occurred in 2018 and well-coordinated responses ensured public safety, mitigated damage and oversaw recovery efforts. Without expert professionals, the effects would likely have been much worse.

Emergency management specialists — particularly those in high-level positions — often need expertise in public safety and security, communications, government regulation and more to perform their duties. They must also possess a wide variety of skills, including complex problem solving and decision-making. Professionals who seek management or leadership roles in fields such as public health, general public safety and disaster management may be able to develop or improve upon such qualifications in an academic setting by earning an online master’s degree in emergency management and homeland security (EMHS).

The virtual format of an online program allows people to work around their current professional and personal commitments in a convenient, flexible learning environment. Furthermore, students may be able to focus their education on a distinct aspect of EMHS through concentrations specific to emergency management, homeland security, community resilience, biosecurity and threat management or cybersecurity policy and management. Although the foundational knowledge of these paths may overlap in regard to the vision, mission and principles of emergency management, each degree concentration offers distinct courses and learning outcomes to help students become specialists in various areas.


Emergency management concentration

Students who want to master today’s disaster response methods and strategies can specialize in emergency management. Such a concentration is designed to help students understand disaster preparation, response and recovery. The degree concentration focuses on leadership, management, technology and cross-agency collaboration to prepare students for a workforce where people come from many backgrounds and focus on different goals and responsibilities. Graduates can move up within their respective careers or pursue new paths in government, nonprofit organizations or the private sector.

Anticipated learning outcomes:

  • An understanding of interagency and cross-sector collaboration strategies and best practices.
  • Knowledge of technology industry standards for disaster-related incidents.
  • Skills in disaster- and emergency-related planning, mitigation and response.

Example courses:

  • Critical incident stress management.
  • Information technology in emergency management.
  • Integrated emergency management.

Potential career focuses:

  • Disaster recovery.
  • Hazard mitigation.
  • Preparedness administration.
A female first responder sorts through her equipment.
A first responder sorts through her equipment.

Homeland security concentration

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and is among the most recently established cabinet departments, yet it is arguably one of the most well-known. Although many people think of homeland security as a federal initiative, emergency response organizations at state and local levels also fall into this category. Each of these institutions engages in several responsibilities, including intelligence analysis, business continuity, law enforcement and more. Specializing in homeland security can give students the expertise to enter these important departments.

Anticipated learning outcomes:

  • Ability to guide local or national response.
  • Critical thinking skills to develop protection, mitigation and preparedness measures.
  • Knowledge of crisis management best practices.

Example courses:

  • Geographic information systems and analysis.
  • Terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
  • The nature of crime.

Potential career focuses:

  • Counter-terrorism.
  • Crisis management.
  • Security information analysis.


Community resilience concentration

Natural disasters and other emergencies have severe, long-lasting impacts on the communities they affect, as seen in 2018 with Hurricane Michael’s damage to Panama City, Florida, for instance. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 16 of 2017’s disaster events caused at least $1 billion in damages. Such destructive emergencies are occurring at an increasing rate, highlighting the need for qualified specialists who can address the variety of issues that disaster-stricken communities encounter after the events.

Community resilience concentrations are designed with the above and related factors, such as planning, transportation, environmental quality and public health, in mind. The coursework can help students understand the best ways to manage response teams and use public policy to help communities adapt to and recover from natural and human-made hazards. The concentration particularly suits those with an interest in the nonprofit sector.

Anticipated learning outcomes:

  • Expertise to increase the resilience of urban systems and the infrastructures that supports them.
  • Management and leadership skills necessary to recover from natural, economic and technological disasters.
  • Understanding of sustainable practices related to emergency/crisis management.

Example courses:

  • Community conflict resolution.
  • Public budgeting and finance.
  • Urban design for safe and healthy cities.

Potential career focuses:

  • Environmental quality.
  • Emergency medicine.
  • Medical and health services.
  • Planning and transportation.


Biosecurity and threat management concentration

Bioterrorism, agroterrorism and communicable disease threats are unique hazards that homeland security, public health and risk management groups frequently encounter. These threats are sometimes created with malicious intent, like bioterrorism, but they may also occur naturally or as a result of certain business practices, such as agricultural waste disposal.

This concentration is suited for people interested in public health, general public safety and biological threats in the private sector.

Anticipated learning outcomes:

  • Ability to utilize best practices to protect living organisms (including human, animal and plant life) from hazardous biological agents.
  • Knowledge and skills to develop protection, mitigation and preparedness measures for natural or human-made biological disasters.

Example courses:

  • Bioterrorism and health intelligence.
  • Hazards governance.
  • Health aspects of crises, emergencies and disasters.

Potential career focuses:

  • Anti-terrorism.
  • Hospital administration.
  • Public health.

Cybersecurity policy and management concentration

In this specialization dedicated to an emerging field, students can acquire the knowledge, skills and abilities to lead, manage and perform other key operations in organizations that manage cybersecurity hazards. Such agencies include those involved with homeland security, emergency management and others, as well as first-response sectors like police, fire and emergency medical. Professionals in these roles may work in operations, planning, management and supervisory positions.

This concentration can suit professionals who seek operational responsibilities related to cyber vulnerabilities, including public infrastructure protection, hospital management and more.

Anticipated learning outcomes:

  • Ability to manage technological hazards with unique policy challenges.
  • Expertise in cyber risk management and forensics.
  • Understanding of risk reduction and resilience practices.

Example courses:

  • Advanced security analysis.
  • Cyberlaw.
  • Cyberterrorism.

Potential career focuses:

  • Disaster transportation management.
  • Emergency planning.
  • Environmental quality.
  • Public health.

Earning an online master’s in emergency management and homeland security from ASU

The ASU Online Master of Arts in emergency management and homeland security degree offers a flexible, innovative experience suited for public and private sector professionals dedicated to keeping communities safe.

The EMHS program offers five distinct concentrations built upon a strong foundation of techniques, theories and strategies that can help students specialize in their preferred fields. The specific skills and knowledge students gain can improve their qualifications for management and leadership roles, while the prestige of having an emergency management master’s degree can set them apart from the competition in the job market.

Emergency Management Directors by O*Net OnLine
2017 U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters: a historic year in context by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
ASU Online – Online Master of Arts in Emergency Management and Homeland Security

Biohazard medical team walking with stretcher.
A biohazard medical team walking with a stretcher.


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