Graduate Certificate Programs in Emergency Management
Emergency management graduate certificate programs offer college graduates and mid-career professionals the opportunity to learn the protocols and processes that government agencies, independent organizations, and various types of businesses rely on in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from natural and man-made emergencies, disasters, and crises. These programs represent a direct and relatively streamlined means of training for work in the field of crisis planning, response, and management, consisting of a small cluster of master’s-level graduate courses that focus exclusively on core emergency management proficiencies.
Students who qualify for graduate certificate programs can thus prepare to enter the field of emergency management or add skills to help them advance in their current field by taking a small number of graduate courses (five or six is typical) and completing a program that culminates in the conferral of a graduate certificate in emergency management rather than investing a year or more into earning a master’s degree in the field.
Emergency Management Explained
Emergency management constitutes a body of knowledge and accepted protocols that are crucial in the planning for, responding to, and recovering from natural disasters, industrial accidents, disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks, and other critical events that threaten lives, damage infrastructure, and have potentially large social and economic impacts. In the US, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state and city governments, hospitals and medical centers, law enforcement agencies, and other first responders are just some of the institutions formally associated with preparing for and responding to emergencies. In addition, many private companies and non-governmental organizations, including but not limited to manufacturing plants, research universities, and hotels and resorts must also channel resources into the prevention of and effective response to unforeseen events in order to protect the public, company personnel, property, and other assets. Indeed, many employers must maintain emergency management plans in order to be in compliance with state and federal emergency preparedness regulations, such as the measures recommended and/or required by FEMA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Emergency management coordinators, consultants, and specialists are thus employed throughout the public and private sectors across most industries, providing expertise in areas such as risk exposure and mitigation, organizational planning for crises, and the design of response protocols for a broad range of potential threats. Emergency management professionals also help organizations plans for continuity of operations (COOP) in the event of natural and man-made disasters, coordinate response efforts during emergencies, and oversee remediation and recovery efforts in the aftermath of critical events. Finally, professionals who work in emergency management may have additional training in public health and epidemiology, nursing and emergency medicine, information technology and cybersecurity, homeland and international security, civil and environmental engineering, and other fields for which safety, disaster response, and emergency preparedness are a central concern.
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Identifying and Classifying Emergency Management Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduate programs that consist of a relatively small number of required courses, provide formal academic training in emergency management, and culminate in the conferral of a graduate certificate rather than a graduate degree, are classified as emergency management graduate certificate programs. Schools may designate these programs as graduate, post-bachelor’s, or post-baccalaureate certificate programs in emergency or disaster management, which indicates that the minimum level of educational attainment for program eligibility is a bachelor’s degree. There are also post-master’s or post-graduate certificate programs in emergency management, which require students to hold a master’s or doctoral degree.
Emergency and disaster management programs are commonly offered by divisions and departments of professional studies, public health, and government, as well as by schools of medicine, nursing, and health sciences at regionally accredited, non-profit colleges and universities that offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs. In fact, many emergency management graduate certificate programs consist of five, six, or seven courses that overlap with the curriculum for master’s programs in emergency management, security studies, and/or homeland security, and some schools allow graduate certificate students to transfer into a master’s program with some or all of the credits they have earned in a certificate program.
Emergency Management Graduate Certificate Coursework
The specific courses required to earn a graduate certificate in emergency management vary by school and by program, as do course names and descriptions. However, a survey of emergency management graduate certificate programs reveals that a typical program includes courses that cover topics in the principles of emergency preparedness, organizational planning for disasters, emergency response protocols, emergency and disaster management law, and the coordination of public and private sector responses to natural disasters, industrial accidents, disease pandemics, terrorist acts, and other events that threaten lives and critical infrastructure. In addition, programs may offer elective or required courses in specialized areas of emergency management, such as business continuity planning, infectious disease and bioterrorism threats, emergency management technologies, cybersecurity, toxicology, and environmental risk factors.
The following list provides a representative overview of the types of courses commonly offered by graduate certificate programs in emergency management:
- Principles of Emergency Management
- Disaster Health Management
- Epidemic and Pandemic Planning and Response
- Continuity of Operations and Planning
- Critical Infrastructure, Security, and Emergency Management
- Disaster and Emergency Communication
- Environmental Aspects of Disaster Response
While there is no standardized emergency management curriculum required for work in the field, FEMA’s National Preparedness System and National Incident Management System frameworks provide guidelines for emergency preparedness and response training that many programs draw on for their course offerings and curriculum. In addition, many programs are designed to provide students with coursework that fulfills eligibility requirements for the Certified Emergency Management (CEM) credential administered by the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). While the CEM credential is not required for work in the field, some employers may look favorably upon IAEM certification.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Emergency and Disaster Management
In order to expand the reach of academic programs and meet the demand for training in emergency and disaster management, many schools offer emergency management graduate certificate programs via distance-learning technologies. These programs offer the same training and instruction as traditional, campus-based programs, but do so by using online instruction, which has advantages for students who cannot attend in-person, campus-based classes due to work or personal obligations.
Online programs utilize learning management systems (LMSs) to deliver live and/or pre-recorded lectures and virtual classroom sessions, providing students with access to assignments and course materials from home, work, or anywhere else with a secure internet connection. Some online programs utilize synchronous online instruction, which incorporates real-time class meetings that are scheduled in advance and that require students to be logged on to a school’s LMS at specific times. In contrast, some programs deliver all of their course materials via asynchronous instruction, which means that pre-recorded lectures and assignments are accessible 24-7, giving students the flexibility to choose when to complete required coursework (as long as they abide by assignment deadlines). While asynchronous instruction affords more flexibility than synchronous instruction, it requires a greater amount of self-motivation and self-discipline. Synchronous instruction is more rigid in format than asynchronous instruction, but it provides more structure and an online learning experience that may feel similar to attending in-person classes.
While many schools offer emergency and disaster management programs that are 100% online and do not require any campus visits, some programs require students to attend one or two short campus residencies. These campus-based requirements may include orientations, workshops, seminars, and other instructional activities that benefit from having students on campus. While these can be a valuable addition to an online program, campus visits may be inconvenient for some students. Programs that require more than three campus visits per year are classified by GraduateCertificates.com as blended/hybrid programs. A blended or hybrid program offers more convenience and flexibility than traditional, campus-based programs. However, the campus requirements for a blended/hybrid graduate certificate program may not practical for student who do not live within commuting range of the school offering the program.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Emergency Management
The programs listed below are offered by accredited, non-profit colleges and universities and are representative of the types of emergency management graduate certificate programs that are offered online.
Adelphi University in Garden City, NY offers an online Graduate Certificate in Emergency Management program that accepts applications from college graduates who hold a bachelor’s degree in any field. The six-course program consists of 18 credits of graduate coursework in the principles and practices of emergency management, disaster health management, epidemic and pandemic planning and response, and emergency management legal concerns. Students are required to take five core courses and may then select one elective from among courses that are part of an online Master of Science (MS) in Emergency Management program offered by Adelphi. All six courses can be applied toward the MS in Emergency Management program should a graduate from the certificate program opt to enroll in the master’s program. The Adelphi program is 100% online and does not require any campus visits. For more details on the program, visit Adelphi University’s online division at online.adelphi.edu.
Northeastern University, which has its main campus in Boston, MA, offers an online Graduate Certificate in Emergency Management program through its College of Professional Studies. The program’s curriculum is designed to help students establish eligibility for CEM credentialing and draws on courses from a Master of Arts (MA) in Homeland Security that is also offered by Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies. In addition to courses in strategic planning and budgeting for emergency and disaster response and preparedness, the program includes training in the use of global information systems (GIS) and other emerging technologies in the emergency management field. The seven courses that comprise the emergency management graduate certificate program can be counted toward completion of the MA in Homeland Security program should students who complete the certificate program opt to pursue a master’s degree at Northeastern. For more information on the program, visit Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies at www.northeastern.edu.
Tulane University in New Orleans, LA offers an online Graduate Certificate in Disaster Management through its School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine. The program has an emergency management curriculum with five courses that provide training and instruction in disaster preparedness and response, crisis communication and management, and public health concerns in emergency management. Students who complete Tulane’s disaster management certificate program, which is offered 100% online and does not require any campus visits, can apply the credits earned in the program to Tulane’s Master of Public Health (MPH) in Disaster Management program. The Tulane program requires applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree. Applicants who have three or more years of experience in an emergency/disaster management field are preferred. For more information on the Graduate Certificate in Disaster Management program, visit Tulane’s School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine at sph.tulane.edu.
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