There are a number of public safety agencies at the federal, state, and local levels that require effective administrators who have earned an accelerated online Master’s in Public Safety Administration. This degree prepares students for a rewarding career in a dynamic, growing industry while also enabling graduates to serve the public good. Graduates of public safety administration programs can pursue careers in occupational health, law enforcement, and environmental protection, or they may find themselves in life-saving positions at emergency management agencies and disaster relief organizations.
Many of those who have considered pursuing an accelerated online Master’s in Public Safety Administration feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available online, and not all of it is reliable. It can be difficult to pinpoint the schools that offer a quality, affordable education that is worth the investment. For this reason, it is critical to conduct a great deal of research in order to find a program that meets your needs and goals while still falling within your budget. However, this process can be time-consuming, which is why we took it upon ourselves to develop this comprehensive list.
We have taken the time to compile a list of the top 20 most affordable online master’s degrees in public safety administration. To determine what schools were to be included on this list, we went to the College Navigator database at the U.S. Department of Education. There, we conducted a search for the term “Master’s in Public Safety Administration/Emergency Management degree online.” We then narrowed down the initial pool of 25 schools into the top 20 most affordable based on in-state graduate tuition. Although many of these programs are inexpensive, they are worth every penny. The following institutions offer some surprisingly cutting-edge resources, many of which have earned them recognition from Forbes, The Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report, and other well-known companies that specialize in higher education.
Ranking Low-Cost Accelerated Master’s in Public Safety Administration
20. Pace University
New York, New York
Online Management for Public Safety and Homeland Security Professionals, MA
Founded in 1906, Pace University operates campuses in White Plains, Pleasantville, and New York, New York. The university consists of schools and colleges in fields such as adult and continuing education, computer science and information systems, education, business, arts and sciences, and health professions. Pace University offers a 33- to 36-credit Master of Arts in Management for Public Safety and Homeland Security Professionals that students can complete within 24 months. For those looking to make a career change or those who are already working in the field, students take 18 to 21 credits that cover topics such as strategic planning and budgeting, ethics, public sector management, and homeland security. Electives in homeland security, technology, and critical infrastructure protection, international human rights, and comparative governments are available. The program includes a required master’s project and an optional thesis for graduation.
19. University of New Haven
West Haven, Connecticut
Online Master of Public Administration With a Concentration in Fire Administration
The University of New Haven is located on a 122-acre campus in West Haven, Connecticut on the border of Long Island Sound and New Haven. U.S. News & World Report has recognized UNH among the top universities in the northeastern United States, and more than 6,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees each year. UNH offers an online Master of Public Administration with a concentration in fire administration. Required courses delve into topics such as public finance and budgeting, administrative behavior, research methods, public policy, and personnel administration, while the fire administration concentration consists of two courses in strategic planning for the fire service and organization and management public fire protection. The asynchronous degree is available entirely online, and most courses are offered in the six- to seven-week format. Students may complete the 12-course, 36-credit-hour program within two years.
18. Capella University
Online Master of Science in Emergency Management
Owned by the Capella Education Company, Capella University is a for-profit university headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, although most of the degrees it offers are delivered online. The online Master of Science in Emergency Management, offered through the School of Public Service Leadership, offers training in crisis analysis, risk assessment, critical incidents management, and natural disasters. The online learning format allows students to study on their own time, and the National Incident Management System gives them the opportunity to participate in virtual emergency simulations in “Riverbend City.” The degree consists of seven core courses, four elective courses, and one integrative project. Graduates will have learned how to communicate professionally, manage organizations and agencies, back up decisions with research, apply strategic thinking, use leadership models, and see how research impacts policy.
17. Anna Maria College
Online Emergency Management MPA Specialization
Anna Maria College is a Catholic liberal arts college that sits on a 192-acre campus in Paxton, Massachusetts. Founded in 1946 by the Sisters of Saint Anne, the school’s initial campus was located in Marlborough before it was relocated in 1952 to its present location. AMC reports an annual enrollment of 1,500 students in 21 graduate programs and 35 undergraduate programs, including a select few via distance education. The 33-credit online Master of Public Administration with a specialization in emergency management educates students about severe weather, threats to public safety, natural disasters, and disaster preparedness. AMC also offers an optional mid-career track designed for professionals with four or more years of experience in a relevant field. Students on this pathway need to complete only 10 courses to earn their degree. Graduates of the program pursue careers in community housing and food organizations, FEMA, the American Red Cross, hospitals, and state and local governments.
16. Marywood University
Online Master of Public Administration
Marywood University, located on a 115-acre campus in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a Catholic liberal arts university. Established by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1915, more than 3,400 students pursue doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate degrees each year via on-campus and online programs. The 30-credit online Master of Public Administration degree emphasizes both the practical skills and the administrative theories needed to face the challenges that confront nonprofit and public administrators. All classes are delivered online, and students can further specialize their degree by pursuing a concentration in homeland security and disaster management. Coursework is research-focused and designed to encourage students to critically think about public policy issues.
15. University of Maryland Baltimore
Online Master’s in EMS System Management (Administration, Policy, and Planning)
The University of Maryland Baltimore County is located just 10 minutes from downtown Baltimore City. The school reports an annual enrollment of more than 13,500 students and offers more than 60 graduate programs and 48 undergraduate majors. U.S. News & World Report has recognized UMBC as the number one up-and-coming university for six years in a row. The 30-credit online Master in EMS System Management Administration requires six credits of core courses, six credits of methods requirement courses, and 18 electives. Students can choose from a thesis program or a non-thesis program, the former of which requires one less elective and one more special studies credit than the latter. The program is primarily focused on preparing professionals for leadership roles that require skills in organizational operations, development, research, and planning. Graduates pursue careers as administrators, policymakers, educators, researchers, and healthcare providers.
14. Purdue University Global
Online Master of Science Degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Purdue University Global, an online college, was created in April 2018 after Purdue University acquired the former private for-profit Kaplan University. WIth content delivered nearly entirely online, PG’s programs focus on career-oriented graduate and undergraduate degrees at the doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, and associate levels. The 55-credit online Master of Science in Homeland security and Emergency Management is designed to prepare students to pursue management-level positions with employers such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other local, state, and federal agencies. The curriculum focuses on the political, economic, business, social, and legal aspects of the industry, and coursework will explore areas such as planning and operations in crisis and emergency management, crisis and emergency management fundamentals, applied research in criminal justice, and homeland security policies, principles, plans, and procedures.
13. Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice With a Concentration in Public Safety Administration
Located between Hooksett and Manchester, New Hampshire, Southern New Hampshire University was founded in 1932 as a for-profit institution focused on teaching business. Now, SNHU offers certificate, graduate, and undergraduate programs through multiple schools and colleges, and it is best known for its online programs, which have made the school one of the fastest-growing universities in the nation. The 36-credit online Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in public safety administration can be completed in as few as 15 months and consists of a curriculum that combines criminal justice and public safety theory. Students will cover topics ranging from the judicial process and courts to strategic management in public service, and they will also learn how to assess administrative, economic, social, and political dynamics in public safety.
12. Eastern Kentucky University
Online Master of Science in Safety, Security & Emergency Management
Located in Richmond, Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University also maintains branch campuses in Manchester, Lancaster, Hazard, and Corbin. Founded in 1874, the school offers more than 40 online graduate and undergraduate options and ranked 27th on the list of “Regional Universities South — Top Public Schools” by U.S. News & World Report. EKU’s accredited online master’s degree in public safety leadership focuses on emergency management, safety, and security. Students also have the option to specialize in areas such as emergency management and disaster resilience, homeland security, or occupational safety. After finishing the required coursework, students must also pass a final comprehensive examination or complete a final thesis in order to ensure that they are ideally suited for a career in the industry.
11. Grand Canyon University
Online Master of Science in Leadership With an Emphasis in Disaster Preparedness and Executive Fire Leadership
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Grand Canyon University is the largest Christian university in the world. Established in 1949 in Prescott by the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, the school moved to its present location just two years later. In 2000, GCU ended its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention and now offers various programs through nine colleges, including engineering and technology, nursing and healthcare professions, education, business, and doctoral studies. The Master of Science in Leadership is a fully online program that places a special focus on disaster preparedness and executive fire leadership. The 38-credit degree caters toward professionals currently employed in cybersecurity and law enforcement and offers courses in areas such as terrorism, politics, leadership styles, law and legal issues, economics and human issues, emergency planning and management, and organizational development and change. Students can complete the online program within 20 months if they are following a full-time schedule.
10. University of San Diego
San Diego, California
Online Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership
Located in San Diego, California, the University of San Diego is a private Roman Catholic research university that offers more than 60 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. USD is comprised of seven different academic colleges and ranked 86th among national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2017. The Master of Science in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership is available entirely online and provides immediately practical skills to students looking to grow and lead within the industry. In just five semesters or 20 months, students will learn communication abilities, financial and budgetary acumen, legal awareness, critical thinking strategies, analytical skills, and organizational leadership in a flexible format. The curriculum is developed in collaboration with law enforcement associations, and students are required to complete 30 units of coursework as well as a one-unit integrative capstone course.
9. Arizona State University
Online Master of Arts in Public Safety Leadership & Administration (PSLA)
Founded as the Territorial Normal School in 1885, Arizona State University operates four campuses throughout the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area as well as four regional learning centers across the state. Arizona State is one of the largest public universities in the U.S. by enrollment, educating more than 73,000 students, including 12,000 graduates and nearly 61,000 undergraduates, in 2018. More than 36,000 students are enrolled in courses offered by ASU Online. The online Master of Arts in Public Safety Leadership and Administration prepares current public safety professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to assume and manage positions of leadership in public safety organizations. Each class lasts seven and a half weeks, and students must complete 11 courses for a total of 33 credit hours. Students may also choose a concentration in executive police administration, executive fire administration, or emergency medical services and mobile-integrated healthcare.
8. Lewis University
Online Master of Science in Public Safety Administration
Lewis University is a private Lasallian and Roman Catholic university located in Romeoville, Illinois. Lewis University enrolls around 6,800 students in 22 graduate programs, more than 80 undergraduate majors and programs of study, and accelerated programs for working adults. Founded in 1932 by the Archdiocese of Chicago, Lewis operates five schools in professional and continuing education, nursing and health professions, education, business, and the arts and sciences. The 36-hour online Master of Science in Public Safety Administration can be completed within two years, and each course lasts approximately eight weeks. The curriculum includes areas such as public safety administration incident command, public safety law and civil liability, and public safety administration and management. In addition to developing a comprehensive understanding of the fundamentals involved in public safety as well as emergency management and response, this program also delves into the environmental protection aspect of the industry.
7. Southern Illinois University
Online Master of Public Safety and Homeland Security Management
Founded in 1869, Southern Illinois University operates a main campus in Carbondale, Illinois and enrolls students from all 50 states as well as more than 100 countries. SIU Carbondale offers 36 doctoral, 73 master’s, 100 bachelor’s, and three associate programs. The Master of Public Safety and Homeland Security Management is designed for fire service and public safety professionals who have earned a bachelor’s degree in a fire service- or public safety-related field and have proven work experience in the emergency services industry. The 39-semester-hour degree is available entirely online, and students may complete the program in as few as 16 months. Students who have graduated from the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer (EFO) program need only complete 30 hours of coursework.
6. University of South Florida
Online MPH – Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief & Homeland Security
Also known as USF, the University of South Florida is located in Tampa, Florida. Founded in 1956, USF is the fourth-largest public university in the state and operates three institutions in Tampa, Sarasota-Manatee, and St. Petersburg. Students pursuing the 42-credit online Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in disaster management, humanitarian relief, and homeland security builds on the existing framework of the core courses in the College of Public Health, and students are required to complete a special project as well as a field experience. Courses provide graduates with the ability to evaluate, implement, assess, and recognize a local or global disaster.
5. Sam Houston State University
Online Master of Public Administration
Founded in 1879, Sam Houston State University is the third-oldest public institution of higher learning in Texas. SHSU enrolls more than 20,000 students across eight doctoral, 59 master’s, and more than 80 undergraduate programs as well as 20 online undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students may pursue an online Master of Public Administration with a concentration in disaster and emergency management and must complete 36 credit hours to earn their degree. Students must complete 24 hours of core MPA coursework in addition to 12 hours of coursework in the concentration. Specialized courses cover areas such as disaster resilience, decision-making in public safety administration, emergency management, and global disaster politics.
4. Liberty University
Online Master of Public Administration – Disaster Management
Liberty University is the largest private nonprofit university in the country and one of the largest Christian universities worldwide. Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, the school enrolls more than 15,000 on its campus and more than 94,000 students in its online programs. Liberty is comprised of 17 colleges and offers 32 doctoral, 319 master’s, and 297 bachelor’s degrees. Students can earn an online Master of Public Administration in Disaster Management within one and a half years. The 36-credit-hour program is available entirely online and focuses on preventative measures to keep communities safe from acts of terrorism and natural disasters. Students will also learn how to work with the financial, legal, and political systems that affect disaster prevention and management.
3. University of Maryland University College
Online Management Master’s Degree With Emergency Management Specialization
The University of Maryland University College in Adelphi, Maryland serves more than 90,000 students worldwide. It is one of the largest distance-learning institutions in the world, offering 120 academic programs in online and instructor-led classes, including doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees as well as graduate and undergraduate certificates. The 36-credit online Master of Science in Management with an emergency management specialization helps students to master the five mission areas of the National Preparedness Goal: recovery, response, mitigation, protection, and prevention. Students also develop the skills necessary to take leadership roles in protecting organizations against major disasters and crises. Students take three core courses and seven specialization courses as well as a final strategic management capstone course.
2. Indiana University
Online Safety Management, MS in Applied Health Science
Indiana University operates two core campuses, one in Indianapolis and one in Bloomington, Indiana, as well as seven additional campuses and two extension centers across the state. Between the two, Indiana has a combined student body of more than 110,000 students. The Master of Science in Applied Health Science in Safety Management consists of 30 credits of coursework and prepares students to research and apply government regulations, to analyze hazardous situations, and to respond to the needs of employees and the public. Students take three credit hours of core courses and 24 hours of safety core courses. In addition, although this program does not require a thesis, students must complete a three-credit capstone experience in safety management and a practicum in safety education.
1. California State University Long Beach
Long Beach, California
Online Master of Science in Emergency Services Administration
California State University is one of the largest in the state as well as the third-largest campus of the 23-school California State University System. The university offers four doctoral degrees, 65 master’s degrees, and more than 80 bachelor’s degrees in on-campus, online, and hybrid formats. The Master of Science in Emergency Services Administration is an entirely online program that helps students develop the critical thinking and leadership skills they need to build disaster-resilient communities and stronger organizations. Students must complete 22 units of core courses as well as six units of electives. Students must also satisfy the culminating activity requirement via a comprehensive examination, project, or thesis, each of which may additional credits and coursework.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Master’s in Public Safety Administration Degree?
Students who graduate with an online graduate degree in public safety administration have the knowledge and skills they need to pursue a number of different career paths. Graduates with this degree often seek positions in emergency response, public service, and law enforcement, including administrative work for fire or police departments. Professionals in this line of work must have strong leadership and interpersonal skills and be compassionate problem-solvers. They must also continually improve their effectiveness in the field and work well under stress.
- Environmental health and safety manager
- General and operations manager
- Public safety officer
- Emergency management specialist
- Occupation health and safety specialist
Environmental health and safety managers, scientists, and specialists use their knowledge and experience in the natural sciences to manage environmental protection agencies. In this role, professionals may work toward reducing human impact on the environment, help advise policymakers, or supervise the cleaning and reclamation of polluted areas.
General and operations managers work in both the private and public sectors to plan the use of materials and human resources, formulate policies, and manage daily operations. They may also supervise activities such as office upkeep, external communications, and recordkeeping or maintain facilities.
Public safety officers, including police officers and detectives, must meet certain physical and personal standards and demonstrate strong leadership skills. These professionals typically work in potentially dangerous environments that require specialized training, and a master’s degree in this field prepares students for leadership roles with federal, state, and local law enforcement.
Emergency management directors put in place procedures and plans to mitigate natural disasters and other types of emergencies. Many professionals take on leadership positions after and during emergencies to coordinate efforts between nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and public safety officials.
Occupation health and safety specialists work in a variety of settings, including mines, factories, and offices. They analyze the workplace for environmental hazards that could be harmful to employee performance, safety, or health.
How Much Can You Earn in This Field?
No matter the path an individual chooses after he or she graduates with an online master’s degree in public safety administration, there is room for high earning potential and growth. Of the careers listed above, environmental safety and health managers report the highest earning potential throughout their careers. Although public safety officers earn considerably less if they are not in a supervisory position, each of the above professions shows consistent salary increases over time. Most employees have also reported high levels of job and career satisfaction.
What Can You Expect From an Online Master’s in Public Safety Administration Program?
The curriculum of online graduate degrees in public safety administration varies depending on the specializations and strengths of each program as well as the school itself. The resources, faculty, and curriculum at each institution can be critical factors when searching for a particular program that best meets your needs.
Although schools will offer different courses based on their own programs, the following are some of the most common classes you can expect to encounter in a graduate public safety administration degree:
- Public Safety Law and Civil Liability: This course teaches students about the relationship between public safety efforts and the law. Administrators, as leadership professionals, must understand the liabilities and responsibilities of public safety personnel. The course uses historically significant precedents, cases, and lawsuits to demonstrate critical legal principles.
- Public Safety and Incident Response: Public safety administrators are responsible for responding to a number of situations such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and public health emergencies. These professionals must be comfortable leading disaster relief efforts and first responders. In this course, students learn how to work under the pressure of emergency situations and how to implement leadership strategies.
- Human Resource Management: This course focuses on the study of personnel systems in public sector organizations along with workplace collaboration, business ethics, and conflict management. Students also learn how companies utilize their HR programs and delve into various management responsibilities such as employee performance, benefits, compensation, and relations.
How Long Does it Take to Earn a Master’s in Public Safety Administration Online?
The average online public safety administration degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework and can be completed within 24 months. Students who enroll part-time will require additional time to complete the program. Depending on a student’s time-management skills, the flexibility of his or her schedule, and the program’s curriculum, he or she may need longer than two years to earn the degree.
Some Master’s in Public Safety Administration programs are individually paced, while others offer cohort learning. Cohort learning ensures that all students in a particular course function on the same timeline of deadlines and assignments, thus encouraging increased collaboration between instructors and students. On the other hand, an individually paced program gives students the opportunity to complete coursework on their own time, working at their own speed and meeting deadlines in different ways based on their hectic schedules.
Are Online Master’s Degrees in Public Safety Administration Accredited?
For students pursuing online degrees, including those in the field of public safety administration, it is important to attend a school that has earned national or regional accreditation. The latter is typically given to schools that offer a wider selection of academic degrees and programs and is, therefore, considered a more prestigious designation. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education oversee six regional accrediting agencies in the U.S. national accreditation is generally given to schools that prepare students for specific careers or trades.
Master’s degrees in public safety administration may earn special accreditation from third-party agencies like the Center for Public Safety Excellence. These designations can help prospective students identify high-quality programs that are worth the investment in a Master’s in Public Safety Administration program.