When disaster strikes—whether it’s a devastating natural catastrophe or a manmade attack—there’s a critical need for assessment and recovery strategies that address physical damage AND the psychological traumas suffered by individual victims, affected communities, and emergency-response personnel.

Adler University’s fully online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Emergency Management Leadership is the first graduate program in the nation created from the ground up to produce true emergency management leaders—professionals with a deep academic grounding who are also trained as psychological first aid providers.

Our faculty members are experienced professionals with firsthand understanding of the unique culture of emergency management and its overt and hidden dangers. Every course in the curriculum focuses on the primary mission of emergency management: mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery. All of our online programs are delivered with the academic rigor and personal attention that has distinguished Adler University for more than 60 years.

Adler’s rigorous 24-month online curriculum teaches candidates how to develop disaster response plans, lead preparedness and response training, and coordinate with emergency and medical personnel across multiple agencies and organizations.

Qualified emergency management leaders are in high demand in the public and private sectors, with government agencies, military and first-response organizations, colleges and universities, medical centers, community relief organizations, and more.

This leadership-focused master’s program can help graduates advance their professional standing in the field; our schedule-flexible online approach means students can balance existing professional and personal responsibilities and complete this degree program. Earn your Emergency Management Leadership master’s degree fully online from an institution that shares your values of social justice and community-based solutions.

Program Outcomes

Adler University’s online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Emergency Management Leadership program is designed to produce emergency management professionals who understand both the complicated logistics of disaster response and the social and psychological impact on individuals and communities. Graduates of our online degree program have the knowledge and experience to fulfill the following critical roles and functions:

  • Identify the historical climates from which the profession evolved.
  • Cite the legal foundations that delineate the scope and limitations of emergency management and the emergency management leader.
  • Implement the requisite emergency management leadership function—by employing emergency management practices and methodologies.
  • Weigh the individual and collective effects on the community as a basis for both immediate and long-term response and recovery strategies.
  • Develop leader postures that foster working relationships necessary to effectively serve within the command levels of the Incident Command System (ICS) and the National Incident Management System.
  • Establish appropriate communication skills to perform the functions of an emergency management leader.
  • Determine suitable strategies that foster innovation, and technological creativity to improve currently recognized and accepted best practices.
  • Appraise prominent theories of management and leadership while considering their applicability to navigating the dynamics of emergency management functions.
  • Apply the intellectual standards of critical thinking to arrive at just solutions during decision-making activities that balance the rights of individuals against the needs of society.
  • Articulate the ethnic, social, economic, emotional, psychological and political overtones that inherently arise in all disasters, and how these should be considered and weighted.
  • Embrace intellectual flexibility in addressing emerging issues and challenges, including legal, social, political, and psychological trauma issues.
  • Predict and appreciate the human side of every disaster, through discernable psychological trauma, mental health destabilization, and debilitating fear, to facilitate appropriate mental and behavioral health intervention strategies.
  • Formulate effective private sector-based emergency preparedness and disaster response plans that prevent and mitigate the disruptive influences of a disaster or other emergency situation.
  • Recommend proactive and responsive strategies that prevent acts of domestic terrorism or mitigate the potential results, while being mindful of both individual and societal rights and liberties.
  • Devise interactive partnerships within the community that synthesize the goals of emergency management with society’s expectations of safety and security, both physical and psychological.
  • Develop a leadership approach that capitalizes on the value of interpersonal relationships and transparent team interactions to bring about change, innovation, and improvements in an emergency management organization.
  • Perform the duties and responsibilities of an emergency management leader in a manner that ensures the impartial and socially just delivery of services and recovery opportunities to the community through strong leadership, principled convictions, innovation, and an unwavering questioning of the status quo.


Adler University’s fully online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Emergency Management Leadership is a 37 credit-hour program. Courses are eight weeks in length, and this program can be completed online in just over two years with scheduled breaks.

The Emergency Management Leadership M.A. coursework meets the following minimum professional education requirements and/or requirements to apply for the following certifications (Additional experiential standards may be required):

  • Associate Emergency Manager (AEM) certification from the International Association of Emergency Managers
  • Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) certification from the International Association of Emergency Managers
  • Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity education and training requirements from the National Fire Protection Association
  • Professional Development Series Certificate of Achievement from the Emergency Management Institute

The Emergency Management Leadership M.A. is offered in the following sequence of classes, including a final capstone course:

Emergency Management Leadership
37 credits
EML 001 (0)
Student Orientation
Student orientation provides new students with an overview of Adler University policies and procedures, systems, personnel, resources, and organizations. Newly admitted students are expected to complete this mandatory orientation prior to enrollment. Failure to complete orientation prior to the 10th day of their first course may result in dismissal from the program.
EML 500 (3)
Foundations of Emergency Management Systems
This course introduces students to the major themes of contemporary emergency management theory and application, including mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Emphasis will be on the integration of the human experience in all themes and the application of psychology to assist in the emergency manager’s role. This course will focus largely on emergency management as it is conducted at the local, state, and federal levels.
EML 501 (3)
Law and Politics of Emergency Management
This course introduces students to the critical component agencies and decision-making processes within the emergency management system. Ethical and political considerations are discussed as well as policy and the legal framework underlying emergency management in the United States. Core policy documents such as the National Response Framework, relevant Presidential Directives, the National Incident Management System, the Stafford Act, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, and representative state-level laws and policies are explored. Finally, the roles and responsibilities of local, state, and federal government in carrying out policy as well as current legal, political, and ethical issues throughout the emergency management cycle are examined.
EML 502 (3)
Supporting Functional Needs Populations in Disasters
This course provides an overview of vulnerable populations including the elderly, disabled, mentally ill, and others who are dependent on assistive devices, medications, or access to external support services. Students learn how disasters affect this vulnerable population and focus on strategies to support and manage them when access to what they need is disrupted or unavailable. Strategies for preventing further distress, coordinating relief, and restoring function as quickly as possible are discussed.
EML 503 (3)
Disaster Response, Recovery and Continuity
This course is designed to provide students with the requisite skills to create strategic emergency management plans with an all-hazard focus. Students learn a comprehensive approach to emergency management that includes operational plans to prepare, prevent, protect, respond, and recover. This strategic hazard plan will augment the emergency management planning cycle as a method of maintaining high-level, continual preparedness. This course also integrates the knowledge acquired in subsequent EMCP (Emergency Management and Continuity Planning) courses to develop functional operations plans to manage and coordinate complex natural, technological, and political emergencies.
EML 504 (3)
Psychology of Terrorism
This course focuses on the concepts, goals, strategies, ideologies, and psychological theories associated with terrorist groups. Emphasis is placed on terrorism motives and on how terrorist actions have affected the course of history and current foreign and domestic policies. Different types of terrorist organizations are discussed, based on various criteria—motives, means, objectives, geography, and others. Students learn why terrorism continues to be the chosen mechanism for change in the United States and around the world, and how governments can work to limit its effects. Students choose relevant topics for original research and will present information in small group presentations.
EML 505 (3)
Leading In Times of Crisis
This course exposes students to the foundational principles of psychology necessary for effective leadership in emergency management. Emphasis is placed on leadership, influence, and decision-making in a multiagency emergency response environment marked by limited time, ambiguous information, and high stakes. Leadership, management, motivation, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution are discussed. Students learn to identify their personal leadership styles and explore the assets and limitation of their unique style. Techniques for building and maintaining effective and emergency-resilient teams are presented along with methods for developing diversity and social awareness within management practices.
EML 506 (3)
Essentials of Effective Communication
This course offers students the opportunity to develop basic relationship and intervention skills using role-plays and other experiential exercises to prepare for a wide range of interactions during emergency situations. Students develop a deeper understanding of models of communication and explore strategies for establishing rapport with individuals in distress. Students also have the opportunity to identify their own personal communication styles, and attempt to integrate them with models of communication discussed in the course to promote increased effectiveness as leaders before, during, and after critical incidents and disasters.
EML 507 (3)
Research Methods for Leaders in Emergency Management
This course serves as the first course in a two-phase process for completing the capstone project. Students are first required to identify a topic related to emergency management to study. Major methodologies for conducting research at both the conceptual and applied levels are then discussed to assist students in the planning and development of a framework for designing their project. How to critically review current literature, develop a research question, write an abstract or proposal, determine threats to validity, select variables and participants for study, and determine appropriate ethical and culturally relevant strategies for studying human behavior will be discussed.
EML 508 (3)
Group, Organization, and System Development
This course explores the intertwining of individual roles and group dynamics, the impact of culture, strategy, and design in consultation efforts, and methods used in working with small groups and teams. Theories, applied analysis, and skill development emphasize the successful introduction of organizational change affecting work units, task groups, and individuals. This course will also cover organizational management with respect to human behavior in the workplace and communities. Current developments in the behavior sciences as they apply to these organizations are stressed.
EML 509 (3)
Private Sector Emergency Management Strategies
This course offers students the opportunity to understand the emergency manager’s role outside of government. Private-sector assets, products, and services and their relationship to the well-being of communities are discussed. Students will also learn how to assist businesses in developing continuity and disaster recovery planning to ensure that mission-critical business functions can continue in the event of a disaster.
EML 510 (3)
Disaster Mental and Behavioral Health Applications in Emergency Management
Preparedness, initial response strategies, short-term recovery interventions, and long-term challenges of recovery from a behavioral health perspective are discussed in this course. Understanding the psychological impact of disaster on individuals, groups, organizations, and communities is stressed. The psychological resilience model is specifically discussed to teach students how to provide psychologically informed services at all levels of a disaster. Models of wellness using case studies and scenario-based training are utilized to demonstrate the integration of the psychology of resilience and wellness with intervention strategies.
EML 511 (3)
Emerging Issues in Emergency Management and Homeland Security
(Taken concurrently with EML 512)
This special topic course will closely examine trends and changes within the conceptualization of emergency management in the United States. It will focus on timely issues currently shaping the trajectory of the nation’s responses to disaster events. Students will contemplate current debates within the realm of emergency management focusing on topics such as application of technology, private sector and government partnerships, the role of government in grant funding, the role of homeland security and information sharing, the state of national preparedness, and current legal and policy issues.
EML 512 (1)
Capstone Project
(Taken concurrently with EML 511)
This course builds on the Research Methods for Leaders in Emergency Management course and is designed to be a culminating experience that offers students the opportunity to integrate the knowledge, skills, and diverse professional experiences they brought with them to the program with knowledge and skills developed in the program. It will link knowing how (knowledge and skills) with knowing why (more in-depth understanding of their skill set and role related to their broader impact on people and communities) by requiring students to apply their knowledge and skills to the topic they chose to study in the research course. Areas of focus for the project can include but are not limited to developing a new training program, creating a community program, studying emergency management outcomes specific to a recent disaster, or developing a training curriculum and manual. Students will work with agencies or businesses to plan and implement a project that represents a socially responsive and just contribution to the practice of emergency management, and will present their findings to their peers, professors, and interested members of the community.


In both the private and public sector, there is an increasing need for trained and experienced emergency managers. Here are just a few of the career paths available to graduates of Adler’s online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Emergency Management Leadership program (please note that additional training requirements may apply):

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency Official
  • Department of Homeland Security Official
  • Disaster Relief Coordinator
  • Local, Regional or State Emergency Management Official
  • Private-sector Emergency Manager (Business, Nonprofit, Higher Education: College or University)
  • Hospital Emergency Preparedness Administrator
  • Emergency Response Planner