Higher Education Comes to Terms with Emergency Management

Near the end of the twentieth century, only two universities offered programs in emergency management protocols. Despite the fact that more than a decade has passed since the events that first put the term “homeland security” in our everyday vernacular and resulted in a Cabinet seat attributed to the field, very little standardization has taken place in what exactly constitutes a solid education in homeland security or emergency management.

Now, thanks largely to legislation and practices that came about as a result of 9/11, more than 150 higher education institutions offer some sort of program or certificate in the field or in the related area of study of homeland security, while still others offer a combination of the two disciplines. However, only a small number of schools offer a full degree in either one.

Shockingly, with such a vital topic there is still no standardization for a curriculum that results in a degree in homeland security or emergency management. Different universities approach the subject from different angles, with various schools even housing the degree under different colleges within the university; some schools treat it as a management field, while others see it more as an arm of criminal justice.

So where do homeland security and emergency management degrees fit in higher education? That answer is still largely being determined by the existing faculty in some schools, by the efforts of other facilities that have offered training in the areas, and even by gauged student interest in pursuing degrees in those areas.

Part of the dilemma stems from the fact that there is so much crossover in the two fields, with both areas claiming some aspects of the role, and at other times, neither field claiming responsibility for a course of action citing it as the other’s responsibility. The Department of Homeland Security has often been seen as relegating non-terrorist emergencies to FEMA, while the emergency management forces may be necessary in the aftermath of a terrorist-based incident in order to streamline services. A clear definition of both programs must be made before any standard for a curriculum and degree can be established.