Protect communities with a master’s in disaster management

SOURCE: Erika Santelices / AFP)
Comprehensive postgraduate programmes equip individuals with the expertise to efficiently face disasters and prevent them for occurring.

By U2B Staff 

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Disaster management postgraduate degrees are a study of all types of threats that could occur in a community that could put millions of jobs and lives at risk. Through these studies, learners focus on the implementation of practical methods to reduce the effects of natural or man-made crisis situations. 

Disasters and emergencies have been increasing all over the world and with the technological advances that are currently at our disposal, acquiring knowledge and its application in the realm of action is regarded as the most effective way for preventing disasters and reducing its challenging effects.

‘As the Ebola pandemic, Syrian civil war, scandal of female genital mutilation, refugee crisis, Grenfell Tower disaster and Boeing 737-MAX 8 losses demonstrate, life can be “nasty, brutish and short” – to quote philosopher Thomas Hobbes,’ says Dr Simon Bennett, director of the University of Leicester‘s Civil Safety and Security Unit (CSSU).

“One way to help resolve these problems is to give motivated, conscientious people the knowledge and skills to make a difference. Studying risk, crisis, and disaster management at the postgraduate level does just that”, Bennett shares.

The UN defines an emergency as an event that can be addressed using the resources on hand, while a disaster is one that requires external support. Hurricanes, for example, are classified as disasters because the communities affected must request help from a wider range of organisations than those available locally.


A master’s degree in disaster management and emergency planning could be your first step towards a fast-paced career that protects and improves the lives of millions. Here is what you need to know about acquiring a postgraduate degree in disaster management:

Entry requirements

Requirements vary between courses, and while some undergraduates will need at least a 2:2 in a relevant subject, you might be able to secure a slot with extensive work experience or relevant volunteering.

The University of Leicester’s MSc Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management programme is a two-year course delivered by distance learning to students in more than 50 countries. Programme director, Dr. Bennett explains “’the masters has broad appeal, attracting students from the public sector, local government, the civil service, business, industry, international bodies like the United Nations (UN) and the military.” 

He adds, “a first degree is desirable but not essential for entry. Provided you can demonstrate relevant experience and can pass an assessment, you will be offered a place on either the March or September intake.”

Course content

At the University of Leicester, students discuss historic and current crises including global warming and mass migration caused by resource depletion and civil war. Broader issues are also raised, such as the impact on security and development of international organisations including the UN, European Union (EU), African Union, Arab League, and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The MSc at the University of Portsmouth incorporates a unique, three-day, real-time international disaster response simulation exercise, granting students the ability to learn from specialists.


Career paths

“A postgraduate qualification in disaster management prepares you for many different careers within the field”, says Professor Ilan Kelman from the University College London Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction

Many students go on to pursue leadership opportunities in their chosen fields, with graduates working in public safety, emergency response, disaster response, homeland security, law enforcement, first response, intelligence, fire services and much more.

Roles and responsibilities vary, from directors who help create response and prevention strategies to field personnel who implement them. Industries also differ dramatically and can include disaster relief, cybersecurity, and homeland security, among others within the public and private sectors. 

“A lot of firms are recognising, both at the individual and community level, that many of the challenges they’re facing are ones that require a more holistic security perspective,” says Daniel Aldrich, director of Northeastern University’s Security and Resilience Studies programme.

Top postgraduate programmes in disaster management 

The UK offers a wide range of postgraduate courses in disaster management, such as the University of Manchester’s MSc Disaster Management (Resilience, Response and Relief programme which teaches learners to respond to and prevent disasters. The university also offers an MSc International Disaster Management programme which highlights international trends that shows how the economic and social impact of disasters has increased around the world.

The University of Leicester offers an Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management MSc that teaches the fundamentals of tackling real-world problems in every aspect, and developing complex solutions to mitigate the impact. 

In Scotland, the University of Aberdeen‘s MSc Environmental Pollution and Remediation programme teaches learners the skills to diagnose and mitigate environmental pollution issues, developing skills in risk assessments, undertaking chemical analysis, and applied remediation technology.

In Denmark, the University of Copenhagen‘s Master of Disaster Management course aims to provide humanitarian professionals with interdisciplinary knowledge and skills that can be used in government, international, and civil society organisations.

In the US, Northeastern University‘s Master of Science in Security and Resilience Studies provides lessons in data analysis, leadership, and systemic thinking to help the next generation of leaders build organisations, communities, and societies that can withstand forthcoming challenges.