wall of monitors in emergency management center

Frequently Asked Questions

Special Features

What is an Emergency Manager?

Emergency Managers provide a guiding hand in preparedness, mitigation, response, and short- or long-term recovery from emergencies, disasters or other events. They are needed in all government agencies, as well as in business and industry, medical and emergency services, non-profit organizations and many other employment fields. To better understand the role of an Emergency Manager, view this short video: The Essential Emergency Manager.

How do I fit this into my life?

As a future emergency management professional, you can fit this program neatly into your life. A two-year Associate of Arts (AA) transferable degree or one-year Certificate in Homeland Security Emergency Management (HSEM) can enhance an existing job or lead to a rewarding career. All of the HSEM courses are online, and many of the General Requirement courses can be taken online, at Pierce College campuses or at your nearest Community College campus.

What is the employment outlook for Emergency Management jobs?

The Federal Department of Labor identifies homeland security as a "high-demand field," one that requires a large number of trained professionals across a number of industry sectors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 22% increase in specialist positions emergency management by 2020.

What jobs are in the Emergency Management field?

Emergency Management is a growing field. You can learn more about what jobs are available by reviewing Job Searching Emergency Management, checking out the Homeland Security Emergency Management Center of Excellence website or by going online and searching “Emergency Management jobs."

Some areas you might also search are:

  • Emergency Communications
  • Public Works
  • Emergency Management
  • Public Health
  • Local, State, Tribal & Federal Government Agencies
  • Medical
  • Law Enforcement
  • Fire
  • Occupational Safety and Health
  • Security (Physical & Cyber)
  • Faith Based Organizations
  • Education
  • Telecommunication & Public Information
  • Agriculture
  • Community Service
  • Insurance
  • Industry / Business / Manufacturing / Private Sector
  • Information Technology
  • All-hazards Preparation, Mitigation & Recovery Planning
  • Risk Management
  • Grant & Policy Writing
  • Public Administration

This is not a complete list.

What if I have existing education and experience?

You can have Pierce College evaluate prior college, military and vocational education to see what credits may transfer. Request an official transcript be sent from your prior institute to

Pierce College
9401 Farwest Dr. SW
Lakewood, WA 98498

Also, ask the HSEM Program Coordinator about Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) credit for work experience and training.

How much does it cost?

Your financial commitment toward a new career will be about $12,000 for a 2-year AA degree with a minimum of 98 credits. The Certificate program is 26 credits and can take as few as two quarters to complete, but is designed to fit your time and lifestyle. It costs about $3,700.These approximate costs include tuition, fees and textbooks. The fee (tuition) for all HSEM courses is $110 per credit plus online access, technical and other applicable fees. General Education courses (Math, English, etc.) follow a different tuition rate.

What does the HSEM Program include?

  • National Incident Command System
  • Emergency Policy, Planning & Management
  • Training & Exercise Design
  • Hazard, Risk & Vulnerability Assessment
  • Preparedness, Mitigation, Response and Recovery
  • Cultural, Environmental & Socioeconomic Diversity
  • Volunteer & Resource Management
  • Administration & Public Information Management
  • Special Topics each quarter
  • Critical thinking and decision making skills
  • Internships in existing Emergency Management operations
    (Read more about internships under Special Features)

Am I ready for online learning?

If you are uncertain about your level of readiness to take online classes, please take the assessment at Pierce College's SmarterMeasure.

What is expected of me as an online student?

To be successful at eLearning (online learning), you need an ability and willingness to learn independently. You must be self-motivated, self-disciplined and willing to invest the time and effort to complete your coursework. ELearning classes are as demanding as traditional, campus-based classes, so you should expect to make the same time commitment. You are responsible for your own work schedule and deadlines. You are required to maintain a 2.0 grade or higher in each course to remain in the HSEM Program. Calculate about 3 hours of work per week per course credit.

Because eLearning relies entirely on various forms of technology, you should be prepared and well-versed in those technologies. E-Learners must be willing to speak up when they need help, and be able to take charge of their education.

While you are in school, you are highly encouraged to do community volunteer work, because it is considered equivalent to work experience; it will deepen your understanding of the nature of Emergency Management, and it can lead to employment.

How does the online system work?

All of the HSEM courses are offered online using the Canvas Learning Management System. You can find out more about online services and tutorials at Pierce College eLearning or email Voice: (253) 964-6244 | Voice (Toll Free): (877) 353-6763.

View Canvas tutorials.

If things get challenging, where can I find help?

First, let your instructor know. They are all dedicated to your success.

You may also contact the HSEM Program office at (253) 964-6395.

What are Placement Tests?

If your goal is an AA degree, Math and English are required courses and you will have to take the placement test to establish where to start. The test determines what your skill level is to be sure you begin at a level at which you can succeed. If you live far from a Pierce College campus, you can arrange for your local community college to proctor the placement test for you.

If it has been a while since you studied Math or English, you might want to review your skills before taking the placement test. Prospective students can now, for FREE, brush up on their pre-algebra, algebra and college algebra skills prior to taking the placement assessment. Please visit the Pierce College Testing Center web page, for the link to the WAMAP Placement Review. There are many tools on the internet to help you review your English skills.

What if I live far from a Pierce College campus?

Pierce College HSEM programs are offered in an entirely online format. Attendance on campus is never required, but is an option for some courses.

Can I take everything online?

All of the HSEM courses are online. Many of the General Requirement and Elective courses are offered online by Pierce College. You can also take online courses from Pierce College at JBLM even if you have never been in the military. Pierce College at JBLM schedules courses frequently and they have a separate payment process, but their courses are transferred to your Pierce College transcript.

When can I start?

You can start in the HSEM program any quarter. See the academic calendar for dates.

All of the HSEM courses are offered twice per year. The more advanced courses require prerequisites or the Program Coordinator’s permission to attend.

How do I get started?

Get Started at Pierce College

How do I register in my classes?

When you are ready to register for classes, contact the HSEM office and provide them with your Student ID number (a very important number emailed to you with your Pierce College acceptance letter). We will generate a Registration Access Code (RAC). With your Academic Plan and RAC, you can register in the assigned courses on campus, or you can register and pay online.

Where can I learn more about Emergency Management?

FEMA Independent Study (IS) courses are free, and most have federal, state, tribal and local applicability. In fact, some of these courses are required for employment by some agencies. It is recommended that you take the following IS courses at your convenience, and save your certificates of completion: IS-100; IS-200; IS-700: IS-800; and the Professional Development Series (PDS).

Visit the FEMA IS website.

What EM Professional Associations can I join?

It is highly recommended that you join professional associations for the education, networking and job announcements. We recommend the Washington State Emergency Management Association (WSEMA) and/or the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) website, which both have student membership fees. The HSEM office sends out many announcements of other organizations and opportunities through the school year.

Special Features

Special Topics

Every quarter you will have an opportunity to study a special topic in the HSEM 190-X course.


On the job training is critical to giving Pierce students the insight and information they need to succeed once their education is complete. The Homeland Security Emergency Management program includes five credits of work-based experience for students completing the associate's degree option. This work-based training provides opportunities to directly connect with potential employers. Normally students begin an internship program in the second year of the program.


Students are encouraged to begin volunteering in an organization in the field to gain work experience and to have opportunities to apply what they are learning during their degree/certificate program. The Program Coordinator will assist you in finding both internships and volunteer opportunities.

Pierce College at JBLM Programs

Pierce College provides educational programs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. These programs are specifically designed to serve the needs of active-duty military personnel, their family members, VA benefit recipients, and civilians in the community. Shorter terms, continuous entry courses, and online courses meet specific needs of non-traditional students. All students may access the programs offered through Pierce College at JBLM.

Payment of VA benefits to veterans at the military bases differs slightly from payment to veterans enrolled elsewhere at Pierce College. Veterans should contact the Office of Veteran Student Services at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom prior to enrolling at Joint Base Lewis-McChord: (253) 964-6505.

The cost per credit or course at the military sites may differ from what is charged at the Fort Steilacoom or Puyallup colleges. Check with the military site for exact costs.


For those students who are eligible to use the ArmyIgnitED online program, do not register before contacting the Pierce College at JBLM Program at 253-964-6567 or