International Rescue and Relief

A career of adventure,
a lifetime of service

International rescue and relief is a unique bachelor of science degree designed for adventurous students who want to serve mankind through disaster and humanitarian relief. There are core courses and three emphases to choose from.

For a world facing increasing natural and man-made disasters and growing refugee populations, this major is designed to equip graduates with specialized service skills.

Why study international rescue and relief?

  • An opportunity to serve enthusiastically, effectively and compassionately in other cultures.
  • Learn how to competently respond to disasters as trained professionals.
  • Obtain professional certifications in emergency response and management.

Check out some of our videos

Be ready to rescue anyone, anywhere.

The best path to medical school.

Overseas experience for every student.

Respond to disasters.

In challenging situations—whether repelling off a building, a diving rescue, or performing an IV on a little girl in Nicaragua— those opportunities help you see you are capable of a lot more. Our training isn’t taught at many volunteer fire departments and rescue squads. When I returned to Virginia in the summers, I’ve was able to share what I learned at Union with my fellow fire fighters back home.

Caleb Shetler
IRR graduate from Virginia.
photo Caleb Shetler

Real experience starts

long before graduation.

Find stories about our students and alumni here.

Union's new international rescue and relief major is the only known college-level program of its kind in the United States. The four-year Bachelor of Science degree combines rescue and survival skills, emergency medical care, humanitarian relief, public health, disaster management and multicultural service training.

Why study at Union College?

  • Earn many certifications, including EMT, Rescue 3 International rope and swift water rescue certifications, and a variety of Red Cross and FEMA disaster management certifications.
  • Spend five weeks of your first summer in the Colorado wilderness learning survival, search and rescue, technical rope rescue and swift water rescue.
  • At the end of the program, you'll live in a developing nation for a semester, learning about global health and conducting medical clinics in remote areas.
  • Prepare for careers in public safety, the medical field, global development and emergency management.
  • Learn from professors with experience as police officers, paramedics, global relief managers and wilderness survival experts.

As I neared graduation, I wondered what God had in store for me. I planned to work as a paramedic until He opened a door to service. I didn’t have to wait long. After an earthquake rocked Haiti in early 2010, I joined IRR students and alumni in Haiti to provide relief and aid to earthquake victims. I organized daily medical and mobile clinics, conducted group debriefings, attended United Nations meetings and rubbed elbows with military groups from around the world. Once home I looked for work opportunities that would incorporate most, if not all, of my education and field experience. I was offered a contract in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, working for the government as a paramedic with the Saudi Red Crescent Authority. After working in the field responding to various types of emergency cases, I began to settle into a routine, but once again God had other plans for me. The Red Crescent Authority is also responsible for the personal health care needs of a prince of Saudi Arabia and they were seeking qualified individuals. I was one of the lucky few chosen to live on the grounds of the palace as personal medical staff for the royal family. I wasn’t chosen because of my years as a paramedic or my knowledge of emergency medicine. No, I was told that I was chosen because I was one of a few people in the entire country that had a specialty degree, a degree in international rescue and relief from Union College.

Jonathan Hoewing
IRR graduate who has served as a paramedic around the world.
photo Jonathan Hoewing

Majors and minors

The International Rescue and Relief Program offers degrees in the following areas:

A four-year bachelor of science with the following emphases:

  • International Rescue and Relief (no emphasis): Guide
  • Global Development Emphasis: Guide
  • Health Care Leadership IRR/Nursing Dual Major: Guide
  • Pre-Medical and Pre-Dental Emphasis: Guide
  • Pre-Physician Assistant Emphasis: Guide
  • Pre-Physical Therapy Emphasis: Guide
  • Paramedic Emphasis: Guide
  • Public Safety Emphasis: Guide

A two-year associate of science emphases:

  • Associate of Science in Rescue and Relief/Emergency Medical Services: Guide

A five-year (3+2) bachelor of science with master of public health

  • Public health master's and IRR bachelor's: Guide

You may also pair the following minors with a major in any discipline:

  • Disaster Management
  • Survival and Rescue

Emergency Medical Technician component of the IRR program has separate licensure requirements. State of Nebraska licensure requirements for EMT’s can be found here. Learn about EMT licensure in other states.

Your career options


Approximately half of IRR students go on to medical school or a similar health professional program.

Job outlook
3% growth (below average)

Median pay

Emergency management director

Directors prepare plans and procedures for responding to natural disasters or other emergencies.

Job outlook
3% growth (average)

Median pay

Meet the International Rescue and Relief team

Contact us at 402-486-2600 ext. 2015 or email