A career of adventure, lifetime of service

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.

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
a senior IRR major from Virginia.
photo Caleb Shetler

Real experience starts long before graduation.

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
2009 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: 2020-2021
  • Pre-Medical and Pre-Dental Emphasis
    Guide: 2020-2021
  • Pre-Physical Therapy Emphasis
    Guide: 2020-2021
  • Firefighter Emphasis
    Guide: 2020-2021
  • Global Development Emphasis
    Guide: 2020-2021
  • Paramedic Emphasis
    Guide: 2019-2020
  • Public Safety Emphasis
    Guide: 2020-2021
  • Pre-Physician Assistant Emphasis
    Guide: 2020-2021
  • Associate of Science in Rescue and Relief/Allied Health
    Guide: 2020-2021

A two-year associate of science in Rescue and Relief/Allied Health
Guide: 2020-2021

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

  • Disaster Management
  • Survival and Rescue
  • Global Community Development

Career options


Control and put out fires and respond to emergencies where life, property, or the environment is at risk.

Job outlook
7% growth (average)

Median pay


Care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings.

Job outlook
15% growth (much faster than average)

Median pay

Emergency management director

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

Job outlook
8% growth (average)

Median pay