Are you a natural leader? Do you thrive under pressure? Are you level-headed and organized? Do you enjoy helping others?
If so, a career in emergency management might be the perfect fit. Let’s take a look at the day-to-day responsibilities of an Emergency Management Specialist, where they typically work, their education and skills, and the job outlook for this field.
What does an Emergency Management Specialist do?
Whenever there’s a man-made or natural disaster, emergency management specialists are ready to help. They ensure the public has access to basic necessities (like clean water, food, sanitation, first aid, and temporary housing) and coordinate clean-up efforts. But before a crisis ever occurs, emergency management specialists are busy planning for these events, educating citizens on what to do, and practicing emergency response for every type of disaster.
There’s no “typical” day in emergency management, but it’s helpful to divide their responsibilities into three categories – before, during, and after an emergency. While these tasks will vary according to the role and employer, this should give you a good idea of what to expect if you choose this career path.
Before an Emergency
- Prepare detailed plans that describe what to do in an emergency (for each type of event)
- Conduct practice drills or “mock disasters” to test and improve disaster plans
- Maintain and update all resources within the disaster plans
- Coordinate with other emergency management organizations to share resources or equipment
- Stay on top of federal, state, and local regulations affecting emergency plans
- Inspect emergency facilities and equipment to ensure readiness
- Conduct surveys to assess community needs during and after emergencies
- Educate the public by providing disaster preparedness training
- Offer consultation to organizations that need to create their own disaster plans
During an Emergency
- Coordinate disaster response, such as ordering evacuations, opening public shelters, and distributing basic necessities
- Prepare status reports that describe response and recovery efforts, needs, and preliminary damage
- Ensure the safety of disaster relief workers and volunteers
After an Emergency
- Coordinate clean-up efforts with other emergency management organizations
- Collaborate with other officials to analyze damage following disasters or emergencies
- Communicate status of relief efforts
- Assist disaster victims in accessing resources beyond basic necessities
- Provide communities with assistance in applying for federal funding
Where does an Emergency Management Specialist work?
In most cases, emergency management specialists work for the federal, state, or county government, since disaster response is primarily a government responsibility. For example, you could work at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is under the Department of Homeland Security. Or, you could work for a state agency, like the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
You could also work in the private sector. There are many consulting agencies that help organizations prepare for disasters, especially in Florida. For example, Florida Disaster Consulting helps state, local, and municipal government agencies, as well as private businesses and nonprofit groups, carry out their disaster preparedness and response duties more effectively.
Lastly, you might want to work in a nonprofit that focuses on disaster response. The American Red Cross is probably the most well known, but there are many others. You could work for an international organization like Direct Relief or a local one like Central Florida Disaster Medical Coalition.
What education or experience do you need to become an Emergency Management Specialist?
To enter this field, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in emergency management, environmental science, public safety, public administration, business management or a related field.
Everglades University’s Bachelor of Science in Disaster and Crisis Management provides all these areas of study in one program, making our graduates very appealing to employers and poised to advance into management positions. You’ll receive a solid foundation in emergency management, along with the essentials of business, communications, and leadership.
It’s helpful to have a bachelor’s degree with a broad-based curriculum, in case your role is combined with other responsibilities like public safety or grant writing. You’ll be more marketable than other candidates who are too specialized. For government agencies that are always trying to be budget-conscious, wearing many hats is common.
Experience in this field is important to show you can handle a real-life disaster situation. So, it’s a good idea to pursue an internship or volunteer for a nonprofit that provides disaster relief. You might also consider joining local fire and rescue organizations.
To set yourself apart from other candidates upon graduation, you might also want to obtain certifications such as the Associate Emergency Manager (AEM®) or Certified Emergency Manager (CEM®) offered by the International Association of Emergency Managers. The Emergency Management Institute of FEMA also offers many courses that can enhance your degree.
What skills do you need to be an Emergency Management Specialist?
As an emergency management specialist, you could be quietly working on procedures one day and assessing disaster damage the next. You could work 40 hours a week or 80, depending on whether there’s an emergency. Being prepared for anything is a necessary part of the job. So, would you make a great emergency management specialist? Let’s look at the top three skills you’ll need.
- Communication skills – One of your primary responsibilities is to have written procedures for every disaster scenario and to teach disaster preparedness to the public. Your writing and speaking skills must be top-notch to succeed. Our bachelor’s degree in Disaster and Crisis Management gives you a strong foundation through English Composition, Communications, and Speech as well as more specific classes like Writing for Managers.
- Decisionmaking skills – You’ll need to make timely, smart decisions, often in stressful situations. Our program includes classes on Critical Thinking in Business and Hazard Analysis & Risk Management to strengthen these important skills.
- Interpersonal skills – You’ll be working with other government agencies, law enforcement and fire officials, and the general public during a crisis. Our upper-level courses like Relationship Management, Effective Team Management, and Crisis and Disaster Psychology help graduates communicate with clarity and compassion, making them better equipped to manage people in a disaster.
What’s the job outlook for emergency management careers?
With the increase in natural disasters due to climate change, emergency management specialists will continue to be in demand. Economists project about eight percent growth between 2016 – 2026. Plus, with baby boomers retiring, more emergency management specialist jobs will open up.
The salary is well worth the hard work. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, emergency management specialists earn a median salary of $74,420, with the highest ten percent earning more than $141,130.
If you want to help your fellow citizens in times of crisis, a career in emergency management is a fulfilling path with plenty of opportunities. Ready to be on the front lines? Contact us to learn more about the bachelor’s degree in Crisis and Disaster Management at Everglades University.