Careers in Emergency Management

The need for experts in emergency management has never been more urgent. While natural disasters have always been a fact of life, weather-related disasters have increased five-fold over the last 50 years due in large part to climate change, according to the World Meteorological Organization . Scientists warn that they expect this trend of increasingly severe natural disasters to continue.

Natural disasters are not the only evolving threat. Gun violence in the U.S. has increased 33 percent since 2017. In addition, he COVID-19 pandemic and the recent spread of monkeypox suggest a dire need for better emergency preparedness in terms of public health. These two elements alone have necessitated an unprecedented emergency management response from schools, hospitals, sporting events, religious groups, and any place or event where people previously felt safe.

Much of this response has come from individuals and civilians who are often forced to adapt without adequate training or resources. Special education teachers, for example, need help when it comes to planning for and supporting their students’ unique needs in the event of a crisis. Similarly, as poor communication and resource sharing forced physicians and hospital staff to adapt rapidly—and, in many cases, haphazardly, using unorthodox and non sterile equipment in the face of drastic supply shortages—during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many fear a repeat of tragic events during the next large-scale health crisis.

The good news is that better data reporting and more effective frameworks for disaster management—from prevention to response and recovery—have helped save lives and maintain vital services and infrastructure. These tools can be applied to emergencies arising from terrorism and accidents, public health crises and natural disasters.

While we may not be able to completely prevent crises, earning a master’s degree in emergency management can prepare you to serve as a professional to mitigate their effects. As businesses, nonprofits and governments around the world prepare for emerging risks and threats, emergency management jobs offer the chance to turn research into strategy and experience into actionable plans.

Emergency management careers can be highly rewarding for those who find satisfaction in helping others—as well as a source of job security thanks to the wide range of positions across industries and sectors. Here’s what you can expect from emergency management jobs in terms of salaries, responsibilities and settings.

Employment Growth, Compensation and Opportunities in Emergency Management

Emergency management careers have grown in recent decades: Employment in organizations that provide such relief services more than doubled between 1990 and 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS reports that the median annual emergency management salary is $76,730.

Emergency management careers also offer an incredibly diverse range of roles, especially for those who have earned a master’s degree. There are emergency management jobs at federal, state and local government agencies, such as FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as at nonprofits and in the private sector. In addition, a focus on greater international cooperation to address the global effects of climate change means that emergency management professionals will also be needed at NGOs and other multinational organizations.

Emergency management professionals can specialize in different phases of disaster management, such as mitigation, assessment or response. As a graduate of a master’s in emergency management program, you can choose a job that aligns with your interests and focus, while your background will give you options to expand or change direction throughout your career as your interests (and the field) evolve.

Skills Required for Emergency Management Careers

No two days are alike in emergency management. Given the unpredictable, unique and chaotic nature of crises, jobs in the field call on professionals to develop and use a wide range of skills. At a minimum, you need to be able to:

  • Communicate swiftly and efficiently, both verbally and in writing.
  • Solve problems effectively.
  • Collaborate with individuals and teams.
  • Build relationships inside and across organizations.
  • Handle multiple tasks and priorities at once.

Emergency management jobs usually require knowledge of many different functions, including healthcare, technology, management, policy creation, finances and communication. Certain high-level positions require more specialized skills that you can develop in a master’s in emergency management program, including:

  • Technological literacy.
  • Data analysis.
  • Project management.
  • Business administration and budgeting.
  • Team and resource coordination.
  • Procurement.
  • Process evaluation and improvement.
  • Stakeholder management and negotiation.

These administrative responsibilities are in addition to the in-depth knowledge in disaster preparation, response and recovery tactics that a master’s in emergency management provides.

Is an emergency management degree worth it? Consider how professionals in the field must hone a diverse range of skills and expertise, then call on them to solve difficult, even life-threatening problems under challenging and often fast-changing conditions. For example, Adelphi University adjunct faculty member Nicholas V. Cagliuso Sr., PhD, uses his experience leading pandemic response at the nation’s largest municipal healthcare delivery system to design and adapt approaches to military and civilian emergency systems in the face of evolving large-scale public health disasters and similar events.

A master’s degree in emergency management can help you develop and deploy skills like Dr. Cagliuso’s, putting you in a position to take advantage of the greatest number of job opportunities.

Emergency Management Jobs

From assessing risk to preparing for disasters, emergency management careers are diverse in terms of both scale and duties. Read on to learn more details about a range of emergency management jobs, including their responsibilities and salaries.

Job Title Median Annual Salary
Public Safety Director $54,390*
Emergency Management Director $76,730**
Business Continuity Planner $74,670**
Occupational Health and Safety Specialist $78,740**
Environmental Protection Officer $67,119***

*Salary information from Burning Glass.
**Salary information from Bureau of Labor Statistics.
***Salary information from Comparably.

Public Safety Director

Individuals in this position coordinate and lead programs for public safety. While they often work for state or local governments, other entities such as universities may hire public safety professionals as well.

Public safety directors are responsible for creating and implementing policies and plans to prevent or mitigate the effects of emergencies in their communities. They may coordinate with other agencies, such as departments of public health, fire safety and law enforcement to plan and execute disaster preparedness and response.

Other tasks may involve:

  • Budgeting resources appropriately.
  • Monitoring compliance with local, state and federal laws.
  • Communicating crucial information to the public in a crisis.

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors plan and lead activities for disaster response, recovery and management for state and local government agencies. They ensure that sufficient resources and effective procedures are in place for a range of emergency types using research and proven best practices.

During an emergency, they lead operations to ensure that staff follow the planned steps and revise those plans if necessary. They may also be the “face” of the emergency response in press briefings, so good communication skills are vital.

Other responsibilities of this role may include:

  • Coordinating with public safety and relief agencies, community groups and businesses on planning and response.
  • Developing training programs for emergency services workers and volunteers.
  • Creating communications plans to inform the public.
  • Seeking federal funding for disaster response and recovery.
  • Assessing the response after an emergency to identify areas for improvement.

Business Continuity Planner

Emergency management experts who work for companies in the private sector are often called business continuity planners. They design and implement plans for disaster response and recovery to keep employees safe in the workplace, secure vital assets, keep operations running during a disruption, and help the business resume operations afterward. They may work directly for a business or for a firm that specializes in business continuity services.

Some of their job responsibilities may include:

  • Conducting risk assessments.
  • Documenting emergency response procedures.
  • Analyzing the business impact of different types of disasters.
  • Running emergency response drills.
  • Leading continuity and recovery efforts.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

Occupational health and safety specialists review any injuries or illnesses caused by the work environment, equipment or other factors, with a focus on preventing and eliminating them. Such ailments may be caused by working with dangerous or toxic chemicals or heavy equipment, as in industrial environments; biological agents, as in labs or healthcare settings; or from unhealthy air or lack of ergonomic furniture in offices.

Their tasks may include:

  • Ensuring processes and equipment comply with both internal and government-mandated safety rules and regulations.
  • Conducting inspections.
  • Monitoring research and public health data and adapting workplace policies as necessary.
  • Designing and implementing plans to respond to workplace disasters and injuries.
  • Communicating the importance of health and safety to organizational leaders and employees.

Individuals in this position can work in the public sector or for privately owned businesses. Other titles for this position include environmental health and safety manager and corporate safety consultant.

Environmental Protection Officer

Environmental protection officers use their skills to protect human health and natural resources from waste, pollution and other environmental hazards. Job tasks include creating plans to prevent and address environmental emergencies and monitoring air, water, soil, food and other matter. They may work for government agencies, nonprofits or in the private sector.

Other responsibilities may include:

  • Advising legislators and businesses on policies to reduce environmental contamination.
  • Leading cleanup efforts in environmental disasters.
  • Analyzing surveys and research findings to identify and evaluate threats to the environment.
  • Coordinating with emergency management agencies and nonprofits on disaster management strategies and communication campaigns.

About Adelphi’s Online Emergency Services Programs

Adelphi University’s online MS in Emergency Management and graduate certificate program are designed to provide you with skills that are immediately applicable to your career. Whether you’re an experienced emergency services professional or interested in entering the field, our comprehensive and practical programs can help you take the next step. Our expert faculty includes leading researchers in emergency management and practitioners with real-world experience in emergency response.

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