Impact Lives

Emergency Management Careers: What You Need to Know

If you are interested in helping people and communities in the event of a disaster, you may want to consider an emergency management career. There is a wide range of professional opportunities to consider whether you work at a health care facility, for a nonprofit organization or for a government agency.1

This brief overview can help you learn more so you can decide whether a career in emergency preparedness is right for you.

What Is Emergency Management?

Emergency management (also known as emergency preparedness) involves work that is essentially risk management. This includes preparing for, responding to and recovering from emergencies at the local, regional, national and global level. Events such as natural disasters (e.g., wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes), explosions, incidents involving hazardous materials, electrical blackouts, communication failures, acts of terrorism and civil disturbances are all examples of emergencies.2

The four stages of emergency management are:

  1. Mitigation — taking action to prevent negative consequences in the event of an emergency (e.g., creating policy and regulations).
  2. Preparedness — participating in a continuous cycle of actions to ensure the most effective emergency response (e.g., organizing, training, monitoring and evaluating the efforts of emergency workers).
  3. Response — the actual mobilization of emergency services and first responders (e.g., rescue workers or ambulance units).
  4. Recovery — restoring the affected area to its previous state as safely and efficiently as possible (e.g., rebuilding).2

Depending on your job title and who you work for, you may end up doing some or all of the activities listed above throughout your career in emergency management.

Emergency Management Career Outlook

There are many different types of jobs that fall under the heading of emergency management. Depending on your education, experience and interests, you might choose to specialize in law enforcement, communications, information technology, research analysis, humanitarian work, public policy or homeland security. Potential employers include local, state and federal government agencies, private companies, nonprofit organizations, hospitals and universities.

To give you an idea of the type of work you can do, here are a few examples of potential emergency management careers:

  • Emergency Management Director/Specialist (median annual wage $67,330)
    Responsible for planning, implementing and evaluating response to an emergency. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, extensive work experience and some type of emergency certification is often required to obtain this type of position. Emergency management directors typically work for state or local government, but may also be employed by a hospital, nonprofit or private firm.3 Due to increasing demand, this is one of the fastest growing careers in the industry.4
  • Director of Public Safety (median annual wage $70,032)
    The main function of this role is to develop safety plans and procedures to prepare for potential threats and disasters in the local community. A director of public safety typically works at the county or state level, reporting to state and federal officials. In addition to collaborating with county officials and response units, the person in this position usually also oversees the training of volunteer firefighters and EMTs. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in public administration, public safety or emergency management is usually required.5
  • Security Manager for the TSA (median annual wage approximately $81,000)
    The main role of this manager is to oversee security checkpoints, monitor the performance of and provide guidance to subordinates, implement crisis management and incident response procedures, and assist with budgeting and staffing. Military, law enforcement or security experience is preferred for this type of position.6 In addition, security managers who have a master’s degree and/or certification tend to make a higher salary.7

Preparing for a Career in Emergency Management

Some jobs in the emergency management industry require that you have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a particular field, such as emergency management, public policy, information technology or finance. However, there are employers who are more interested in finding candidates with the right certifications or work experience.

If you have your heart set on a particular job, here are some suggestions to help you stand out from the competition:

  • Research education requirements to ensure you enroll in the right degree program.
  • Volunteer as a firefighter or EMT in your local community.
  • Volunteer for a nonprofit emergency response organization such as Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) or the Red Cross.
  • Get additional training by taking a class with a volunteer organization like the Red Cross.
  • Do an internship to network and gain hands-on experience such as FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute’s Higher Education Associates Program.
  • Earn your emergency preparedness certification.

If you are looking to gain further training in emergency management, consider earning an Emergency Preparedness Certificate at Benedictine University. You can earn it as a standalone certificate or in conjunction with the online Master in Public Health degree. To learn more about the Benedictine Emergency Preparedness Certificate, please visit or call (866) 295-3104 to speak with a program manager.


1 “Occupational outlook handbook: Emergency management directors.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (accessed April 14, 2017).

2 “What is emergency management?” The Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management. (accessed April 14, 2017).

3 “Occupational outlook handbook: Emergency management directors.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

4 “5 emergency management jobs.” Emergency Management Degree Program Guide. (accessed April 14, 2017).

5 “What can you do with an emergency management degree?” (accessed April 14, 2017).

6 “Transportation security manager: transportation security administration: Boston, Massachusetts.” Womens Job List. (accessed April 14, 2017).

7 “Average salary for United States transportation security administration (TSA) employees.” (accessed April 14, 2017).