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How to Become an Emergency Management Director

Emergency Management Director's tool kit.

The world seems to be plunged into a constant state of emergency these days – whether it’s the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc worldwide, wildfires ravaging the American West, political unrest in several democracies, or environmental hazards sweeping the oceans. Responding to an emergency promptly and appropriately is a significant part of running any organization, no matter the scale. This makes the demand for emergency management directors so pivotal. If you are interested in undertaking a career that calls for dealing with emergencies and helping those in need, you need to explore a career in emergency management.

This article outlines everything you need to know on how to become an emergency management director, where they work, qualifications to become a director, and much more.

Let’s get started!

What Is An Emergency Management Director?

An emergency management director is a professional who plans for accidents, disasters, and other emergencies. Emergency management directors usually collaborate with the leadership teams of different organizations to identify potential risks and chalk out the most suitable practices for addressing them. They are also responsible for developing procedures to determine what should be done in an emergency and devising preventive measures to diminish the likelihood of an emergency occurring.

Emergency management directors play a vital role in ensuring interaction with an organization’s safety and empowering employees to respond to an emergency appropriately. They are primarily responsible for:

  • Providing disaster preparedness training
  • Directing disaster response
  • Planning crisis management activities
  • Preparing emergency procedures and plans for natural disasters (such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes), technological (such as hazardous material spills or nuclear power plant emergencies), wartime, or hostage situations.

What Does An Emergency Management Director Do?

Emergency management directors have several core duties when devising emergency response plans. Of course, their assignments can differ depending upon their area of work. Still, they should prepare for several areas of responsibility when applying for a position as emergency management director.

Hazard Assessment

Emergency management directors perform hazard assessment tasks for effective emergency planning. These tasks allow them to understand the kinds of emergencies that may arise in their workplace. The responsibilities in this domain include:

  • Evaluating the likelihood of various emergencies
  • Reviewing already developed emergency response policies and their results
  • Surveying hazard prevention techniques
  • Inspecting natural disasters in the surrounding area
  • Exploring a workplace to identify potential risks

Policy Development

Emergency management directors are responsible for directing an organization’s policies to determine how they prepare and respond to emergency circumstances. They also devise practical methodologies to shield an organization and its employees from disruption or damage. Emergency management directors also ensure a seamless establishment of these helpful methods in the workplace. Emergency management policymaking includes the following tasks:

  • Status writing
  • Development of evacuation maps
  • Chalking out lists of supplies
  • Preparing budgets for emergency response
  • Compiling instructions for common emergency scenarios
  • Developing emergency contact lists

Employee Training

Emergency management directors have a primary role in training employees and showing other ways of responding to emergencies. They also train their team members in other departments to ensure methodological and consistent behaviors in a crisis. Emergency management directors may be in charge of the following when educating others regarding ways of using emergency planning procedures:

  • Compiling training manuals
  • Developing and presenting policy updates
  • Demonstrating ways of using safety equipment properly
  • Programming professional development sessions
  • Organizing emergency response drills and evaluating results

Facility Maintenance

Emergency management directors maintain, organize, and stock a workplace with supplies needed to limit the consequences of a disaster and deal with emergencies. Facility maintenance tasks associated with emergency management directors include:

  • Preparing first aid kits
  • Replacing emergency supplies and repairing equipment when needed
  • Updating building safety features
  • Installing weather-proofing or earthquake resistance
  • Programming risk and safety inspections

Emergency Response Leadership

Emergency management directors are responsible for taking charge of on-site leadership to supervise relief efforts and emergency responses in a crisis. When unanticipated emergencies occur, they make important decisions and find solutions for unusual complications. Responsibilities in this domain can include the following:

  • Distributing or rationing resources
  • Communicating with first responders
  • Evaluating the success of emergency planning measures after a disaster
  • Assigning volunteers to different aid projects
  • Meeting with public officials or the press
  • Applying for federal support or emergency funding

Where Can Emergency Management Directors Work?

Emergencies and accidents can happen anywhere, and thus emergency management directors can find employment opportunities at a wide array of institutions. They typically find work at hospitals, disaster relief organizations, and governmental institutions to support large populations. However, several private businesses hire emergency management specialists or directors to safeguard their assets, employees, and customers. Employment opportunities are also available at residential facilities such as colleges, schools, or dorms to keep residents safe during an emergency.

Emergency management directors generally work in office environments developing and researching policies but also perform fieldwork by providing immediate support during emergencies.

They also travel to meet various community groups, private companies, and government agencies. Emergency management directors typically work full time but may have a flexible schedule depending upon their area of employment and the kinds of emergencies they handle. Their work can also include traveling for seminars, meetings, and presentations.

What Do BLS Statistics Say?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, emergency management directors held about 10,500 jobs in 2020. Their largest employers were local governments (excluding education and hospitals), who employed about 52% of emergency management directors. State governments (banning education and hospitals) were in second place and employed 16% emergency management directors, whereas hospitals (state, local, and private) employed 8%. Colleges, professional schools, and universities (local, state, and private) gave employment to 4% of directors, and technical, professional, and scientific services recruited 3%.

Because of disasters and emergencies, they often work in stressful situations. In addition, most of them are on-call at all times and may even need to work overtime when supporting emergency management operations or responding to emergencies. Some might even need to work on weekends or evenings to conduct meetings with various community groups to prepare their emergency response plans.

Skills Required To Become An Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors should possess advanced technical skills in several domains to support their work responsibilities. They are required to understand the technical details of promptly reacting to an emergency, have interpersonal skills to collaborate with others, and hold critical thinking skills. Some top skills that an emergency management director should have include:

Leadership

An emergency management director should have the ability to make confident and apt decisions in challenging circumstances and help others work together. In addition, a successful emergency management director should possess and practice leadership techniques to provide guidance and reassurance to others during a disaster.

Information Technology

I.T. skills are crucial for emergency management directors as they often use computer systems and software to communicate with others during an emergency. I.T. skills are also essential to track potential hazards and model possible emergency scenarios. Therefore, successful emergency management directors should research standard I.T. tools in their respective domains and master the use of each interface.

Effective Communication

Communication skills hold paramount significance in a career as an emergency management director since they should communicate with local officials, volunteers, public members, company leaders, employees, and the press. They should also use communication skills to explain procedures and policies accurately when preparing for an emergency. Communication skills also allow directors to prevent additional damage and provide fast and effective relief during an emergency.

Defense and Tact

Emergency management directors require advanced tact because they face challenging circumstances. Using tactful and specialized language efficiently addresses the practical impact of disaster situations and various emergencies. They should also possess enough tact to encourage and support a team, choose the best phrase for training manuals, and provide updates about a disaster during a crisis.

How To Become An Emergency Management Director: What You Need To Know

Emergency management is an advanced field with a growing list of career opportunities for trained and skilled candidates. Formal education in this area of stud begins with choosing the right degree program and attaining the required professional field experience. It may be pretty hard to navigate all pathways to become an emergency management director, so let us look at some steps to help in this domain.

Step 1: Earning A Bachelor’s Degree From An Accredited Institution

The first step to becoming an emergency management director is enrolling in a relevant bachelor’s program at an accredited institution. Although it is possible to find employment opportunities in a private or non-profit agency, local government, or local municipality with just a high school diploma, government agencies and better-paying positions prefer candidates with no less than a four-year degree.

A survey conducted in this domain concluded that about 52% of individuals held a bachelor’s degree when they became an emergency management director, and 20% held a master’s degree. In contrast, only 16% had an associate’s degree.

Some institutions do not offer an undergraduate degree in emergency management, but several other majors can be classified as relevant to this domain. For example, aspirants can major in:

  • Protective Services Operations
  • Critical Incident Response
  • Police Operations
  • Crisis, Emergency, & Disaster Management
  • Homeland Security
  • Critical Infrastructure Protection
  • Fire Science
  • Public Administration

However, it is crucial to ensure that your elective courses cover the areas and focus on the skills that would help an emergency management director in practical life. It is also pivotal to ensure that your program of choice holds regional accreditation and recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. This will help you get admission for an advanced degree at a graduate school.

Step 2: Attaining Professional Experience In The Field

Emergency management directors can learn all about the theories, lessons, and strategies required to construct response plans and develop protection strategies. Still, these are not enough to make a successful emergency management director. Attaining relevant practical experience plays a crucial role in elevating the standing of an emergency management director and opens new arenas for better positions. Theoretical information is not the same as practical expertise.

Thus aspirants should attain professional experience in lower-level roles to get in a place to demonstrate their abilities aptly. Such lower levels positions may include jobs in private or pubic settings, including law enforcement officers, fire safety specialists, disaster planners, security officers, and many others. Therefore, it is sensible to review all available entry-level positions, choose those that suit your future goals and personal interests, and begin applying to those that only require a Bachelor’s degree.

Results from the survey mentioned before showed that about 32% of participants had about four to six years of experience before becoming an emergency management director, 20% had about two to four years of practical experience, and only 20% had one to two years. Similarly, about 24% trained for about six months to one year for the emergency management director position, 20% had one to three months training period, and about 20% had no training whatsoever.

Step 3: Getting A Professional Certification

Becoming an emergency management director to devise disaster response plans and minimize the risk of damage to both property and people is not a child’s play. It is a huge responsibility that is quite hard to uphold and requires extensive training. That is why several certification programs allow candidates and specialists in the field with expertise and credentials that they can utilize to become directors.

Therefore, it is essential to review the requirements to become a Certified Emergency Manager with the International Association of Emergency Managers if one intends to undertake a career in emergency management seriously. Individuals who are certified emergency managers hold a competitive edge over others wanting to become emergency management directors. Therefore, this credential helps take you one step closer to your dreams. This way, aspirants can earn their Bachelor’s degree, prove their worth in the field, attain certifications and upper-level land titles leading to the position of emergency management director.

Requirements for credentials may vary from state to state, and it is vital to consult the ones in your state. Many states and agencies also offer voluntary certification programs that aid emergency management directors attain additional skills in the field. Some states also require directors to achieve certification within a specific time frame after being hired in their position.

Is It Difficult To Become An Emergency Management Director?

Becoming an emergency management director is no easy endeavor and requires considerable knowledge, work-related skills, and expertise. Several experts rank this career in the difficult to attain category because aspirants usually need several years of work-related experience, strong nerves, exceptional skills, on-the-job training, and vocational training to be qualified.

In addition, careers in this domain typically involve managing, supervising, coordinating, or training others, all of which require exceptional credentials.

Emergency Management Director Job Outlook, Salary, and Growth

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), emergency management directors earned a median wage of $76,250 each year as of May 2020. However, their earnings depend upon their industry, employment institute, and experience level. The highest 10% of emergency management directors earned more than $142,870, and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,230. BLS projections show that job positions for emergency management directors may grow by 4% between 2020 and 2029, close to the mean anticipated growth for all fields.

According to BLS, The median annual wages for emergency management directors in the top industries that worked for in May 2020 were as follows:

  • Professional, technical, and scientific services: $106,570
  • Colleges, professional schools, and universities (state, local, and private): $88,370
  • Hospitals (state, local, and private): $87,920
  • Local governments (excluding education and hospitals): $70,130
  • State government (excluding education and hospitals): $66,730

What Careers Can An Emergency Management Director Pursue?

Since emergencies and times of crisis can come anywhere, anytime, and in any form. So, there should be a clearly defined array of distinct roles that prioritize different skills in response to various disaster situations. Therefore, several careers in emergency management are designed to deal with all kinds of disasters; may they be brought about by mother nature, malicious human intent, failure of infrastructure, or natural circumstances, and enact plans for a solution. This career includes a manufacturing project manager, anti-terrorism specialist, emergency management specialist, and many more.

Emergency Management Specialist

Emergency management specialists are professionals responsible for monitoring and overseeing all disaster possibilities, coordinating disaster response, managing crisis activities as per requirements, and providing preparedness education and training to develop procedure training amongst staff members. They are also assigned tasks to create emergency plans for all kinds of crises, whether technological or natural. Specialists in emergency management typically work in a team environment and should possess effective communication skills required in tricky situations like hostage and wartime.

This position usually appeals to individuals aspiring to work in the government and deal with various high-intensity situations. Local and state governments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provide employment opportunities to specialists. An emergency management specialist should be available and present during any emergency as circumstances can need them in any geographical location or level of the government. Their median annual salary is around $64,500 as of December 2021, according to the compensation website PayScale.

Manufacturing Project Manager

Manufacturing project managers work independently and as a team to improve the systems under use by manufacturers and preserve their efficiency. They are responsible for overseeing several plans ranging from initial customer orders to finalized customer sign-offs. Managers must efficiently communicate with their team members regarding safety complications. Therefore, one of the primary jobs of a manufacturing project manager is to identify potential risks and counter them as quickly as possible to avoid any preventable accidents.

Several laboratories, government facilities, and construction equipment companies offer employment opportunities to manufacturing project managers to ensure efficient staff performance and maintain safety protocols. According to PayScale’s December 2021 data, the median annual salary of manufacturing project managers is around $75,090. This job position calls for 24/7 leadership and the ability to do well under pressure.

Related Resource: Masters in Project Management Online: Why Earn One?

Anti-Terrorism Specialist

Since emergencies and disasters can be man-made, some emergency management careers involve prevention, preparation, and remediation. For example, anti-terrorism specialists are professionals called to focus primarily on disaster mitigation techniques and save lives. They are also responsible for planning, managing risks, providing training, performing resource applications, advising government management agencies on the most suitable course of action, and interpreting government regulations.

Anti-terrorism specialists usually find employment opportunities in private and security intelligence companies hired by or partnered with government entities. These specialists should be well versed in preparing presentations and briefings to advise government agencies properly and discover approaches that propose solutions for preventing terrorist attacks or acts.

Anti-terrorism specialists should be vigilant, robust, and dedicated in the face of any possible terrorist attack. In addition, they should be ready to work heavy hours and deal with workload within government agencies, just like intelligence analysts. The median annual salary of an anti-terrorism specialist is around $79,000, according to December 2021 PayScale data.

Related Resource: Highest Paying Criminal Justice Careers by Education Level

Disaster Program Manager

Disaster program managers are a part of a specialized team responsible for organizing and facilitating operations and services pertinent to disaster. These professionals also manage and lead volunteers to follow the Red Cross’s response and recovery programs. Although help comes in abundance from several arenas in times of disaster, it needs to be organized so that programs can work together seamlessly. Disaster program managers are responsible for this and should oversee government partnerships during disaster relief.

Since assistance does not cease until a crisis is over and large-scale help is administered, disaster relief managers should be able to work long hours around the clock, respond to stressful circumstances, and find solutions in disastrous situations. According to November 2021 PayScale data, the annual median salary of disaster program managers is around $47,900, as their prime concern is assisting communities in the wake of a disaster.

Occupations Similar To Emergency Management Directors

Following are some other career opportunities that resemble emergency management positions:

Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)

Paramedics and EMTs typically respond to emergency calls, transport patients to medical facilities, and perform other relevant medical services. Aspirants with a post-secondary or non-degree award can find employment opportunities in this domain. The annual salary for paramedics and EMTs is about $36,650.

Budget Analysts

Budget analysts are professionals responsible for helping private and public organizations plan their finances. The education requirement for this position is a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. The annual salary for budget analysts is around $78,970.

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Firefighters

Firefighters typically possess a post-secondary or non-degree award and are responsible for controlling and putting out fires. They should also respond to emergencies that involve property, life, or the environment. The mean annual salary for firefighters is around $52,500.

Police and Detectives

Police officers are responsible for protecting property and lives. Criminal investigators and detectives typically gather evidence of possible crimes and solve them by catching the culprits. Their annual salary is around $67,290.

Top Executives

Top executives develop plans and strategies to ensure that an organization meets its objectives and goals. Educational requirements for this job position include a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Top executives earn around $107,680 per year.

Management Analysts

Management analysts devise and recommend ways to enhance an organization’s efficiency. They earn about $87,660 per annum and require a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field to secure employment.

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Final Thoughts – GetEducated About Your Favorite Career!

Becoming an emergency management director is a good career choice, and you can become one if you hold a Bachelor’s degree related to public safety. However, aspirants can also undertake emergency management majors offered by many institutions or choose other majors such as Government, Public Health, Business, Public Administration, Risk Management, and Environmental Science.

Several reputed institutions also offer these courses in an online format, where you can take the first steps to become an emergency management director right from the comfort of your home. Aspirants devoted to securing their dream job should head over to GetEducated.com to get educated about attaining their goals!

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Question: Is becoming an emergency management director hard?
Answer: Yes, becoming an emergency management director is a challenging career choice that involves extensive training, work-related skills, and knowledge.

Question: What do emergency management directors do?
Answer: Emergency management directors are responsible for mitigating and controlling natural disasters or crises.

Question: Is a career in emergency management worth it?
Answer: A career in emergency management is a financially and emotionally rewarding job where you get paid to keep people safe in crises.

Question: How much do emergency management directors earn?
Answer: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, emergency management directors earn about $76,250 per year.