Disaster Management Job Options and Education Requirements

Sep 29, 2019

Training in disaster management typically covers disaster response and hazard mitigation. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for disaster management graduates.

Disaster management involves a number of different career paths, such as becoming an emergency management director, a police officer, or an EMT. The educational requirements for these positions vary, but involve either a post-secondary degree or training. There are also some graduate programs available for emergency management.

Essential Information

Disaster management workers prepare for and respond to natural and man-made emergencies, usually of a large scale that could impact human life and the environment. Due to increased government spending in this area, disaster management is a rapidly growing field with a variety of jobs. People interested in this field can become emergency management directors, police officers or emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

Career Emergency Management Director Police Officer EMT
Required Education Bachelor's degree Police academy training Certificate or associate's degree
Other Requirements Related work experience U.S. citizen, 21 years of age Must be licensed by state
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $82,570 $61,380 for police and sheriff's patrol officers $34,320 for EMTs and paramedics
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% 5% for police and sheriff's patrol officers 7% for EMTs and paramedics

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

In the public sector, the largest U.S. employer of disaster management specialists is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA employs workers in areas such as logistics and financial management, human capital, communications, information technology and flood plain management. FEMA positions require U.S. citizenship, a full background check and a drug test. Employees might be on-call 24 hours a day, and travel is required. Workers are subject to long hours under stressful conditions.

In the private sector, emergency planners create and review disaster management plans and standard operating procedures according to federal guidelines. Private companies usually hire people with bachelor's degrees in emergency management or public administration and a Certificate in Emergency Management.

Emergency Management Director

Emergency medical directors prepare and coordinate plans for responding to emergencies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for emergency management directors in 2018 was $82,570. Work in disaster management can be found in the public and private sectors. Jobs for these professionals are expected to grow 5% from 2018-2028, also per the BLS.

Police Officer

Police officers patrol areas and respond to both emergency and non-emergency calls. The BLS predicts that job opportunities for police and sheriff's patrol officers will grow by 5% between 2018 and 2028. The median annual salary for these positions as of May 2018 was $61,380, also according to the BLS. Typically, officers working at the state level earn more than ones working for a local government.


EMTs are often the first responders to an emergency call. They provide medical treatment and help transport patients to healthcare facilities. The BLS predicts that, between 2018 and 2028, job positions for EMTs and paramedics will increase by 7%. In May of 2018, these workers earned a median salary of $34,320 per year.

Education Requirements

Several accredited universities offer bachelor's degree programs in emergency management. Courses taught might include hazard mitigation and preparedness, introduction to emergency management, and disaster response and recovery. Internships with emergency services organizations are mandatory for some programs.

Graduate programs in emergency management focus on topics such as environmental policy and management, methods of environmental analysis and emergency management planning. Other courses might cover contingency planning, pollution control and coastal planning. These programs might award a master's degree or graduate certificate.

Those who are interested in a career in disaster management should carefully consider what career path they would like to take. Becoming a police officer will require training while becoming an EMT or an emergency management director will call for an undergraduate education. Those more generally interested in disaster management might want to start with a bachelor's in emergency management.

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