Top 5 Emergency Management Jobs for College Graduates

By Vicki.Miller - June 26th, 2017

emergency management jobs for college graduates

Vicki Miller, Ph.D Emergency Management, has been teaching online undergraduate and graduate emergency management courses for 10 years. With additional degrees and certifications in disaster management and Homeland Security, she has 11 years of direct experience in emergency management, hazardous materials, and disaster response efforts.  She is also a certified emergency manager through the International Emergency Management Association.

It’s no surprise that higher education has developed specialized emergency management (EM) degrees and certifications in light of the spate of 21st Century natural and human-caused disasters. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caught the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) unprepared for a significant natural disaster. Katrina has since become a case study in what not to do during disasters. Sept. 11, along with other high-impact disasters, opened the field for degree and job opportunities, and the sector continues to grow.

National demand for bachelor’s-level EM professionals has seen a 25 percent increase since 2013, while demand for master’s-level professionals has grown 26 percent across the same time frame. In fact, demand is so high that master’s-level students often receive tuition reimbursement – the University of Arkansas estimates that 30 to 40 percent of students earning master’s of science degrees in disaster preparedness and EM receive tuition reimbursement from employers.

But what kind of jobs do degrees in emergency management get you? Exploring career options can help students shape their education for specific sectors. Below are five options, but they’re just a starting point for career research  — the field is growing each year, and offers opportunities for skill sets including IT, communications, project management, and medicine.

  1. Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC)
    Emergency management coordinators organize and plan response systems for EM teams, and serve as liaisons with other EM organizations at the state and national level. EMCs also act as team representatives in meetings and discussions regarding safety issues within community, state, and national government organizations. If you’re willing to commit to a career that requires continuing education, and you enjoy project management, this is a good choice  — be sure your written and oral communication skills are top-notch. Clarity and brevity of message are essential for EMCs. You’ll interface with law enforcement, ambulance and medical services, elected officials, schools, and fire departments, to name just a few. With a salary range of $36,052 and $90,194, the median EMC salary is $54,344.
  2. Homeland Security Officer
    Homeland security professionals focus on prevention and preparedness. They are responsible for securing the nation’s entry points, intercepting threats, and developing disaster response programs. Homeland security officers may work in airports and seaports, at vulnerable national border sites, or at a computer, in the case of cyber security specialists. Several governmental agencies hire homeland security professionals, including the Department of Immigration Enforcement, U.S. Customs, Border Protection, Counter-Terrorism, FEMA, the Secret Service, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Homeland security specialists may also have criminal justice or IT degrees.High-level and supervisory positions often require graduate degrees or combinations of education and experience.

    Be prepared to excel academically, and to undergo extensive background checks and security clearance processes. Mandatory examinations and testing include medical, psychological, drug, and polygraph. Those with criminal records need not apply. According to, the average Department of Homeland Security salary in 2015 was $115,269, with a range from roughly $$40,000 to $200,000-plus.

  3. Emergency Management Director (EMD)
    EMDs plan procedures and trainings for both natural and manmade disasters, as well as terrorists threats. Direct disaster plans include hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, fires, wartime, and technological disasters such as nuclear power plant emergencies and hazardous material spills. EMDs study prior emergencies and disasters in their work of planning for the unimagined, and also analyze and assess damage and loss of life post-disaster. During times of crisis, EMDs manage workforces such as firefighters and emergency personnel, as well as rescue teams and  communications facilities. EMDs communicate with local and state law enforcement and fire departments, and those with military or law enforcement experience have a clear advantage when competing for these jobs.

    An EMD career requires several skills, including: critical thinking, decision making, leadership, interpersonal, and planning. EMD positions are becoming available within corporate, technical, hospital, schools, and social assistance organizations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMD salaries range from $36,000 up to $133,880, with a median of $70,500.

  4. Technical Hazards Program Specialist (THPS)
    While there are variations of this job title, essentially a THPS specializes in nuclear risks and disasters. They oversee nuclear power plants and governmental agencies that build and research nuclear weapons and technology such as Los Alamos, NM. Working under the direction of Homeland Security’s Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program (REP), a THPS designs emergency response plans and evaluates state and federal capabilities to execute plans.

    A THPS can have a background and education in project management, environmental science, hazardous materials, public administration, business, and emergency management. Some states also require specialized certification. While various certifications bring higher salaries, the basic annual pay range is $48,000 and $129,959.

  5. Hospital Emergency Preparedness Administrator (HEPA)
    The demand for qualified HEPA professionals is growing at the same unprecedented rate as the healthcare industry. Job duties include creating prevention and response plans for all types of hospital emergencies including electrical outages, natural disasters, hazardous spills, and hostage situations. Entering the field requires degrees in hospital administration or the healthcare industry (i.e. nursing or emergency medical technology). This field also requires a working knowledge of federal, state, and local regulations.

    A healthcare professional can obtain a degree in emergency management, and an emergency management professional may pursue a degree in hospital administration.This is another career that requires continuing education and training, and HEPAs frequently attend conferences and professional meetings to stay on top of their field. This is also a lucrative profession. With an annual national salary scale of $56,000 to $87,020, HEPAs  in California have the highest earnings, with an average of $87,420.

Comments 1

  • I am 2 months from graduating with a bachelor’s in Crisis and diastee management and would like to put my degree to use. Where should one with no job experience, only military a background start?

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