Emergency Management: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Emergency Management: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Emergency Management

Emergency Management can be broadly defined as applying science, technology, planning, and management to prevent and respond to extreme events. These events can be natural disasters, technological disasters, or terrorist attacks. The field is closely tied to both Environmental Health & Safety and Environmental Management. Emergency Management, though, focuses exclusively on prevention and response to disasters - catastrophic events that cause harm to people, property, and/or the environment.

Emergency Management is perhaps more important today than it is ever has been. Humans increasingly come in closer and closer contact to environments and technologies that are inherently dangerous, and this increases the likelihood of catastrophic events occurring. People may choose to build their homes in the paths of hurricanes, for example, or where forest fires are a frequent occurrence. It is important to note, however, that disasters can strike anyone at any time. This is especially true of terrorist attacks.

The Academic Requirements

Emergency Management certificates are available at many colleges, universities and training centers. A few schools offer Bachelor's degrees in EM. Students learn about the underlying causes of disasters and how they can be prevented or prepared for. Some science and policy courses should be expected, and courses in Environmental Health and Environmental Management are usually part of any Emergency Management degree or certificate program. Disaster mitigation is also an important part of Emergency Management.

If possible, students should try to participate in an internship to gain hands-on experience in the field. Internships may be available at your city, county or state emergency management center, or on the Federal level. Internships with non-profit and for-profit private groups can also be a valuable experience.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Environmental Regulations and Laws
  • Environmental Sampling and Statistics
  • Industrial Hygiene and OSHA Standards
  • Management of Safety & Health Problems
  • Disaster Preparedness Response
  • Hazardous Materials Management & Mitigation
  • Terrorism and Emergency Management
  • Environmental Geology
  • Maps & Map Reading
  • Society & Collective Behavior
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Coastal Geology

Professional Outlook

Emergency Managers fill many roles. They help to educate people, businesses and governments about how to prepare for natural disasters, how to prevent technological disasters, and how to respond to potential terrorist attacks. They also help coordinate rescue efforts and emergency care for those hit by disasters. Managers with environmental health training educate people about environmental health threats and help in disaster response. Areas where these specialists may work include prevention and response to:

  • Terrorism attacks that release biological, chemical or otherwise threatening agents
  • Natural disasters that release harmful agents. For example, earthquakes that produce airborne particles and disrupt the supply of clean water.
  • Technological disasters, such as at a chemical or nuclear facility, or involving the accidental release of harmful agents.

Emergency Managers who are called in to help respond to a disaster may be exposed to harmful conditions, even when precautions are taken. They may have to work long hours, and they are often exposed to the psychological stress of helping others deal with a disaster. Important skills for Emergency Managers include cooperation, the ability to lead groups of professionals and non-professionals, the ability to make quick, competent decisions, and compassion and a desire to help others.

Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Emergency Management:


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