The growing threat of natural disasters, political instability, acts of terrorism and other potential catastrophes is sparking demand for emergency managers worldwide.
The field of emergency management focusses on predicting likely disasters, planning response procedures, minimizing risk, and organizing swift recovery.
We’re seeing growth in this industry across almost every sector of the economy—from healthcare and law enforcement, to manufacturing, big business, and all levels of government.
Some professionals are looking to complement their existing skillset by certifying as an emergency manager. Others are planning to specialize in emergency management, and take on leadership roles in disaster prevention, response, and recovery.
How exactly do you start a career in emergency management? What training and skills do you need to enter this field?
In this post, we’ll walk you through the education and attributes today’s employers are looking for.
Emergency Manager Training: Degrees, Diplomas & Certificates
If you’re planning a career as an emergency manager, director, or analyst, your first step is probably a Bachelor’s degree. Many professionals in this role have degrees in public policy, business, finance, emergency management, or public health.
Some emergency managers working in the private sector have backgrounds in computer science and technology.
The bottom line? A university education is a common prerequisite for management-level jobs in this field, plus several years of experience in a related role.
The exception? Some smaller companies and government agencies will hire emergency managers who have a diploma or certificate in emergency management. They may also consider candidates with proven track records in related fields (public safety, for example).
There are many post-secondary training options available in this industry, including:
- Emergency Management degrees (Bachelor’s and Master’s programs)
- Graduate diplomas (for those who already have a Bachelor's degree)
- Technical diplomas (for those with a high school education)
- Professional certificates (for those who are already working in a related field, such as healthcare, public safety, business management, or human resources)
Many schools offer online emergency management courses, diplomas, and certificates—and quite a few allow for part-time, flexible study.
Respected Certifications in Emergency & Disaster Management
Certification in this industry is voluntary...which means there is no governing body or legislation that says you must get certified to become an emergency manager.
That being said, there are certain certifications that are widely respected by employers, and will give you a competitive edge while building your career in this field. Some companies prefer, and even require certification.
The Certified Emergency Manager designation is the nationally and internationally recognized professional certification for emergency managers. It is delivered by the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM).
The IAEM offers 2 levels of certification.
Entry Level: Associate Emergency Manager (AEM®)
- Requires 200 hours of training
- Application essay
- Grade of 75% or higher on a certification exam
Advanced Level: Certified Emergency Manager (CEM®)
- Requires a university degree (specific requirements vary by country, see details here)
- 3 years emergency management work history
- Participation in a full scale exercise that covers all phases of emergency management
- 6 separate contributions to the profession (speaking engagements, published articles, serving on volunteer boards or committees, etc.)
- Application essay
These designations set the standard for emergency manager training and professionalism, all across the globe.
Important: If you’re a beginner pursuing emergency manager training, make sure the program you choose meets the educational requirements for the Associate Emergency Manager (AEM) Certification exam.
Essential Skills for Emergency Managers
In addition to relevant credentials and experience, what attributes are employers looking for in emergency management professionals? What core talents should you possess to consider entering this field?
Some of the most important skills for emergency managers include:
Excellent verbal and written communication skills, to develop and share emergency preparedness strategies (and deliver training programs).
Leadership and decision-making skills, to rally groups during an emergency and take decisive action while under pressure.
Critical thinking skills, to analyze risk and create effective contingency plans.
Technology skills, to utilize information databases, emergency response systems, etc.
Finding the Right Emergency Manager Training
Many professionals come to the field of emergency management from other, related career paths. Common pathways include law enforcement and other first responders, human resources, healthcare, and other emergency services roles.
You don’t necessarily need a degree in disaster management to qualify for positions in the private and public sectors. A combination of related experience, and a continuing education diploma or certificate, can open doors to AEM® certification—and launch your career.
Not sure what kind of training program is right for you? Find out if you’re a good fit for the Emergency and Disaster Management Certificate offered by Kompass Professional Development.
Training is delivered entirely online, in a flexible format that fits around your schedule. Every student receives step-by-step support from the instructor, and has up to 6 months to complete the program.
Click below to browse the Emergency Management certificate for yourself. See admission requirements, a detailed course list, and chat live with an Admissions Advisor. We’re here to help!