People employed in the field of emergency management (EM) come from various degrees and experiences. You may be able to secure an entry-level job with an associate’s degree in emergency management, emergency response, or fire science. The courses in this degree introduce terrorism, disaster response, mitigation, recovery, and management. A bachelor’s degree will place you in better stead to obtain work in the field. Because these jobs are competitive, a master’s degree will increase your marketability.

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Job Opportunities

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of 2016, there were 10,100 employed as Emergency Management Directors. This position is higher up the ladder that requires at least an undergraduate degree plus five years or more experience. Those who attain this status have a median income of $72,760 per the BLS.

By perusing jobs sites, such as Indeed, you see numerous postings under a variety of titles and industries. Some of the job titles are Emergency Response Advisor, EM Coordinator, Technician, EM Planner, Consultant, EM Liaison, Preparedness Coordinator, and more. As expected, the required experience mirrors the seniority of the job, as well as the salary. An example is a posting for a Utility Security and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the City of Henderson, Nevada. The salary range is $75,881 to $101,175. Applicants need a Bachelor’s degree in EM, Public or Business Administration, or related field. In addition to a minimum of three years of experience.

What you bring to an interview is crucial to obtaining a job offer. Of course, your degree is paramount. However, there is more to your diploma than the piece of paper presented by an accredited college or university. Whether your degree is in EM, Fire Services, or Public Administration, you need to stress how specific courses relate to the job. What classes apply directly to the responsibilities of the position for which you are interviewing? What you may lack in experience as a recent grad, you overcome this deficit by emphasizing how your education makes you an excellent candidate. One of the critical ingredients of an interview is to sell your abilities.

There are means to gain experience while in school — volunteer to work in public health, project management, fire services, or security. A summer job in any one of these areas is also advantageous. If your city has an emergency management team, then speak to one of their employees — conduct interviews of firefighting personnel and city officials. Some larger college campuses have emergency response and Hazmat departments. Boston University, for example, has an Emergency Management Department (EMD) that oversees and responds to an array of potential threats. Storms, hazardous materials, civil disorder, and fires require immediate action.

Internships are another way to earn valuable experience. Depending on your locale, these may not be accessible for many students. If you are fortunate to have a program in your area, then this experience will pay dividends in an interview. The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) offers students the opportunity to gain real-life experience during their college years. FDEM has a variety of intern positions that will suit students in programs other than EM. Students enrolled in risk management, law, business administration, and communications are eligible.

Acceptance into an intern program, like the one above, will give you the confidence managers look for in potential hires. As an intern, you will network with people in the business who can offer their perspective of EM. These individuals may be a source of interview techniques based on their experience in the situation. Networking is a valuable resource for anyone seeking a job change or entering a profession. You may also ask if you can use someone’s name and credentials as a reference if needed. In general, you should not include references on your resume.

Associations

Regardless of the profession, you can impress during an interview by expressing interest and initiative. In EM, show your enthusiasm by joining organizations, such as a student membership at The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA). It is a professional group for EM directors in all fifty states, District of Columbia, and eight U.S. terrorities. The International Association for Preparedness and Response (DERA), founded in 1962,  is another one to join for only $20. DERA has members worldwide in corporations, government agencies, education, research, and non-profit entities. A third example is a student membership with the International Association of Emergency Managers (iaem). The latter also provides certifications once you gain the necessary experience.

Interviews can be intimidating. Your college courses, internship(s), networking, volunteer work, and memberships have the purpose of impressing throughout your meeting. Consequently, you will have the confidence to express to the employer why he/she should offer you the job.

Additional Resources

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What is the Benefit of a Degree in Fire Science vs. Emergency Management?

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