Studying Emergency Management: Degrees at a Glance
While an associate degree in emergency management can prepare you to work as a paramedic or emergency management planner, a bachelor's degree can prepare you for a more advanced position, such as emergency management director. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of emergency management directors is predicted to grow about 13%, or as fast as average, over the 2019-2020 decade (www.bls.gov).
Those interested in a career in this competitive field will need to have a clean criminal record, complete the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)'s National Incident Management System (NIMS) courses and have excellent communication skills and professional presentation. Coursework preparing students for a career in emergency management may be used to gain an edge in other related fields as well.
|Who is this degree for?||Those interested in a career in emergency management or related fields||Those interested in advancing to leadership positions in emergency management|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary)|| - Firefighter ($45,000)*|
- Paramedic ($31,000 - with additional EMT training)*
- Emergency planner (salary unavailable)
| - Emergency management director ($57,000)*|
- Training manager ($92,000 - pay estimated across all industries - requires additional work experience)*
|Time to Completion||2 years full-time||4 years full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - Usually 24 courses |
- Some programs may require an internship
| - Approximately 48 courses|
- Some programs may require capstone project or internship
|Prerequisites|| - High school diploma |
- Clean criminal record
|Same as associate degree|
|Online Availability||Yes||Some hybrid and online programs available|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Associate Degree in Emergency Management
An associate degree in emergency management can be ideal for both students looking to enter into the career field and professionals looking for credentials to strengthen their resumes. The knowledge provided by these programs may also be used in applying to positions in related fields, including a number of emergency response professions. Some of these professions may require further training, either in advance or on the job.
Pros and Cons
- An associate degree in emergency management, combined with work or even volunteer experience, can provide entry into the emergency management field.
- Many industries are turning their attention to emergency management and hiring specialists to create business continuity plans.
- The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) provides networking opportunities (iaem.com) and a measure of professional recognition for accomplishments.
- Emergency management programs are available at all levels of education, so competition for positions with an associate degree may prove difficult.
- Students may need to take hands-on training opportunities, whether through internships or volunteer positions, to strengthen their applications when seeking emergency management positions.
- As many roles are not clearly defined in this new field, students may need to diversify their training beyond emergency management in order to fit organizational needs.
Courses and Requirements
In addition to the relevant FEMA courses, which do not usually count as credit in an educational program, associate degree students may take courses covering topics like the following:
- Emergency management planning
- Sociology of disasters
- Public policy in emergency management
- Public education and emergency preparedness
- Business and industry contingency and disaster planning
- Organizational training
- Leadership theory
Wholly online associate degree programs in the field of emergency response management do exist. Students may benefit from examining the accreditation of online programs to make certain that they are applicable in their geographical region. Additionally, FEMA provides online courses for training purposes.
Stand Out with This Degree
Internships, volunteer opportunities and career networking are all ways to help yourself stand out in this competitive field. Internships may be found through the associate program, or otherwise sought out by the student. Similarly, volunteer opportunities in emergency management and related fields can bolster educational achievements with practical experience. Taking part in professional organizations and getting to know local professionals in the emergency management field will both be of assistance when it is time for the job hunt.
Bachelor's Degree in Emergency Management
Bachelor's programs in emergency management take a more in-depth look at the same topics as those covered in associate degree programs. In some cases, they go beyond the immediate response, look at causes and try to answer bigger-picture questions. For example, courses may explore the causes of terrorism and the social effects of disasters. The bachelor's degree program thus goes further in understanding not just the immediate emergency, but also the context in which it occurs.
Pros and Cons
- A bachelor's degree in emergency management may provide a leg up for those seeking to move into supervisory positions in the field.
- Many bachelor's degree programs in emergency management also contain business courses or even academy training, which can help students meet job requirements.
- A bachelor's degree is often the minimum educational requirement for federal service.
- A bachelor's degree is a serious commitment both in terms of time and money, and positions are not guaranteed on graduation.
- Emergency management positions combine skills and knowledge, so students must take their own time to volunteer for activities that will develop their credentials.
- Emergency management is just beginning to embrace diversity values.
Courses and Requirements
Bachelor's degrees in emergency management cover a broad variety of topics, from dealing with hazardous waste to navigating bureaucracy. Issues concerning homeland security may be addressed as well, though much of these programs are designed around building a thorough understanding of the systems in place for emergency response. Additionally, students develop skills in planning for disasters, implementing those plans and leading others in appropriate and necessary responses. As bachelor's degree programs commonly promote critical thinking skills, the social context of emergency response is examined, providing depth and background for forming and explaining response plans.
In addition to the FEMA courses mentioned above, there are schools that offer hybrid online-classroom programs or completely online programs in emergency management. Students may seek out these programs to see if they satisfy their career needs.
Stand Out with This Degree
In order to stand out with this degree, students should combine their classroom knowledge with hands-on skills and experience. Additionally, they may seek out both networking opportunities and mentors both within their programs and communities. Volunteering both in emergency management and related areas may help strengthen job applications in a competitive market.