Career Spotlight: Emergency Management Director

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Emergency management directors are in charge of responding to a range of disasters.

Emergency management directors plan the emergency response to disasters, whether natural or human-caused. The director has responsibility for public safety and must have excellent communication, interpersonal, critical-thinking, decision-making and leadership skills, according to “What Skills are Important to be an Emergency Management Director?” on the Emergency Management Degree Guide.

“In times of disaster, they take control and help expedite plans,” said Dawn M. Shiley, communication manager for the International Association of Emergency Managers in a New York Times interview.

The emergency management director’s responsibilities include organizing response teams and volunteers, maintaining and updating resource materials and preparedness plans, and applying for federal funding when needed. Most work in state or local government, although the private sector also has positions called business continuity manager, according to the job and career search website

Emergency planning has been a profession for decades, but in recent years has become a more formal public administration career path, with colleges and universities now offering undergraduate and graduate degrees and professional certifications.

Earning an online Master of Public Administration with a concentration in crisis and emergency management can help aspiring emergency management directors gain the crisis planning, communication and leadership skills they need to seek top positions.

Emergency Management Director Job Description

An emergency management job description is wide ranging. According to the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), emergency management professionals are those “whose goals are saving lives and protecting property and the environment during emergencies and disasters.”

Typical areas of responsibility include:

  • Crisis Management: Taking the lead during emergencies and disasters to ensure the emergency response runs as seamlessly as possible.
  • Collaboration and Organization: Working with first responders, including the fire department, law enforcement, and government and non-profit organizations before, during and after an emergency.
  • Planning: Preparing extensive plans for a range of scenarios and ensuring that all agencies involved are knowledgeable about processes and procedures to minimize damage and loss of life in a disaster.
  • Research: Investigating outcomes of past natural and human-caused disasters and determining best practices for procedures and response. Must be knowledgeable about the equipment, staff, agencies and resources available to create a comprehensive plan.
  • Training: Keeping all agencies, responders and emergency personnel up to date and conducting emergency training and preparedness drills in a variety of situations. They also organize training sessions for volunteers and staff to ensure they are able to perform their duties during an emergency.
  • Reporting: Assessing the damage after an emergency or disaster and coordinating with nonprofit organizations (such as the American Red Cross) and the government to secure the necessary help and supplies to care for the community. In some cases, emergency directors may need to apply for federal or state assistance.

In addition to planning, training and collaboration, emergency management directors must have strong leadership skills because they will be the ones in charge during an emergency, according to

Steps to Become an Emergency Management Director

Many emergency management directors have at least five years’ experience in fire safety, law enforcement or similar emergency response fields, either as volunteers or professionals.

Typically, emergency management directors have a bachelor’s degree in emergency management, crisis response and management, or public affairs, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management. Many emergency directors also earn professional certifications from organizations such as the IAEM. Larger state and local government agencies may require a postgraduate degree like Ohio University’s online Master of Public Administration.

Emergency Management Director Salary and Career Outlook

As of 2018, the median salary for emergency management directors was $72,760, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The lowest 10% earned less than $40,460, and the highest 10% earned more than $141,130. Career Profile notes a top salary of $182,000.

Employment for this career segment is projected to grow 5% from 2018 to 2028, which is on par with the average for all occupations, according to the BLS.

About Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Online Master of Public Administration Program

Ohio University’s online Master of Public Administration helps graduates prepare for a variety of leadership careers in the public sector, including emergency management director. The program was recently ranked No. 12 in the SR Education Group’s 2019 ranking of the Best Online Colleges Offering MPA Programs. In addition, the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs is also ranked 68th in U.S. News & World Report’s top public affairs schools.

Coursework for the program includes organizational leadership, public budgeting, and foundations of public administration. Coursework in the crisis and emergency management concentration includes crisis collaboration and crisis leadership. For more information, contact Ohio University today.

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Webinar: MPA State and Local Government Management

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What Skills are Important to be an Emergency Management Director?: The Emergency Management Degree Guide

Ready for Anything (That’s Their Job): The New York Times

Emergency Management Director: Career Profiles

About IEMA: International Association of Emergency Managers

Job Duties and Tasks for: “Emergency Management Director”: Career Planner

Overview: National Emergency Management Association

How to Become an Emergency Management Director: CollegeGrad

Facilities and Security Management: Office of Personnel Management

Occupational Outlook: Bureau of Labor Statistics