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Emergency Management Directors oversee emergency planning and processes to reduce health risks during urgent situations, such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, disease breakouts, and other situations. Unlike other public health workers who focus on research and education, these professionals plan for acute and long-term responses to immediate health threats and concerns. After an emergency situation occurs, these employees analyze current data and adapt responses to further reduce population risks.

  • National Average Salary

  • Top Paying States

    • $97,450 California
    • $83,460 Florida
    • $83,100 New Jersey
  • Number Employed

  • States with Highest Employment

    • 780 California
    • 680 Texas
    • 470 Pennsylvania

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Getting Started

Working in Emergency Management


Most entry-level roles in emergency management can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree. However, if you plan on specializing in vaccine research, clinical treatment, public policy administration, bioterrorism, or some of the other specialities explored later in this guide, then you will most likely need to pursue a master’s degree or higher. These advanced roles often place an emphasis on lab research and scientific expertise.

Work Experience

Generally, you need to gain multiple years of experience in high-stress jobs in law enforcement, fire safety, and medicine before you can become an emergency management director. These roles help prepare you to react efficiently during a crisis situation where quick decisions need to be made for communities and large-scale populations. A thorough understanding of the populations you’re working with is preferred.


Emergency Response Specialist

These specialists respond to environmental situations that pose great risk to the human populations and natural resources. Individuals in this profession are typically employed by the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard, or other federal agencies.

Main Responsibilities

  • Assess radiological leaks, oil spills, disease epidemics, and other disasters of that magnitude
  • Establish a temporary infrastructure to address localized impacts of the disaster, such as human health, public safety, and damaged or destroyed resources.
  • Collaborate with interagency counterparts to create and execute a streamlined disaster mitigation strategy

Additional Requirements

Environmental health emergency response specialists may be required to receive certain certifications, depending on their specialization. Wildland firefighters, for instance, must take a series of courses and tests in order to earn their Type I and Type II certifications; a physical examination, endurance test, and CPR certification are also required. Those who work with radioactive, toxic, or otherwise dangerous materials may be required to obtain a hazardous materials certificate (which are typically awarded at the state level).

Disease Preparedness Researcher

These emergency management professionals dedicate their lab research to forecasting potential outbreaks and vaccine resistance, or studying data from current emergencies. They often work in government agency laboratories or at academic institutions.

Main Responsibilities

  • Analysing and testing strains of infectious diseases.
  • Identifying modes of transmission and vaccine resistance.
  • Working with government agencies to contain or prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Additional Requirements

This specialization has no additional requirements.

Bioterrorism Researcher

These scientists research biological weapon release mechanisms and effects in order to prepare for possible terrorist threats that use diseases, toxins, and other harmful biological substances. They help national security organizations plan emergency procedures in the event of a bioterrorist attack.

Main Responsibilities

  • Identifying and testing potential bioterrorism agents in the laboratory.
  • Working with policy makers to discuss possible threats and outcomes.
  • Educating law enforcement and public safety workers on bioterrorism safety procedures.

Additional Requirements

This specialization has no additional requirements.


  • Emergency Management Interns

    Partner with emergency response staff in the City of Nashua in New Hampshire to gain relevant work experience during or after college.

    Eligibility: Undergraduate or graduate students in any degree field or recent graduates.

    Terms of Service: During the three-month internship, participants will be expected to perform duties such as creating public awareness materials, attending training programs, working as a liaison between health agencies, and assisting during emergency response procedures.

    Deadline: Rolling, open application period

  • Boulder Office of Emergency Management Internship Program

    Students get the exciting opportunity to partner with BOEM staff members on emergency management projects and design educational emergency curricula.

    Eligibility: Available to undergraduate and grad students enrolled in a broad range of academic programs, including emergency management.

    Terms of Service: Participants must commit 12-20 hours a week to their internship duties during traditional work hours (8 am – 5 pm on Monday through Friday).

    Deadline: Rolling, open application period

  • Comprehensive Student Internship Program

    The Virginia Department of Emergency Management offers students the opportunity to apply for three different internship roles: project-based, specialized skill-based training, or an observational internship.

    Eligibility: Undergraduate and graduate students who have completed IS I and IS 230 FEMA courses on emergency management fundamental.

    Terms of Service: Duration and responsibilities will vary based on the type of internship. All duties will be performed at the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Center.

    Deadline: Rolling, open application period

  • Seminole County Public Safety Internship

    This is another internship opportunity based in Florida, which will help students gain broad communications and advocacy experience by working with multiple local organizations in Seminole County.

    Eligibility: Students and recent emergency management graduates.

    Terms of Service: Students will be expected to complete FEMA Professional Development training, act as a liaison between emergency organizations, and coordinate events for local agencies over the three-month internship.

    Deadline: Rolling, open application period

  • Emergency Management Internship Program

    The Florida Division of Emergency Management provides students with flexible internship schedules so that they can gain hands-on experience with crisis management projects.

    Eligibility: Students with a background in emergency management who are enrolled in an accredited academic institution at any academic level.

    Terms of Service: Students must be able to contribute at least 15 hours a week to their internship duties, which are based in the state of Florida.

    Deadline: Rolling, open application period