The emergency management field is all about preparing for and trying to mitigate the damage caused by disasters—whether they are natural (hurricanes, earthquakes), man-made (war, hostage situations), or technological (nuclear power plant failures, cyber threats).

Emergency management professionals plan for and execute recovery efforts to help the community, people, and businesses affected.


Why You Might Like a Career in Emergency Management

Whether you’re a people-person who enjoys lots of interaction and communication, someone who feels more comfortable working independently behind a computer, or a hands-on worker willing to do tough jobs out in the field, emergency management is a field with a variety of on-the-job experiences.

That said, many people who work in emergency management have something in common: a desire to help people and communities in crisis.


Careers to Explore in Emergency Management

The following positions* are common in the field of emergency management, although specific job titles may vary. The nuances of these positions may also change depending on employment setting or employer.

*These are examples intended to serve as a general guide. Some positions may prefer or even require previous experience, licensure, certifications, and/or other designations along with a degree. Because many factors determine what position an individual may attain, Capella cannot guarantee that a graduate will secure any specific job title, a promotion, salary increase, or other career outcome. We encourage you to research requirements for your job target and career goals.

Emergency management specialist

  • EDUCATION: Emergency management certification or a bachelor’s degree, plus field experience depending on the position.
    • Coordinate disaster response or crisis management activities
    • Train teams on disaster preparedness best practices and plans
    • Create or contribute to emergency response plans and procedures for natural, man-made, or technological disasters
    • Research and evaluate disaster response activities or best practices
  • EMPLOYMENT SETTINGS: Federal or local government agencies, corporations/businesses

Emergency management director

  • EDUCATION: A master’s degree in emergency management typically preferred for this leadership position. A terminal degree may be required for executive positions. Field experience varies by position.
    • Lead the team/department in charge of disaster response or crisis management for an organization or municipality
    • Direct disaster response or crisis management activities
    • Provide or coordinate disaster preparedness training
    • Manage the creation and strategy of emergency response plans and procedures for natural, man-made, or technological disasters
  • EMPLOYMENT SETTINGS: Federal or local government agencies, corporations/businesses

Emergency management faculty (full-time, part-time, or adjunct)

  • EDUCATION: A doctoral degree in emergency management is typically required for faculty positions at research universities. A master’s degree plus field experience is more typically the minimum required at a teaching college.
    • Demonstrate subject matter expertise of course and program theories and practices
    • Plan and provide educational services (syllabi, lectures, assignments, learning materials) to degree and certificate students
    • Ensure that students receive quality educational experiences consistent with the expected course outcomes, program accreditation, and industry standards
    • Measure student performance and provide feedback/grades
    • Take on other essential duties as needed to assist the department, school, or university
    • Lead or participate in research studies
  • EMPLOYMENT SETTINGS: Colleges and universities


Employment Settings to Explore in Emergency Management

Emergency management professionals are needed in a variety of settings all across the country.

  • Federal government – Specific agencies include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its supervising agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • Local government – Every state, country, and city has an emergency management division. Smaller towns may just have one person in charge of all emergency management planning and operations, whereas larger cities have fully staffed departments.
  • Corporations/businesses – Most larger companies will have an emergency response or assets protection division dedicated to planning and preparing for how a crisis will affect their business operations. This team will assemble and respond to help their employers, customers, and affected communities as needed.
  • Colleges and universities – Education in emergency management is a growing field in need of qualified faculty members to teach future emergency management professionals. Research universities also need faculty to grow and adapt theory and best practices for this ever-evolving industry.


The field of emergency management is constantly changing because society is always changing. The bigger and more complex our infrastructures, communities, and businesses get—the more challenges we face when natural disasters strike. You can expect a career in emergency management to grow and change and respond to meet those challenges.


Whatever field or position you decide to pursue in emergency management, your desire to help people and communities plan for and recover from crisis will be appreciated and needed. Consider taking the first steps towards a rewarding career in emergency management.


Learn about online degrees in Emergency Management at Capella University, including the Master of Science in Emergency Management, the Doctor of Emergency Management, and the Doctor of Philosophy in Emergency Management.