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Emergency Management Directors

At a Glance

  • Decide the best way to respond to natural, technological, and wartime disasters
  • Have strong analytical and communication skills
  • Are greatly responsible for the health and safety of the public
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • Typically have years of experience in the field
  • Often work for local, state, and federal governments

Career summary

Emergency management directors plan and coordinate plans to respond to natural, wartime, and technological disasters.

#checked 3/13/19 lh

Emergency management directors create and execute responses to disasters. Emergency management involves 4 phases:


The goal of mitigation planning is to prevent disasters or at least reduce their effects. This phase focuses on long-term measures for reducing or eliminating risk.


In the preparedness phase, emergency management directors develop plans of action for when a disaster strikes.


The response phase includes getting emergency services and first responders to the disaster area.


The last phase is recovery. The goal of this phase is to restore the affected area to its previous state. Recovery efforts focus on rebuilding destroyed property and getting people back to work.

Emergency management directors create response plans that outline what to do in the event of emergency. These plans are detailed and follow different laws and regulations. These plans include the:

Emergency management directors often run tests of simulated emergencies to make sure that everyone knows their role and how to respond. They inspect facilities to make sure they are maintaining important equipment. They finalize plans and make sure that the plans are distributed, maintained, and updated as needed.

Emergency management directors educate community groups and the public on how to respond to emergencies. They provide trainings and direct public education efforts. They stay up to date on their skills and knowledge by attending conferences and meetings.

Related careers

This career is part of the Government and Public Administration cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to emergency management directors.

Common work activities

Emergency management directors perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, emergency management directors:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Emergency management directors frequently:

It is important for emergency management directors to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for emergency management directors to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Emergency management directors need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an emergency management director, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Many emergency management directors have at least a bachelor's degree. Some have worked or are working for local, state, and federal government agencies. While there is no major or specific training for this field, degrees in political science, public administration, sociology, or business may help.

Work experience

While education is important for this occupation, work experience is just as important. You can prepare for this occupation in many different ways. Most emergency management directors gain experience in the type of company or organization that they want to manage. For example, directors working for the federal government often begin as program coordinators or managers in the same or similar department. Often, they gain experience by working on projects that plan how to respond to a natural disaster, for example.

It is typical for directors to have at least five years of work experience before they move into this position.

On-the-job training

Few emergency management directors receive training on the job. Employers hire experienced, proven directors, or promote experienced lower-level managers and employees in related fields.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be emergency management specialists or officers. For specialists, training lasts from eight to ten weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

You need a bachelor's degree before you can enter the emergency management officer military occupation. Training lasts two to nine weeks and you receive additional training on the job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most directors are hired for their knowledge of the organization and for their previous work experience. They are usually recognized as experts in their field. They also are recognized for their previous performance at another job. For example, someone who has managed disaster relief projects for a state government may advance to a regional or federal position.

In addition, emergency management directors must have a mind that can quickly assess a situation and decide the best way to handle it. They must be able to figure out what information is most important and how it affects others. In addition, directors must be able to communicate clearly and be able to convince others of their ideas.

Costs to workers

Workers who join a professional association may pay a membership fee and annual dues.


Some states require directors to be certified within a certain timeframe after being hired in the position. Requirements vary by state.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Emergency management directors (SOC 11-9161)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $33.27 $41.08 $51.81 $69.05 $78.85
Monthly $5,766 $7,119 $8,979 $11,966 $13,665
Yearly $69,200 $85,450 $107,760 $143,630 $164,010
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $34.17 $42.49 $52.65 $70.65 $79.50
Monthly $5,922 $7,364 $9,124 $12,244 $13,777
Yearly $71,071 $88,364 $109,509 $146,964 $165,357
    Vancouver Hourly $28.84 $36.71 $45.34 $58.30 $73.79
Monthly $4,998 $6,362 $7,857 $10,103 $12,788
Yearly $59,989 $76,349 $94,302 $121,268 $153,482
United States Hourly $19.45 $25.76 $35.78 $50.39 $67.85
Monthly $3,371 $4,464 $6,201 $8,733 $11,758
Yearly $40,460 $53,580 $74,420 $104,800 $141,130

(1) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary among agencies and by area of the country. Wages also vary based on the director's level of education and responsibility.

Most full-time emergency management directors receive benefits. These include vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. They may also receive a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Emergency management directors (SOC 11-9161)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 119 10.9% 16.1% 12
    Benton and Franklin Counties 16 0.0% 15.0% 1
    King County 49 10.2% 19.6% 4
    Pierce County 13 15.4% 15.2% 1
    Snohomish County 14 7.1% 12.4% 1
United States 9,900 5.1% 5.2% 900

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will remain steady as more powerful storms hit our coasts, especially those near large metropolitan areas. Demand for this occupation will be very high in hospitals and schools to help them prepare for natural disasters. Growth will also be high in consulting services.

Budget cuts by governments will limit job openings. Competition for jobs will be strong. Some job openings will occur as people retire.

Other resources

American Meteorological Society (external link)
45 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
International Association of Emergency Managers (external link)
201 Park Washington Court
Falls Church, VA 22046
National Emergency Management Association (external link)
1776 Avenue of the States
Lexington, KY 40511
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (external link)
1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 5128
Washington, DC 20230
Washington State Emergency Management Association (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

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