Emergency management directors salary & career outlook

When disaster strikes, communities look to crisis management professionals for safety and relief. Emergency management directors should be trained to provide that support, a role that requires a great deal of skill and leadership. With the right education, you could become one of them, but first it is important to understand what, precisely, these professionals do.

What emergency management directors do

Emergency management directors plan and oversee crisis response and management for a range of potential disasters, from natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes to technological disasters, like energy black outs or even war. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), emergency management directors can work at any level -- from local to international -- and may at times coordinate efforts with other emergency response personnel, government officials or departments, or relief organizations like the Red Cross.

Whatever the scope of their responsibilities or the size of their coalitions, emergency management directors share the same goals: to prepare for the unexpected and to see potential victims to safety. In a special report titled "Careers in homeland security," the BLS (BLS.gov, 2006) notes that these duties require strong management, leadership and people skills. Other, less innate skills are often gained on the job or through formal training via emergency management director schools.

How to become an emergency management director

While there is no specific credential requirement for emergency management directors, most receive some type of formal training. According to the BLS (BLS.gov), many of these professionals earn specialized bachelor's degrees through emergency management director schools, though degrees in related fields may suffice. The BLS reports that some emergency management directors also choose to complete additional certification programs, such as the Certified Emergency Manager program offered through the International Association of Emergency Managers. Such credentials are usually voluntary, but demonstrate further proficiency in the field. In some cases students can complete at least some of their emergency management director training online. This flexibility of these online programs can be particularly helpful to those already working in the field who want to advance their education without leaving their jobs.

Formal credentials of any type -- degrees or professional certifications -- may do more than offer emergency management professionals with a foothold into the field: According to report from the BLS (BLS.gov, 2011), employment and earnings potential tend to increase with education. A number of other factors can influence earnings, however, so it is wise to do your research before setting expectations.

Emergency management director salary trends

Emergency management directors hold leadership positions, so salaries tend to reflect that. According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2011), the national median emergency management director salary in 2011 was $57,270, with the bottom 10 percent of earners making up to $29,300 annually and the top 10 percent of earners making $101,630 or more that year. Salaries vary significantly from one position or industry to the next, however. For instance, the BLS reports that the following industries tended to pay the most nationally in 2011:

  • Scientific research and development services ($88,220 mean)
  • Waste treatment and disposal ($85,510 mean)
  • Management of companies and enterprises ($82,760 mean)

Location can also impact your earnings. According to the BLS, the following states offered the highest mean emergency management director salaries in 2011:

  • California ($91,030 mean)
  • Virginia ($77,030 mean)
  • Maryland ($73,390 mean)

Keep in mind that experience can impact earnings tremendously, too, whether through logging hours in the field or through formal emergency management director schools. Additional training and experience may improve your career outlook along with your paycheck.

Career outlook for emergency management directors

The career outlook for emergency management directors is expected to remain stable, growing at a moderate pace. The BLS projects that positions among these professionals will grow by 13 percent between 2010 and 2020, or about average compared to all occupations. Of course, like earnings, location can have a major impact on your employment potential. With that in mind, the U.S. Department of Labor (careerinfonet.org) projects that positions among emergency management directors will grow the fastest in the following states:

  • Virginia (37 percent)
  • Utah (36 percent)
  • Texas (31 percent)

Once again, the right education can go a long way toward improving your employment stock, no matter where you live. It's a good idea to research a number of programs to ensure you find one that suits both your goals and your personal learning style.