Exploring roles in emergency management and homeland security

August 23, 2019 · 8 min read · By ASU Online
Emergency management and homeland security are ever-expanding fields. Find out what career opportunities in these field look like.

Emergency management and homeland security are ever-expanding fields crossing multiple professional disciplines and policy domains. They provide challenging career opportunities for those passionate about emergency services assistance, public security and public safety, humanitarian aid for crises and disasters, hazards risk reduction and community resilience promotion. This career profile series will explore some job opportunities available to those looking to help make an impact through public service.

Vulnerability to a wide range of hazards, both naturally occurring and manmade, is increasing in the United States and globally. These risks range from natural hazards, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and snowstorms, to technological hazards, like energy or chemical production, to intentional human-induced hazards, such as acts of terrorism. Each hazard requires varying degrees of strategic intervention and aid in places all over the world.

Thanks in part to the effects of various modes of globalization, the adverse impacts of various hazards and disasters can be compounded, cross national boundaries and have far-reaching and potentially unforeseen effects. Practitioners in emergency management and homeland security have unique responsibilities in addressing potential harms of all sorts and their work is geared toward anticipating and containing risk in order to keep communities and nations safe. Given the diversity of threat and increase in occurrence, the field of emergency management is rapidly growing to meet demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that careers will grow by 6 percent between 2014 and 2024 and further, jobs in the cybersecurity space are projected to grow by 18 percent during the same period.

Three police offices in hazmat suits stand at a scene.

As we look to train and equip the next generation of security and emergency management professionals, innovative programs like the master's in emergency management and homeland security online program at Arizona State University provide a solutions-oriented approach for the mitigation, preparation, response, recovery and management of significant incidents or disasters.

Home to the State of Arizona Alternative Operations Center (EOC), the EMHS graduate-level degree offered by ASU is designed to help students specialize their education in one of four areas - biosecurity & threat management, community resilience, emergency management and homeland security. These distinct focuses train students to deal with today’s real-world challenges as well as provide an advantage to those pursuing careers in a number of different roles including emergency services assistance, humanitarian aid, hazards risk reduction and community advocacy and resilience promotion.

Take a closer look at the opportunities available in the growing field of emergency management and homeland security by exploring five potential career paths that help to make an impact in the lives of individuals around the globe every day.


Emergency response training coordinator

Emergencies can occur in any workplace at any time. Many organizations are choosing to be proactive by hiring professionals that are uniquely trained to prepare for situations that could potentially impact employee safety. Emergency response training coordinators serve by developing custom educational programs to teach employees and decision makers how to act quickly and effectively in a variety of crisis scenarios. From live drills to interactive classes and virtual reality, these training sessions can cover routine safety matters, like how to effectively run a fire drill or communicate company-wide days off in the event of hazardous weather. More complex seminars may detail how to respond to large-scale emergencies, including how to protect employees and the workplace in the event of a natural disaster.

Another emerging issue for certain businesses requires a discrete set of skills in planning for “invisible” hazards, like cybersecurity attacks that can compromise company servers and client data. Due to the increasing technological advancements of threats, not only are jobs in cybersecurity and IT-related fields being incorporated into the emergency management fold, but traditional emergency management and homeland security positions now require more technological and holistic training to prepare for increasingly complex situations.

Demand for these emergency management and homeland security services is growing, as investing in a properly trained staff is much more cost efficient than trying to react to an emergency as it escalates in real time. This is particularly evident in more traditionally high-risk environments such as concert halls, prisons, shopping malls, hospitals and learning centers.


Hospital emergency preparedness specialist

Being equipped to respond effectively and professionally in a hospital emergency room is a standard expectation for those pursuing a career in the medical field, however, the excessive volume of cases encountered during the event of a crisis demands a heightened level of staff expertise and preparedness.

During the hours following an extreme situation like a natural disaster, malicious attack or infectious disease outbreak, multiple victims in need of urgent care are rushed to area hospitals. This situation is among the contingencies that emergency preparedness specialists can help organizations be more adequately prepared to manage as it has the potential to immediately overwhelm a facility’s resources and personnel.

Those working in this role help medical facilities develop operational plans designed for dealing with different challenges resulting from catastrophic events. This can include anything from the logistics of taking in a larger number of patients than normal to expediting blood donations from area residents in order to fulfill supply needs.

In addition to planning for unexpected occurrences, these professionals also work to safeguard hospitals against cyber-based attacks and other similar threats. The wealth of electronic patient records and digital communications can make these facilities a target for hackers. Emergency preparedness specialists can assist key decision makers in addressing risks, installing the right safeguards and coordinating a response in the wake of a breach. From medical service to hospital infrastructure, the emergency specialist role offers the potential to help ensure better safety processes across the healthcare industry.

Public health preparedness specialist

Public health preparedness specialists can serve many different functions in the emergency management field as they work to protect against potentially disastrous health-related threats. Their work isn’t just about planning for hazardous events, but also the care, resources and manpower which are required in the days and weeks that follow a widespread crisis.

The potential aftermath of an emergency situation can often leave residual threats to public health. An example would be disease outbreaks or symptoms of biochemical exposure, which must be contained to minimize the spread of their threat to human life. Access to fresh water, food and other necessities can also result from a natural disaster disrupting supply routes and retail operations. Other potential hazards include toxic fumes and debris released by industrial accidents, or even wildfires resulting from chemical explosions.

Strong planning and communication skills are essential for public health preparedness specialists because they must coordinate with first responders and medical professionals. Additionally, they communicate with the public about what is taking place and develop action plans to help serve the community. Based on qualifications, experience and location, potential employers can include the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state governments, large municipal areas or hospital and healthcare systems.


Homeland security officer

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is an arm of the federal government that helps to protect American citizens from natural disasters, threats to border security, terrorist attacks and other scenarios that can impact national safety. It is currently the third largest cabinet department, with over 240,000 employees reported as of 2017. This department offers a variety of jobs, from entry level to senior, in several disciplines.

Among the broader roles in the department is that of homeland security officer, a role which can handle a variety of functions to provide targeted and swift response in the event of unforeseen emergencies. This officer position also evolves strategies to protect the country against future incidents. Officers not only work in disaster preparedness, emergency response, immigration and travel security, but can also serve in other professions like medicine and law.

Interested in helping secure U.S. borders, working in communities to minimize the effects of natural disasters or responding to terrorist attacks both domestic and abroad? As a homeland security officer, having access to such highly sensitive information requires skills in leadership, communication, problem solving and diplomacy. Applicants to this position are required to undergo a full background investigation, pass a drug screening and be a U.S. citizen.


Disaster recovery specialist

Certain geographic regions have a higher probability for recurring disasters like droughts, snowstorms, hurricanes and earthquakes based on unavoidable environmental and geophysical factors. These natural occurrences have the potential to affect a large percentage of the population and their surroundings, making disaster recovery specialists crucial to helping communities in at-risk areas get the assistance they need in the days and weeks following a catastrophic event.

Among a disaster recovery specialist’s primary duties are identifying hazards, analyzing potential risks and working to minimize any dangers to human life and property. This includes developing strategic plans to safeguard essential public services and educating the community on best practices that can reduce the potential impact brought on by weather-related events and other occurrences.

Many disaster recovery specialists must meet with both the public and the press, making strong verbal and written communication skills essential. Additionally, quick critical thinking and the ability to stay composed while leading diverse teams of individuals under high stress situations is critical. Fortunately, for those inspired to safeguard society, there is a universal need for professionals to organize emergency responder training and develop well-organized strategies for hazard-prone areas of the world.

Learn more about your potential career in emergency management and homeland security.

Pursuing a career in emergency management and homeland security can help you join a community of first-responders, leaders and humanitarians working to keep the nation and the world safe from harm. Careers in this field are more important than ever before. Whether you are interested in becoming an emergency response training coordinator, a disaster recovery specialist or any of the other important roles in this field, you can learn more about developing your qualifications in ASU’s master's in emergency management and homeland security online program — an advanced degree focused on specialized skills for impacting the future of public safety.



An emergency response specialist in a hazmat suit sprays a liquid on a scene.
An ASU student raises their diploma in the air during the convocation ceremony.


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