Emergency management jobs and homeland security careers

January 30, 2024 · 8 min read · By ASU Online
Careers in emergency management and homeland security offer challenges for those interested in public security and disaster relief. Learn more about in-demand jobs and the online master's degree that teaches you the skills needed to work in this critical field.

Vulnerability to a wide range of hazards is increasing in the U.S. and globally. These risks range from natural hazards, such as earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and snowstorms, to man-made dangers like energy or chemical production and acts of terrorism. Each hazard requires varying degrees of strategic intervention and aid.

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 those risks to keep communities and nations safe. Given the diversity of threats and increase in occurrence, the field of emergency management is growing to meet demand.

Take a closer look at some of the opportunities available in the field of emergency management and homeland security by exploring eight potential career paths that can help you make an impact locally in your community, nationally or globally.


Emergency management jobs

  • Emergency response training coordinator

Emergencies can occur in any place at any time, even at work. Many organizations are choosing to be proactive by hiring professionals who are uniquely trained to prepare for situations that can potentially impact employee safety. Emergency response training coordinators develop 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 run an effective 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.

Demand for these emergency management and homeland security services is growing, as investing in properly trained staff is much more cost efficient than reacting to an emergency as it escalates in real time. This is particularly evident in traditional 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 a health crisis, natural disaster or emergency event demands a heightened level of staff expertise and preparedness. Emergency preparedness specialists can help organizations be more adequately prepared to manage, as it has the potential to immediately overwhelm personnel and quickly drain resources.

Those working in this emergency management job help medical facilities develop operational plans designed for dealing with different challenges resulting from catastrophic events. In addition to planning for unexpected occurrences, these professionals also work to safeguard hospitals against cyberattacks and other similar threats. The vast amount of electronic patient records and digital communications can make these facilities targets 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 services to hospital infrastructure, the emergency specialist role can assist in efforts to ensure better safety processes across the health care industry.

  • Emergency manager

Emergency managers are responsible for planning and addressing large-scale hazards across all sectors, from the government realm to private industry. Most emergency managers spend their time developing contingency plans and communications workflows that they can put into action as soon as an adverse natural or man-made event unfolds. These professionals leverage a variety of techniques and tools to continually assess risk and pinpoint potential hazards. Additionally, emergency managers work to secure support and funding for their efforts by lobbying their respective government and organizational leaders.

Emergency managers typically have broad technical expertise, which encompasses everything from responding to natural disasters to containing data breaches and mitigating information loss. The skills needed to succeed in this role include communication, critical thinking and the ability to foster and maintain collaborative relationships with others. Of course, leadership capabilities are often required, as emergency managers must be prepared to coordinate and lead in challenging environments of all kinds.

  • Public health preparedness specialist

Public health preparedness specialists can serve many different functions in the emergency management field as they work to protect against disastrous health-related threats. Their work is not just about planning for hazardous events but also the medical care, resources and manpower required in the days and weeks following a widespread crisis.

Strong planning and communication skills are essential for public health preparedness specialists because they must coordinate with first responders and medical professionals. Additionally, the people in these emergency management jobs 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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state governments, large municipal areas or hospital and health care systems.

Emergency paramedics discuss a patient who is on a stretcher.
  • Disaster recovery specialist

Certain geographic regions have a higher probability for recurring disasters like droughts, snowstorms, hurricanes and earthquakes based on known environmental and geophysical factors. These natural occurrences can affect a large percentage of the population and their surroundings, making disaster recovery specialists critical in helping at-risk communities 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 minimize the potential impact brought on by weather-related events and other occurrences.

Many in this emergency management job meet with 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 key.

  • Compliance manager

Various federal, state and municipal regulations dictate how government agencies and private enterprises prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters. Compliance managers continually review all emergency prevention and response processes to ensure the procedures meet the requirements governments and business partners impose. Most accomplish this goal by inspecting relevant operational functions and processes and measuring them against external stipulations. This work has an immense impact on employees, customers and organizational finances, making the position popular across multiple sectors.

The role of compliance manager requires specialized emergency management knowledge, as well as innate characteristics such as attention to detail, persistence and industry-specific expertise. Compliance managers working within oil and gas companies, for instance, must understand how pipelines and other mission-critical pieces of industrial infrastructure work to effectively ensure the emergency processes under their purview meet expectations.


Homeland security careers

  • Homeland security officer

The U.S. The 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 impact national safety. It is currently the third largest cabinet department, with over 240,000 employees reported as of 2017. It offers a variety of jobs, from entry-level to senior, in several disciplines.

Among the broader homeland security careers 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 position also develops strategies to protect the country against future incidents. These professionals not only work in disaster preparedness, emergency response, immigration and transportation security but can also serve in other sectors like medicine and law. This homeland security career requires leadership, communication, problem-solving and diplomacy skills. Due to the sensitive nature of the job, applicants are required to undergo a full background investigation, pass a drug screening and have U.S. citizenship.

  • Cybersecurity specialist

Cybersecurity specialist is an in-demand and challenging homeland security career option in today's world. These professionals are responsible for protecting organizations and individuals from online threats such as hacking, data breaches and cyber attacks. A cybersecurity specialist plays a crucial role in safeguarding sensitive information and ensuring the integrity of computer systems for government agencies.

Keeping up to date with the latest security threats and trends is also crucial for success in this field. Communication and collaboration skills are also valuable assets, as cybersecurity specialists often work with cross-functional teams to implement and maintain security measures. This career requires a strong foundation in computer science, programming and networking. Cybersecurity specialists need to have strong analytical skills, problem-solving abilities and the ability to work under pressure. Familiarity with various security tools and technologies is also important, as well as a strong understanding of security policies, protocols and data privacy laws.


Earn your online master's in emergency management and homeland security from Arizona State University

Pursuing emergency management and homeland security careers can help you join a community of first-responders, leaders and humanitarians working to keep the nation and the world safe from harm. ASU Online’s Master of Arts in emergency management and homeland security offers an interdisciplinary approach for learning about the mitigation, preparation, response, recovery and management of significant incidents or disasters.

Additionally, you may choose to enroll in one of five concentrations for this master’s program, each focused on a particular aspect of homeland security or emergency management:

These degree concentrations can prepare you to address real-world challenges and provide you the knowledge you need to pursue emergency management jobs and homeland security careers.

ASU Online also offers a graduate certificate in homeland security, consisting of six courses for a total of 18 credit hours. This certificate prepares graduate students in criminology and criminal justice, as well as those in related fields, to take advantage of homeland security career opportunities in public law enforcement, private security, and intelligence agencies.

Earn your master's degree while working full time

With the right strategy and support, you can strike a balance between your educational goals and busy life. Learn more about the time management and strategic planning it takes for working professionals to earn their online master's degree.


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