The career path for a disaster recovery specialist

October 10, 2023 · 3 min read · By ASU Online

Get the details on a disaster recovery specialist's responsibilities, career outlook and the online bachelor’s and master’s degree that can prepare you for the role.


What does a disaster recovery specialist do?

Different geographic regions have the potential for human-caused catastrophes, natural disasters and other unplanned events that can adversely affect communities. These catastrophes may include terrorist attacks, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes and more. In preparation for these events, disaster recovery specialists spend their time developing response strategies and managing potential relief strategies. When these traumatic events happen, they’re prepared to aid in community’ recovery and develop plans to mitigate further damage in the future.

Preparation and action for these disastrous scenarios includes coordinating with local, state and federal organizations, nonprofits and elected officials. Additional responsibilities and tasks for disaster recovery specialists may include:

  • Analyzing damage assessments in the wake of an emergency.
  • Applying for federal funding.
  • Assessing hazards and preparing plans to adequately address those hazards to minimize risk to property and human life.
  • Meeting regularly with public safety officials, the private sector and the public to seek advice and feedback regarding their emergency response protocol.
  • Organizing training for emergency responders, staff and volunteers.
  • Reviewing disaster plans at hospitals, colleges and government facilities.
  • Revising emergency operation procedures.


The skills you’ll need for roles in disaster recovery and relief

While most professionals in this field perform their day-to-day work in an office environment, they must also be quick on their feet and cool-headed in the event of an emergency. These disasters can often be emotionally and physically challenging, so it’s important for these specialists to possess a number of personal and professional skills to succeed in this career path. Some of these include:

  • Calm demeanor.
  • Clear and concise verbal communication.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Leadership expertise.
  • Technological literacy.

In addition to these skills, many emergency management employers require some degree of higher education related to the field. While not a strict requirement, previous employment in the military, law enforcement, fire safety, medicine or other public health sectors can also be an advantage.


Disaster recovery specialist salary and job outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for emergency management directors was $79,180 in 2022. However, compensation and benefits differ depending on an individual's level of experience and chosen industry.

Additionally, approximately 900 available employment openings in the disaster response and recovery field are projected each year, on average, over the next decade. The BLS notes that competition for these roles is predicted to be strong with preference given to those with the experience and education to best perform in the role.

Government agencies are among the most common employers for disaster recovery specialists. However, numerous well-known nonprofit groups employ these professionals as well, such as American Red Cross, Citizens Corps and The Salvation Army.


Prepare for your career as a disaster recovery specialist with these degrees from ASU Online

Working as a disaster recovery specialist can be both a rewarding and challenging career path. By earning a Bachelor of Science in emergency management and homeland security, you’ll be well-prepared to manage risks and build resilience towards these disasters. Your curriculum will include core courses in life sciences and specific major-focused courses such as Economics and Public Policy to Hazards and Risk Management. Additionally, this program places an emphasis on professional development and gives you the opportunity to complete certifications that support your career path such as credentials offered by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).

If you’re interested in furthering your education or making a career switch, the Master of Arts in emergency management and homeland security can support your goals. This program takes an interdisciplinary approach and offers five concentration areas for you to customize the program based on your professional interests. Your courses will provide experience in public policy analysis, integrated emergency management and applied data analysis. The curriculum for this master’s degree includes a capstone project where you can conduct real-world solutions such as writing operational plans or developing emergency evacuation plans.

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


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