The career path for a disaster recovery specialist

November 01, 2022 · 3 min read · By ASU Online

Disaster recovery specialists play a key role in emergency management and public safety. Learn more about this career path, expected salary and the skills needed for this role.


Emergency management and homeland security are expanding fields crossing multiple professional disciplines and policy domains and provide challenging career opportunities for those passionate about:

  • Community resilience promotion.
  • Emergency services assistance.
  • Hazards risk reduction.
  • Humanitarian aid for crises and disasters.
  • Public security and safety measures.


What does a disaster recovery specialist do?

Different geographic regions have the potential for both human-caused catastrophes, natural disasters and other other unplanned events that can adversely affect a great number of individuals. These catastrophes may include terrorist attacks, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes and more.

In preparation for such catastrophes, disaster recovery specialists, sometimes known as emergency management specialists, develop response strategies and manage potential relief efforts in the event these worst-case scenarios occur. When these traumatic events happen, disaster recovery specialists are prepared to aid in communities’ 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 to protect and rebuild affected areas. Disaster recovery specialists also spend a majority of their time analyzing the best practices of other, similar organizations, which they then apply to their own teams and strategies.

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 key skills needed in a disaster recovery role

While most professionals in this field perform their day-to-day work in an office environment, they also must be quick on their feet and cool-headed in the event of an emergency, which can often be emotionally and physically challenging.

As such, it’s important for disaster recovery specialists to possess a number of personal and professional skills to succeed in this career path. Some of these include:

  • A calm demeanor.
  • Clear and concise verbal communication.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Leadership expertise.
  • Strong writing ability.
  • Technological literacy.

In addition to these skill sets, 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 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 $76,730 in 2021. However, compensation and benefits differ depending on an individual's level of experience and chosen industry.

Approximately 900 available employment openings in the disaster response and recovery field are projected each year 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. These charitable organizations include distinguished names, such as:

  • American Red Cross
  • Citizens Corps
  • Salvation Army


Earn your degree in disaster recovery and emergency management from Arizona State University

Working as a disaster recovery specialist can be both challenging and rewarding for those with the right combination of interests, education and personal skills. These professionals work every day to help make a real difference in communities.

Advance your career in a field that contributes to the safety and well-being of others with ASU Online’s Master of Arts in emergency management and homeland security. This program prepares you for a career as a disaster recovery specialist with in-depth knowledge of the variety of issues and response strategies needed to succeed.

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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