Emergency management directors prepare plans and procedures for responding to natural disasters or other emergencies. They also lead the response during and after emergencies, often in coordination with fire and law enforcement officials, elected officials, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.


Emergency management directors typically do the following:

  • Plan responses to emergencies and disasters in order to minimize risk to people and property
  • Meet with law enforcement officials, private companies, and the general public to get recommendations regarding emergency response plans
  • Organize emergency response training programs for staff, volunteers, and other first responders
  • Coordinate the use and sharing of resources and equipment within the community to assist in emergency response
  • Prepare and analyze damage assessments following disasters or emergencies
  • Review emergency plans of individual organizations, such as medical facilities, to ensure their adequacy
  • Apply for federal funding for emergency management responses and report on the progress of such grants
  • Revise and review local emergency operations plans

Emergency management directors are responsible for planning and leading the responses to natural disasters and other emergencies. Directors work with government agencies, nonprofits, private companies, and the general public to develop effective plans that minimize damage and disruptions during an emergency. Directors must prepare plans and objectives that meet local, state, and federal regulations.

To develop emergency response plans, directors typically research “best practices” from around the country and from other emergency management agencies.

Directors must analyze the resources, equipment, and staff available to respond to emergencies. If resources or equipment is lacking, directors must either revise their plans or obtain the needed resources from another county or state. Many directors coordinate with fire, emergency medical service, and police departments in other counties to locate and share equipment during an emergency. Directors must be in contact with other agencies to collect and share data.

After plans are developed, emergency management directors typically ensure that individuals and groups become familiar with the emergency procedures.

Emergency management directors run training courses or disaster exercises for staff, volunteers, and local agencies to ensure an effective and coordinated response to an emergency. Directors also may visit schools, hospitals, or other community groups to update everyone on the emergency plans.

During an emergency, directors lead the response, making adjustments to or prioritizing certain actions if necessary. These actions may include ordering evacuations, conducting rescue missions, or opening up public shelters for those displaced by the disaster. Emergency management directors may also need to conduct press conferences or other outreach activities to keep the public informed about the emergency.

Following an emergency, directors must assess the damage to their community and coordinate getting assistance and supplies into the community. Directors may need to apply for state or federal assistance to help execute their emergency response plan. Directors also revise their plans and procedures when necessary, in order to prepare for future emergencies or disasters.

Emergency management directors working for hospitals, universities, or private companies may be called business continuity managers. Similar to their counterparts in local and state government, business continuity managers prepare plans and procedures to help businesses maintain operations and minimize losses during and after an emergency.

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Work Environment

Emergency management directors held about 9,900 jobs in 2012. Most work for state or local governments. However, some may work for private companies, hospitals, universities, or nonprofit institutions.

The industries that employed the most emergency management directors in 2012 were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 54%
Health care and social assistance 17
State government, excluding education and hospitals 12
Professional, scientific, and technical services 4
Educational services; state, local, and private 3

Although most emergency management directors work in an office, they typically travel to meet with various agency or company personnel or community groups. Many directors work in stressful situations during disasters or emergencies.

Work Schedules

Most emergency management directors work full time. However, most are on call at all times and may need to work overtime to respond to emergencies and to support emergency management operations. Others may work evenings and weekends to meet with various community groups in preparing their emergency response plans.

Education and Training

Emergency management directors typically need a bachelor’s degree, as well as multiple years of work experience in emergency response, disaster planning, or public administration.


Emergency management directors typically need a bachelor’s degree. Many emergency management directors get their degree in business or public administration, fire science, or emergency management.

Although some smaller municipalities or local governments may hire applicants with a high school degree, these applicants usually need more extensive work experience in emergency management.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Applicants typically need years of work experience, often in law enforcement, fire safety, or another emergency management field, before they can be hired as an emergency management director. Previous work experience in these fields enables applicants to make difficult decisions in often stressful and time-sensitive situations. Such experience also prepares one to work with various agencies to ensure that proper resources are used to respond to emergencies.

For more information, see the profiles on police and detectives, firefighters, police and fire dispatchers, and EMTs and paramedics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many agencies and states offer voluntary certificate programs to help emergency management directors obtain additional skills. Some states require directors to obtain certification within a certain timeframe after being hired in the position.

Personality and Interests

Emergency management directors typically have an interest in the Helping and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as an emergency management director, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Emergency management directors should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Emergency management directors must write out and communicate their emergency preparedness plans to all levels of government, as well as to the public.

Critical-thinking skills. Emergency management directors must anticipate hazards and problems that may arise from an emergency in order to respond effectively.

Decision-making skills. Emergency management directors must make timely decisions, often in stressful situations. They must also identify the strengths and weaknesses of all solutions and approaches, and the costs and benefits of each action.

Interpersonal skills. Emergency management directors must work with other government agencies, law enforcement officials, and the general public to coordinate emergency responses.

Leadership skills. To ensure effective responses to emergencies, emergency management directors need to organize and train a variety of people.


The median annual wage for emergency management directors was $59,770 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,760, and the top 10 percent earned more than $107,810.

Most emergency management directors work full time. However, most are on call at all times and may need to work overtime to respond to emergencies and to support emergency management operations. Others may work evenings and weekends to meet with various community groups in preparing their emergency response plans.

Job Outlook

Employment of emergency management directors is projected to grow 8 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Despite increased hiring in the private sector, overall employment growth is expected to be restrained by local and state budget cuts.

Changes in weather patterns may make more areas vulnerable to flooding, droughts, powerful hurricanes, and other weather-related emergencies. In addition, growing urbanization and a population shift toward coastal regions may increase the number of people living in these high-risk areas. Emergency directors will be needed to develop response plans to protect more people, and property, and to limit the damage from emergencies and disasters.

Emergency management directors will be needed to help businesses and organizations continue providing essential products and services during and after emergencies. Employment of emergency management directors is expected to grow the fastest in hospitals, schools, and private companies. For example, employment of emergency management directors is projected to grow 18 percent in health care and social assistance and 22 percent in the professional, scientific, and technical services industries from 2012 to 2022.

Some local and state governments, however, may need to limit emergency management services and hiring because of budgetary constraints. In addition, some local and state governments are increasingly relying on federal financial assistance to fund their emergency management agencies. Yet federal budgetary problems may lead to continued cutbacks in funding and grants to local and state agencies, further limiting the hiring of emergency management personnel. Some smaller counties may not hire full-time, stand-alone emergency management directors, choosing instead to shift the job responsibilities to the fire chief, police chief, or other government employees.

Job Prospects

Competition for jobs is expected to be strong. Emergency management directors are a relatively small occupation, and decreased funding means that new openings at the local or county level are unlikely.

However, retirements over the next decade may provide some opportunities for those interested in entering the occupation.

For More Information

For more information on emergency management directors, visit

National Emergency Management Association

International Association of Emergency Managers


Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).