How to Become a Certified Emergency Manager

Read for an overview on the options to become a certified emergency manager. Get the facts on available designations, training and degree requirements. Schools offering Criminal Justice degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Certified Emergency Manager Overview

Emergency managers are tasked with coordinating the activities of organizations, government agencies, or jurisdictions (states, municipalities, or cities) during disasters, accidents or other crisis situations. The table below is an overview of the emergency manager career field, including available certifications.

Certifications Available Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), Associate Emergency Manager (AEM)
Education Bachelor's degree preferred
Areas of Study Emergency management, public administration, public safety
Key Skills Complex problem solving, decision making, speaking
Career Outlook (2016-2026) 8%* (emergency management directors)*
Median Salary (2019) $70,875 (emergency manager)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); **PayScale.com

What Are the Duties of an Emergency Manager?

Because emergency managers are responsible for preparing organizations or jurisdictions for potential emergencies, their duties involve all aspects of preparedness and response, including preparation exercises and the drafting of clear response protocols based on the most likely emergency scenarios. The role also involves several responsibilities involving communication and interpersonal skills. Emergency managers may be involved in training staff on designed protocols or establishing relationships with external partners to determine their potential involvement in crisis situations.

What Are the Certification Options?

Many emergency management job postings mention certifications from the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) as either preferred or required. These certifications prove to potential employers both a passion for the field and a proficiency in the skills and knowledge required for roles in emergency management. A certification from the IAEM can also be helpful in career advancement, as formal career counseling services are included as part of the program. The IAEM has two certification designations available: Associate Emergency Manager (AEM) and Certified Emergency Manager (CEM).

Do I Need a College Degree or Professional Experience Before Obtaining a Certification?

Professional experience requirements for IAEM certifications depend on the designation of interest. The CEM designation requires a minimum of 3 years of experience in a disaster or emergency management position. A bachelor's degree is also required for candidates residing in the United States, Europe and Oceania. The AEM designation does not have formal education or professional experience requirements, as it was built for applicants who wish to be certified in emergency management but do not meet the requirements for CEM.

Are There Any Other Requirements for Certification?

Among other requirements, applicants for both the CEM and AEM designations must submit three professional references, including one from their current supervisor. Both designations also require candidates to complete 200 hours of training, half in emergency management and half in general management topics. These training hour requirements can be met with certificates of completion from training courses from a variety of schools or training programs, including FEMA, state emergency management agencies, webinars, professional conferences and college courses. For college courses to be eligible, however, they must be part of a bachelor's degree in emergency management. Make sure to check the IAEM website for the most updated list of requirements, as additional ones may apply.

How Much Do Emergency Managers Make and What Is the Outlook for Growth in This Field?

PayScale.com estimated the median annual salary for emergency managers at $70,875 in 2019. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks careers in emergency management under the emergency management directors category. The BLS projected a median annual salary of $74,420 for those directors in 2018 and a growth in career opportunities of 8% between 2016 and 2026.

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