Since professionals in emergency management are found working in everything from local, state and federal government to public and nonprofit organizations and private industry, professional certification in this field can be an important part of the credentialing process.
Although professional certification is rarely mandatory within the profession (with the exception of some local and state government organizations), many professionals earn certification as a way to demonstrate their professional competence and commitment to their profession by adding a recognized credential on top of the degree in emergency management they most likely already have.
In addition, many employers seek individuals with professional certification, as it allows them to readily identify those individuals who possess certain key skills and knowledge.
There are a number of recognized certification programs available to emergency management professionals at nearly every level:
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Certification
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers two levels of certification for the emergency management professional:
- FEMA Professional Development Series (PDS) Certificate
- FEMA Advanced Professional Series (APS) certificate
FEMA Professional Development Series (PDS) Certificate
FEMA’s PDS Certificate, which, according to FEMA, has been used for more than 20 years to train professionals in the fundamentals of emergency management, involves either independent study through online materials or classroom study (some states offer group study within classrooms). Required courses within the PDS, each of which take between 8 and 15 hours to complete, include:
- An Introduction to Exercises
- Decision Making and Problem Solving
- Developing and Managing Volunteers
- Effective Communication
- Emergency Planning
- Fundamentals of Emergency Management
- Leadership and Influence
Upon completion of all required courses, individuals must take a final exam and score at least 75 percent to receive their emergency management certification.
FEMA Advanced Professional Series Certificate
The APS certificate, which was originally developed in 2001, is focused on disaster operations, management, and coordination. All APS courses (unless otherwise noted) are classroom courses, which are delivered through State Emergency Management agencies.
Required courses within the APS include:
- EOC Management and Operations OR Management and Operations
- Incident Command System Emergency/Emergency Operations Center Interface Mitigation for Emergency Managers
- Rapid Assessment Workshop
- Recovery from Disaster, the Local Government Role
Individuals must then choose any 5 of the following elective courses:
- Access and Function Needs
- Basic Public Information officers
- Community Mass Care Management
- Debris Management
- Emergency Management Operations Course for Local Governments
- Evacuation and Re-Entry Planning
- Flood Fight Operations
- Hazardous Weather and Flood Preparedness
- Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program
- Homeland Security Planning for Local Governments
- Local Volunteer and Donations Management
- Mass Fatalities
- Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools
- NIMS Resource Management (independent study)
- Planning for the Needs of Children in Disaster
Although there are no prerequisites for the APS, it is recommended that individuals complete the PDS as a way to be better prepared.
Individuals who have successfully completed the series must send proof of completion to their State emergency management agency for verification. The state agency then sends the request for certificate of completion to the Emergency Management Institute. Once there, the EMI superintendent signs it and sends it to the State Director for signature.
International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Certification
The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) offers two professional designations for emergency management professionals:
- Certified Emergency Manager (CEM)
- Associate Emergency Manager (AEM)
The IAEM created the CEM program to “raise and maintain professional standards for emergency managers” and, in 1988, with the help of FEMA funds, the Professional Standards Advisory Council was formed and the CEM was developed. Since its inception, more than 1,000 people have been certified.
Individuals seeking CEM certification must:
- Complete a 100-question (multiple-choice) examination, which includes all topics within emergency management
- Have at least 100 contact hours in emergency management training and at least 100 hours in general management training
- Have at least 3 years of emergency management experience
- Must possess a four-year baccalaureate degree
- Show proof of at least 6 contributions to the profession (may include being published, speaking, professional membership, or other special activities)
- Write a comprehensive essay that displays their knowledge of emergency management
All of the above requirements are the same for the AEM certification; however, individuals seeking AEM certification do not need to meet the four-year baccalaureate requirements. Both designations require recertification every 5 years. Recertification requirements include completing 100 hours of training, with at least 75 of those hours in emergency management. Individuals must also be able to identify 6 contributions to the field of emergency management to recertify.