FAQs Answered by the Advisory Board

For students within UCF’s emergency management and homeland security minor or graduate certificate programs, the advisory board has answered the frequently asked questions that come across their desks. Within this section are a plethora of questions related to academic life, job searching and professional know-how. Answered by experts within the field, these answers can guide and support your development through the EMHS program and into the professional world.

View the print version here.

Academic Questions

Undergraduate students should focus on a couple of areas. Foundational courses such as Emergency Management, Homeland Security and Terrorism, and Geographic Information Systems are a must. Pair these courses with electives that can help you hone a related skill set, such as technical writing, public speaking, leadership and management, and you will be able to showcase a diverse range of knowledge and development.

Some of the most sought-after courses include FEMA’s Independent Study selections:

100b, Introduction to Incident Command System;
200b, ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents;
700a, National Incident Management System (NIMS), An Introduction; and
800b, National Response Framework, An Introduction.

Other options include FEMA’s Professional Development List, Advanced Professional Series, and their Continuity of Operations Excellence Series. To go above and beyond this, investigate FEMA’s HAZUS-MH software, courses by the United States National Grid or the Red Cross.

As for internships, the sources are many. The challenge is reaching out to the plethora of local, state and federal agencies. The best place to start is with your very own UCF faculty.

Also make sure to keep an eye out on the career center’s website. If you want to generate these connections yourself, then start with your own local county/city or state emergency management offices and don’t forget about private or nonprofit agencies. You can also search through Pathway Internships from FEMA or those offered through Florida Division of Emergency Management or the UCF Office of Emergency Management.

In terms of student engagement, the first place to start is UCF’s own Emergency Management Student Association. They strive to further professional development in EM through workshops and activities and are closely tied to local EM offices. Meetings are typically twice a month. Check them out on Knight Connect and follow them on Facebook!

The next step is to check out the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association and its growing student membership. From there, you will want to become a part of the International Association of Emergency Managers.

For those interested in the private industry, try the Association of Contingency Planners.

Job Market Questions

For a typical emergency management agency, students will need a four-year degree with two years of experience, a clean background check, a driver’s license for the state you will operate in and a great attitude!

On an academic level, each student must have a good foundation of emergency management education. Moreover, most agencies require applicants that have already completed FEMA Independent Study Courses 100, 200, 700 and 800, at a minimum.

To stand apart from the rest, applicants should be able to demonstrate public speaking and critical thinking skills and have practical experience in the form of internships. The more education and experience, the better!

When tailoring your resume to your perfect job, make sure you review the description of the position itself. Try to highlight those key words within your resume. Take your time as you will not only want to showcase the fact you read the position description, but that you have the creativity, flexibility, people skills, presentation abilities, attention to details, work ethic, budgetary experience, integrity and professionalism. Also, do not forget to highlight those certifications you accumulate while matriculating through UCF’s EMHS program!

The brief answer is: “It Depends!” When it comes to emergency management positions, there may not be any openings at the time of your graduation. Additionally, your situation may change, causing you to reconsider the option of relocating.

At the end of the day, the experts do suggest having the flexibility to move. If your perfect job is in a different state, then hopefully you can move for that opportunity. If you need to stay local, then make sure you take advantage of networking opportunities through internships, volunteering and active participation in professional associations.

General Emergency Manager Questions

For our experts, it is a mixed bag. Some of the advisory board members came to the field through the Fire Service or Military. Others were introduced to emergency management in college or were working before being introduced to the field and returning to college for related degrees. Either way, each of the board members highlight that the way to an emergency management career may differ; the commonality is the ability to match experience and education. Whether you obtain these through tradition or non-traditional methods, emergency management professionals are able to navigate between the educational and practical realms and make a difference within their communities.

The simple answer to this question is: Every day is different. All of our experts agree that no day is routine. Some days are filled with meetings, while other days allow for some individual work. Tasks vary from reviewing plans and exercises, staff meetings, program coordination, reading and answering emails, attending conferences and workshops or webinars and conference calls, and providing answers to management while also conducting community reports. Bottom line: There is no typical day.

Much like the journey into the field, the reasons why our experts have become emergency managers are just as diverse. For some of our board members, emergency management provides a unique and satisfying career. Moreover, a career in emergency management is a way to give back to the community.

General Profession Questions

In terms of sector differences, each segment has a different perspective to their mission of safety; however, the main foundation stays the same in regards to understanding ICS, NIMS, management of an emergency operations center, notification processes and the need for all-hazards planning. Our experts state some of the biggest differences will be seen in the agencies’ responsibility and provision to the community. For instance, the private sector is considered a business with an emphasis on customers and profit, the public would be considered with overall safety and well-being while the nonprofit arena provides services deemed needed but unavailable.

In terms of other fields and disciplines, our board agrees the field of emergency management is still young. Yet, all arenas have some version of emergency management.

To understand the difference between emergency management and homeland security, our experts speak generally. Emergency management brings about connections to FEMA, all-hazards approaches, and simply managing emergencies.  Homeland security focuses more on threat assessments and border control. Within your courses, you will learn the nuances to the policies, procedures and regulations that differ between the two. However, there are more similarities than differences. It is all based on perspective.

Each individual entering the field will face his or her own set of challenges. For some, the growing number of applicants will cause stress when searching for the right position. You will be competing against current practitioners. Try not to underestimate your academic background, but make sure you can translate it into a practical environment.

For other graduates, age and years or practical experience will become a challenge. Each student should take advantage of internships and other opportunities presented by the UCF faculty and within the local community. Moreover, make sure to take full advantage of any additional educational or certification opportunities.

Lastly, the field itself will challenge many individuals. It is ever changing and finding your perfect position can take time.