"Today, there is a critical and growing need for emergency response and disaster management professionals with the right education and skills," says Dr. Gwen Hall of American Public University System ( www.apu.apus.edu/emergency-disaster), a distance-learning institution serving more than 13,000 students worldwide.
"This growth was projected before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," says Hall. She estimates the demand to be even higher as the private and public sector examine their own disaster management programs.
Hall is the department chair for the University System's homeland security and emergency and disaster management programs. These programs are some of the nation's largest – with more than 1,300 students preparing for careers that demand a wide range of skills. "Emergency management is much more than being trained in first response or even evacuation," says Hall. "Emergency managers need a strong background in critical thinking, logistics, financial management, urban planning and more."
One Student's Plan
Laura Shapland is an analyst with a company that offers emergency management computer training simulations. Shapland develops disaster scenarios, such as the effects of a natural disaster or a large-scale health threat. The scenarios help firefighters, first responders and government employees better plan for disaster recovery.
"I want to be that emergency management professional who has the right kind of knowledge for both pre-disaster planning and post-disaster response," says Shapland, who is pursuing her emergency and disaster management degree from American Public University System. "A strong academic background helps at all levels of my current position – research, finance, long-term planning and more."
Shapland also learns from educators who are professionals in the areas they teach. Professor Ahris Reynolds, for example, brings more than 26 years of field experience to the virtual classroom. He is a battalion fire chief and a major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He provided emergency medical relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina.
"The first-hand experiences of Professor Reynolds and others give us insights that stretch beyond the textbooks," says Shapland.
"You'll be able to see the kinds of issues professionals are tackling and have a better idea if the career is a fit for you," Hall says.
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