By Daniel Hahn, Faculty Member, Emergency and Disaster Management at American Military University
Certifications are an important part of career and professional advancement in emergency management. They offer professionals opportunities to show they have met specific and recognizable benchmarks for the state they work in, nationally or internationally. Many job announcements will ask for some form of certification, so it is always better to have and not need, than to need and not have. Consider emergency management certifications as resume builders.
The standard national certifications for emergency managers are the Associate Emergency Manager (AEM) certification and the Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) certification. Both of these certifications are delivered by the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), the largest national association in this field.
The AEM certification is for those who have not yet met all the requirements of the CEM but want a certification. In my opinion the AEM is easily equitable to almost every state’s emergency management certification, meeting many of the requirements except in terms of disaster experience in that state. In order to earn the AEM certification individuals must:
- Have 100 hours of emergency management training
- Write a comprehensive essay on one’s emergency management experience, skills and abilities
- Pass a 100-question multiple choice exam
The CEM certification is for those who want to reach what many consider the pinnacle of emergency management certifications. It is more difficult to achieve than the AEM. To earn the CEM certification, candidates must:
- Have emergency management professional experience
- Have a four-year undergraduate degree
- Have 100 hours in emergency management training
- Have made at least six separate contributions to the profession, in the form of professional memberships, speaking engagements, or authoring articles
- Write a comprehensive essay to demonstrate their emergency management experience, skills and abilities
- Pass a 100-question multiple choice exam
While it is beneficial for aspiring and current emergency managers to pursue one of these national certifications, do not overlook state and local certifications. State emergency management certifications are valuable because many local emergency management jobs will mention a state certification – rather than a CEM – in a job announcement, although many will say either is an option. As an example, I pulled the job description for an emergency management position in Manatee County Florida from the IAEM job board. One of the minimum requirements for applicants is “a certification from the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association as a Florida Emergency Management Professional (FPEM) and/or the IAEM as a CEM preferred (FPEM certification required within four years of employment).”
Of course, there are other jobs that mention only the CEM and others that do not require any kind of certification, but in general it is wise to earn as many emergency management certifications as possible to enhance your chances of being selected.
State and Local Emergency Management Certifications
I wanted to get a better idea of how many states had separate certifications so I posed the question on the Emergency Management Issues Facebook page, which is a closed Facebook group of emergency management professionals.
As the plans section chief for the Santa Rosa County, Florida, Division of Emergency Management, I am familiar with the Florida Professional Emergency Manager (FPEM) certification, which is issued through the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association (FEPA). This certification was started in 1998 and is generally modeled on IAEM’s CEM. However, the educational requirements are different, as are a need for an exam and essay, neither of which is needed for a Florida certification. Florida also offers multiple types of certification, including a certification for emergency management volunteers, as well as a healthcare emergency management certification.
I was happy to receive so many replies on Facebook about other states’ emergency management certifications. While there are several states missing from this list, it’s a good starting point to understand local and state certifications available to emergency managers.
- Alabama has four levels of certification, listed as basic, intermediate, advanced, and masters. The program is administered by the Alabama Association of Emergency Managers (AAEM).
- Arkansas has the Arkansas Certified Emergency Manager certification through the state association.
- Georgia has the GA-CEM operated out of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), but I could not find a solid link to any certification site. I was told that there are several levels of certification in Georgia, Basic Certification (GA-CEM) Advanced (GA-ACEM) and Professional (GA-CEM).
- Illinois is also one of the few states that runs a certification program out of its state emergency management department instead of through a state association.
- Iowa has the Iowa Certified Emergency Manager certification managed by the state association.
- Kansas lays claim to one of the first state certification programs operated by Kansas Emergency Management Association (KEMA). On a side note, I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at the 2013 KEMA annual conference.
- Kentucky has the Certified Kentucky Emergency Manager designation, given out by Kentucky Emergency Management Association.
- Maryland has the Maryland Professional Emergency Management Program (MDPEMP) certification, managed by the Maryland Emergency Management Association.
- Michigan does it a little different in that they include more than just emergency management in their certification. The state offers the Michigan Professional Emergency Manager (PEM) by the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management & Homeland Security Division.
- Minnesota offers a certification program through the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) division.
- New Jersey recently developed a certification program. Called a credential, it is also referred to as a CEM, like South Carolina.
- Ohio has the Ohio Certified Emergency Manager certification, administered by the Emergency Management Association of Ohio.
- South Carolina has the SC CEM administered by the South Carolina Emergency Management Association (SCEMA), the state’s association.
- Texas has the Emergency Management Association of Texas (EMAT) administer the state certification program, called the Certified Texas Emergency Manager.
- Virginia has multiple types of certifications, ranging from; Professional Emergency Manager (PEM), Associate Emergency Manager (AEM), Emergency Management Assistant (EMA), to the Emergency Management Volunteer (EMV). These are administered through the Virginia Emergency Management Association (VEMA).
- Wisconsin is one of the few states that has a certification program operated out of its state emergency management department. Wisconsin Emergency Management maintains the certification program for the state.
Doing this very unscientific survey provided me with a good start to investigating different state certifications. What is unusual or different about your state’s certifications? Please add your thoughts in the comment section below.
For those hoping to start or advance an emergency management career, it is well worth the time and effort to earn as many certifications as possible. Not only do these certifications provide a potential employer with an idea of your competency, but they allow you, the emergency manager, an opportunity to stay up to date on training, and disaster participation. Consider certification as another step in the professionalization of the emergency management field and participate.
About the Author: Daniel Hahn is the Plans Section Chief for the Santa Rosa County Florida, Division of Emergency Management. Daniel was named the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association (FEPA) 2009 Emergency Management Professional of the year. Daniel earned his master’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management with AMU, and has an MBA with a specialization in Homeland Security. He is currently a faculty member at AMU, teaching courses in Emergency & Disaster Management. He is an active member of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). Daniel has his CEM from IAEM, and his FPEM from FEPA.