Disaster can strike anywhere at any time and when it does experts need to provide quick solutions to complex situations. If you'd like to dedicate your career to disaster management learn more about the qualifications and skills you'll need

What is disaster management?

Disaster or crisis management is the process by which we prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. From natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and hurricanes to accidents, terrorist attacks and war, disaster management aims to minimise their impact when they occur and assist in the emergency response.

Why should I study a disaster management degree?

'Disaster management is a constantly evolving, fast paced sector,' says Leanne Hunt, course director of the BSc Disaster and Emergency Management at Coventry University. 'A quick recall of events that have occurred over the last year, two years, decade and so on reveals an increase in the amount of people affected by disasters, conflicts and humanitarian emergencies.

As such, it is a diverse and varied field. Studying a degree that exposes students to as many different aspects of it as possible is really beneficial.'

'Without graduates with these qualifications, it is highly unlikely any organisation or nation would be able to successfully develop effective crisis and disaster management strategies and plans,' adds Dr Komal Aryal, lecturer in crisis and disaster management at Aston University.

What are my study options?

You'll need a degree to work within the field of disaster or emergency management. 'The sector can be quite competitive so a degree can give you an edge,' adds Leanne. Courses are available at Bachelors level, for example the BSc in Disaster and Emergency Management at Coventry University, which requires BCC at A-level for entry.

Aimed at those with a vocation  to improve the capacity and capability of those at risk and studied over the course of three years (four with a study abroad element or work placement), you'll cover modules such as Global Environmental Issues, Fundamental of Disaster and Emergency Management, Sustainable Environments, Risk and Preparedness, Building Resilient Communities and Ethics, Governance and Resilience.

'Our course is  a bit different. We don't just look at the hazard itself, we ask why that hazard became a disaster, and what can be done to prevent it in the future against ever changing socio-political backdrops,' explains Leanne.

Fees for degree courses at this level are capped at £9,250 for UK students in the 2024/25 academic year.

Other undergraduate options include:

Gaining a postgraduate degree isn't always necessary, however if your first degree was in an unrelated subject you will need to study a Masters in disaster management. You'll typically need at least a 2:2 for entry onto a postgraduate course, although requirements vary between programmes. If you don't have a degree, you may be able to get a place if you've completed extensive work experience or relevant volunteering.

For instance, Aston University's one year MSc in Crisis and Disaster Management asks for a minimum 2:2  and aims to prepare students to understand decision-making approaches and develop skills to manage crisis and disaster in either a business or humanitarian context.

Core units include An introduction to Crisis Management, Crisis Management and Decision Making, Ethics in Crisis and Crisis Technology and Analytics. You'll also be able to choose from a range of optional modules such as:

  • Humanitarian Supply Chain Management
  • Advances in Crisis Management
  • Global Risk and Resilience Management
  • Strategic Business Sustainability.

'Obtaining a Masters degree in crisis and disaster management from Aston University equips individuals with a  holistic and evidence- based knowledge in the subject to make them fit for dealing with future day-to-day crises and emergencies in the current complex environment,' says Komal.

Fees in the 2024/25 academic year will cost UK students £12,000, while international students will pay £23,500.

Alternative Masters in disaster management include:

The course at Leicester is delivered via distance learning. Several UK universities offer Masters-level study in disaster management and similar subjects in this way, for example, the University of Wolverhampton, The University of Manchester and Coventry University.

Learn more about online learning.

What skills will I need to succeed in disaster management?

Jobs within disaster management are fast-paced and high pressured and you'll need a particular mix of skills to do the job effectively. You'll need to demonstrate:

  • analytical skills
  • logical thinking
  • a calm demeanour and the ability to handle stressful situations
  • the ability to multitask
  • project management skills
  • attention to detail.

In Leanne's opinion good communication skills are incredibly important. 'In stressful, fast-paced situations you have to be able to communicate effectively.' Other useful skills include problem solving and time management. 'However, I think the most important skill is a strong vocation to improve the capacity and capability of those at risk.'

In a field such as this theoretical knowledge is important but you need to be able to put it into practice when it really matters and this is where work experience comes in. Completing work placements and internships not only grants you first-hand experience of active situations they also allow you to develop the necessary skills.

Take advantage of any work placement opportunities that your course provides. For example, the BSc Disaster and Emergency Management course at Coventry University gives you the chance to complete a work placement in the UK or to study abroad between years two and three. Similarly Masters students on the MSc Crisis and Disaster management at the University of Portsmouth have the chance to undertake a voluntary placement in the emergency management or humanitarian sectors.

While at university you could also join relevant clubs or student societies like the Disaster risk reduction and humanitarian society at University College London.

It's also possible to develop your skills by volunteering with disaster relief charities such as React, Disaster Emergency Committee, British Red Cross and Disaster Aid UK and Ireland.

What disaster management jobs are available?

Graduates of disaster management courses can work in academia, business, government and non-profit organisations. Some find jobs across the UK, while others work abroad and build careers overseas.

Jobs are available in:

  • emergency planning
  • crisis communication
  • infectious disease management
  • risk analysis
  • reinsurance
  • business continuity
  • security management
  • emergency logistics
  • civil defence or humanitarian management.

Graduates of the course at Coventry University now work for organisations such as the NHS, the Environment Agency, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development, Oxfam and Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre.

'The scope for jobs is wide and the skills and knowledge learned are applicable across different industries. The emergency planning and resilience sector is growing,' adds Leanne.

Learn more about working as an emergency planning/management officer and international development/aid worker.

Find out more

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