How do you become a disaster manager

Savior in emergencies - disaster management is a degree with varied career prospects

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Earthquakes, storms, floods and droughts threaten the population worldwide - and the number is increasing. We therefore urgently need people who know what to do in the event of a disaster. A disaster management degree prepares you for this.

In the two decades since the 1990s, the number of natural disasters has doubled from around 200 to more than 400 per year. Experts estimate that nine out of ten disasters can be attributed to climate change. Since 1975, more than 2.2 million people worldwide have lost their lives to natural disasters, explains the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). Two thirds of the casualties and damage can be traced back to storms, floods, droughts and other weather phenomena.

Disaster management combines different courses of study

In parallel with natural disasters and crises, the need for disaster managers is also increasing. Disaster preparedness and disaster management or crisis management belong together and require very different skills: In various courses, students learn how to deal with humanitarian crises and natural disasters as a disaster manager. You will learn what it means to draw up emergency plans, coordinate operations or set up a crisis team.

The aim of the training: to raise awareness of the challenges of the profession, to create global networks and to formulate international standards for disaster management. In terms of content, the course combines natural sciences and humanities such as logistics, medicine, politics, anthropology, psychology, structural knowledge, practical orientation and risk analysis methods.

Examples of bachelor's and master's degrees

In Germany and many other countries there are a number of courses of study, both with a bachelor's and master's degree. Each university has its own focus. At the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences, for example, there is a bachelor's degree in “Security and Hazard Prevention”, and at the University of Bonn there is a master's degree called “Disaster Risk Management and Disaster Management”.

At the Bauhaus University in Weimar, students of the English-language master’s course “Natural Hazards and Risks in Structural Engineering” will learn what effects earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and storms have on buildings and infrastructure. Prevention is the focus here and you learn what is important and necessary for the construction of new buildings. You will find many students from abroad here, as they are particularly familiar with earthquakes or floods from their home countries. The Hazards course has existed in Weimar since 2003, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has been awarding scholarships for it since 2006.

International disaster management courses

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Universidad de Concepción (UdeC) in Chile work together as strategic partners. You are planning the joint, innovative cross-border master’s course “Regional Studies / Ciencias Regionales”, which is intended to promote joint research. The focus will be on: disaster management and vulnerability-oriented spatial planning. The planned master’s course is aimed at graduates in social and environmental sciences from Chile and Germany. After completing their studies they should be able to work in public and private institutions with spatial planning relevance. The courses and seminars take place in both Chile and Germany. The lessons are in German and Spanish.

Good career prospects for disaster managers

Disaster risk management and disaster risk management require a wide range of skills. In addition to the specialist knowledge that is acquired during the course, assertiveness, the willingness to make decisions and political issues are important prerequisites.

Graduates of a disaster management degree have a wide range of job opportunities: in governmental or non-governmental organizations, in the private sector, for banks, companies, churches, research institutions or governments. Most project-related work offers two options: Either you work on site or you coordinate help from the office. And even if the issue of disaster management has a dramatic cause, it is a very interesting study in a professional field that will always be and in which the aspect of help comes first.

May 2013