As you can guess from the CEM after my name I’m in favor of emergency managers seeking certification. Here are a few of the reasons I think all EMs should seek certification. And no, I do not get a kickback from the various certifying bodies for every poor soul I steer into their clutches.
The first reason is it helps demonstrate your commitment to the field and document the experience you have. EM is well into the transition from a discipline that was exclusively learned by doing, into a formal enterprise. Certification gives those of us that have learned by doing a way to quickly denote our experience, the way a degree denotes education.
Reason number two is more employers are looking for it. One thing I’ve taken from the job hunting and interviewing I’ve done over the last few years is more employers are looking for certification. Five years ago when I was transitioning from Ohio to Kansas hardly anyone listed certification in their desired qualifications. Fast forward to my 2020 job search that brought me to Kuali, and I’m guessing somewhere around a third listed certification or the ability to achieve certification within a certain time frame (either through the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) or the state equivalent) in their desired qualifications. I’m willing to bet that as the EM field becomes more standardized/professionalized certification will be a breakpoint for determining title and salary level for positions.
Thirdly, going through the certification process helps you realize which part of your skills and experiences need rounding out. One of the cool things about EM is just how diverse a field it is. One of the downsides to EM is just how diverse a field it is. It’s very easy to specialize in a particular area that is of interest to you, to the detriment of other skills. The certification process makes you review your career, identify areas where you aren’t quite as strong, and take steps to rectify or compensate for the deficiencies. To paraphrase my high school guidance counselor, it can make you a more well-rounded EM.
The corollary to this is reviewing your career and realizing just how much stuff you’ve done. As we focus on the immediate here and now of current projects and crises, it’s very easy to lose sight of all that you’ve accomplished as an EM. If you’re a self-deprecating person like myself, you tend to focus on what you haven’t done. Certification shines a spotlight on what you’ve accomplished, forces you to take stock of it, and acknowledge you rock!
Fourthly, your employer may pay for it. Some organizations cover the cost of membership in professional organizations and certification costs, just like they cover the cost for the continuing education of other professional roles like police officers, nurses, etc. If you can get a certification that will help your career, and someone else is willing to pay the tab, I say go for it. But you’ll want to phrase that differently when you ask your boss about it.
I tried to come up with a fifth reason but drew a blank. If after the four reasons above I haven’t convinced you, then saying you get a big certificate (frame not included) to put on your “I Love Me!” wall, probably won’t sway you. But for those of you who find those four reasons compelling, I urge you to explore certification through the IAEM or your state EM association.
If you have any suggestions for other certifications EMs should seek or topic suggestions feel free to email me.