Disaster relief positions with FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – are some of the most coveted in the country. With permanent and temporary positions available and the opportunity to serve the country in responding to major emergencies and disasters, FEMA offers a range of exciting opportunities. It should come as no surprise, then, that people in the United States search for how to find FEMA disaster relief job openings hundreds of times a month.
What is FEMA’s role in US disaster response?
In a broad sense, FEMA’s role is to support a range of actors – other federal agencies, state and local governments, volunteer organizations, and the private sector – with all stages of a disaster. This role is clear from its mission statement, which states that the mission of the agency is to:
to reduce the loss of life and property and protect our institutions from all hazards by leading and supporting the nation in a comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
That said, FEMA’s role is perhaps most visible after a major emergency or disaster that exceeds state capacities to respond. FEMA is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and – at the request of the state (usually gubernatorial) – FEMA can deploy federal resources to support state and local agencies in meeting the needs of affected populations within the territories of the United States. For the most part, FEMA provides or administers funding, goods, services, and personnel in performance of this role.
It is, of course, obvious from the name, but FEMA is a federal agency. In practical terms, this means that it is separate from state entities and as such must be invited into the state or – if the disaster is destructive enough – ordered into the state from higher levels in the federal government (namely, the President). As FEMA is a federal agency, interested parties might want to consider how this affects their ‘identity’ as a responder (state identity/mandate versus federal identity/mandate).
For those interested in disaster relief jobs with FEMA, this diverse mandate means there are a number of different types of jobs available, all with special responsibilities and required skill sets.
What type of disasters does FEMA respond to?
Anyone looking for FEMA disaster relief job openings will no doubt have realized that there are many different types of disasters to which they might be called to respond. This is an important consideration for a number of reasons, not least because disaster response roles are usually incredibly demanding physically and mentally, with long shifts expected and rough living conditions presumed when in the midst of a multi-day response.
It has already been mentioned that FEMA only responds to a disaster when it is called upon to do so, either by the affected state or the powers that be in the upper echelons of the federal government. This, in many ways, limits FEMA’s role only to major emergencies and disasters that overwhelm – or are expected to overwhelm – local capacities.
In this regard, anyone in a FEMA disaster relief job can expect to respond to disasters ranging from earthquakes and hurricanes to forest fires and terrorist incidents.
Types of FEMA disaster relief jobs
FEMA has a markedly diverse workforce consisting of a variety of job types. The work duration, type of work, and a number of other factors define each work type. Available work types include:
- Permanent Full Time (PFT)
- Cadre of On-Call Response/Recovery (CORE)
- Temporary Local Hires (120 days to one year)
- Senior Executive Service (SES)
- Reservists (On-Call)
FEMA also has a range of opportunities for students, ranging from high school to postgraduate level, under its Pathways Program. There are four specialist programs available, all of which may concern disaster response in one form or another:
- Internship Program
- Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program
- Recent Graduate Program
- Student Volunteer Employment Program
What is expected of FEMA disaster relief employees?
It stands to reason that a job with as much responsibility as disaster relief should have some heavy expectations attached to it. As with all federal employees, FEMA employees are expected to have an allegiance to the United States as well as a number of characteristics that make them suitable for the demanding work of disaster relief. Such characteristics may include a demonstrated ability to think on one’s feet, to cope with high pressure environments, to work well individually and in a team, and to be able to communicate well and empathize with people, some of whom may have lost their property, possessions, and even family and friends to the disaster.
As for specific on-the-job requirements, those of course vary by role. There are opportunities to work in all stages of the disaster cycle, from mitigation to preparedness, response, and recovery. Specific job tasks or responsibilities may include:
- setting up radio communications
- evacuating populations from at-risk or disaster-struck areas
- assisting especially vulnerable people, like the elderly, disabled, or children
- providing emergency supplies, like food, water, medicine, and temporary shelter
- coordinating efforts with state and local agencies
- ensuring reliable logistics and supply chain management
- establishing and developing partnerships with the private sector
How much do FEMA disaster relief jobs pay?
Owing to the vast number of roles available, there is no ‘average’ salary or wage for FEMA disaster relief jobs. Instead, job seekers must investigate individual job postings to find out remuneration details.
As with the roles, the salaries and wages vary considerably. Some roles offer in the region of $45,000 a year, with senior roles offering closer to $200,000 a year. Hourly rates for various jobs vary from around $20 to over $80.
The best way to get an idea about salary and wage levels is to check the available jobs on the FEMA website and browse for roles in your specialist area.
In addition to the salaries/wages themselves, employees can expect a range of attractive and competitive benefits in working for the federal government.
Where to find FEMA disaster relief job openings
Naturally, the FEMA website has a wealth of information on careers with the agency, and a comprehensive list of current job openings. Given the (somewhat) unpredictable nature of major emergencies and disasters, the size of the United States and its territories, and the sheer number of people required to respond to destructive events of this nature, there are always a high number of FEMA disaster relief job openings. The FEMA website maintains a list of the most recently posted openings, which is updated daily.
USAJobs.gov is another excellent source of information for those seeking a position with FEMA, or any other federal government role for that matter. USAJobs.gov is a job aggregator, which means it displays open positions from across the entirety of the federal government, both within the United States and worldwide. USAJobs.gov connects jobseekers to recruiting agencies; it does not hire jobseekers directly itself (apart from its own operational staff, of course). One great thing about the USAJobs.gov website over FEMA’s website is that it shows all postings that are still live, rather than just the most recent ones. As a result, you have a greater chance of finding a suitable role on USAJobs.gov, especially if you are in a highly specialist field that may not be recruited for as often.
General Job Search Websites
Search engine results for ‘FEMA disaster relief jobs’ brings up a host of more general job search websites, such as Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com. While these websites are useful for general research around FEMA disaster relief job openings, it is perhaps wise to stick to the two sources listed above – FEMA.gov and USAJobs.gov – as those can be relied upon for the most accurate and up to date information. There is little harm in using more general job websites to investigate potential roles with FEMA, but bear in mind that information is often aggregated from various sources and may not have the official stamp of approval of the federal government.
It is little wonder that roles in disaster relief attract talented and hard-working people. Disasters render populations their most vulnerable, and it takes a special type of person to be able to step into the destruction, chaos, and trauma to assist. FEMA disaster relief jobs present exciting opportunities for students, local populations, and seekers of part time and full time roles. Easily, FEMA.gov and USAJobs.gov are the best place to find roles of this nature, along with information about compensation packages and career progression opportunities.