It seems that this generation has not known a time without a major disaster or incidence of terrorism. These types of events affect not only those directly involved, but those who are witnesses to the devastation and destruction that they leave behind. As a result, more colleges are beginning to offer degree programs in subject areas like disaster mental health, emergency management, or disaster response.
From hurricanes to floods to the September 11 attacks, the generation now in college has experienced more than its share of traumatizing events. It is little wonder that, over the last ten years, the number of college programs in emergency management and disaster response has more than tripled.
And it’s not only domestic disasters that are shaping the curriculum in these courses. The recent earthquake in Haiti and tsunami in Japan have also offered instructors a large amount of material for study and discussion.
Students learn about such subjects as psychological first aid, geography, media, and other topics related to natural disasters and terrorism. They also learn about the history of other natural disasters, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the school hostage situation in 2004, and the South Carolina train crash in 2005. With these skills, they are better prepared to assist victims of current and future disasters.
Graduates of these programs are well prepared to enter the job market, where they work for nonprofit organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other local, state, and federal organizations. They may also find work with public institutions such as schools or hospitals that want to develop plans for operating during and after a natural disaster.
Upon graduation, students are able to work in person, assisting victims on the sites of disasters or via telephone, taking calls from those who are left behind, traumatized by the death and destruction they have been witness to. For those who want to make a difference in the lives of others when it makes perhaps the most difference, a college degree in one of these newly popular programs can be the answer to a satisfying and rewarding career.