Ask an Expert About: Emergency Services Degrees

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Meet the Emergency Services Expert, Ronald Wakeham

Ronald Wakeham is the Department Chair of Security and Emergency Services at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Emergency management, emergency rescue and disaster recovery are growing career fields. Natural disasters are rising in frequency and severity; active-shooter incidences occur with startling regularity in the U.S.; and soft-target terror attacks are a real and constant threat for populations around the world. This means that the demand for qualified, courageous, and educated professionals with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in emergency management, disaster relief, homeland security, and public safety promises only to grow in the coming years.

This growing demand has also sparked a growth in the opportunities available to students with an interest in emergency services. Online colleges are creating more pathways to emergency services degrees. As a result, the opportunity to build a career protecting and saving lives has never been greater.

But before you dive into this challenging line of work, it’s important that you know a little bit more about this degree path and the career prospects that come with it. We’re pleased to bring you insights and tips from an expert in the field.

Since 2011, Dr. Ronald Wakeham has served as Department Chair of Security and Emergency Services at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautics tops our list of The 15 Best Online Bachelor’s in Emergency Management Programs.

In addition to his oversight of the leading online degree program in the field, Dr. Wakeham served, from 1996 to 2016, as a course developer and contract faculty member for the Department of Homeland Security. He lends his considerable experience and knowledge to our discussion on educational and professional opportunities in emergency services.

If you’d like to learn more about the degrees, careers, opportunities and responsibilities surrounding emergency management, check out Emergency Management: Degrees and Jobs that Save Lives.

Otherwise, read on for our interview with emergency services expert, Dr. Ronald Wakeham.

Answers to Our Emergency Services Questions

 What's your background in Security and Emergency Services, and as an educator and/or professional in the field?

Dr. Ronald Wakeham: Since 2011, I have served as the Department Chair of Security and Emergency Services, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with the rank of Associate Professor. I teach classes in Fire, Emergency Services, Government, Values/Ethics, and other disciplines as needed.

[I also] Coordinate Emergency Services, Fire, Homeland Security, Cyber Security, Human Reliance classes; hire, promote and evaluate other Ph.D. faculty; [and] Served as a course developer and contract faculty member, from 1996 until 2016, for the Department of Homeland Security, teaching in the Executive Fire Officer Program and Management Sciences Program.

Executive Leadership, Executive Development, Strategic Management of Change, Leading Diverse Communities Beyond Conflict, Organization Theory in Practice and Influencing are teaching specialty areas.

[I also] Serve as a Haz-Mat consultant/ instructor for The Seminole Tribe of Florida, Emergency Services Department. [I am a] Past adjunct Professor, University of Richmond, teaching graduate courses in Emergency Management and Human Resource Management. I have taught at Tidewater Community College, Hampton University, Grandview College and Cogswell College, and Jacksonville State University. I have served as a senior instructor for Power Phone Inc., developing curriculum and delivering crisis communication, NIMS and ICS training to Emergency Services professionals. In addition I have served as subject matter expert to other public sector management consultant groups Viewpoint and Amitis.

 What are a few essential courses emergency services students must complete to earn a degree?

Dr. Ronald Wakeham: Research, Using an accepted writing style such as APA, Ethics, Human Behavior and, of course, all of the core *FESHE courses.

* Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education

 What are some unique challenges students in emergency services face?

Dr. Ronald Wakeham: The biggest challenge is learning that Emergency Services is not all about Strategy and Tactics but dealing with actual life and death. Dealing with people during the worst of times.

Also, being away from home every 24 hours, but yet being in the same city. You are away from your family during the time when they need you the most like the California wildfires. Facing death and destruction on a daily basis.

 What are some career opportunities for students with emergency services degrees?

Dr. Ronald Wakeham: Insurance investigator, corporate safety officer, trainers, advisors to county and city management.

The opportunities are expanding every day. As more and more private corporations get involved in their own response and recovery including contingency planning, they will need to rely on those with emergency services practical, as well as academic, experience. The government has been shut down for the longest time in history, private companies need to be ready to support themselves.

 What advice would you offer to prospective emergency services students? What should they consider before entering this major?

Dr. Ronald Wakeham: First understand that a formal regionally accredited program is not a weekend fire school. It is hard work that takes a personal commitment to finish. Learn the basics such as how to do research and write to a style. Learn to balance school, work, and family.

 What do you see as the primary role of future leaders in emergency management and public safety?

Dr. Ronald Wakeham: Well I think the answer is in the question. Learn to manage the responders and the situation. Remember any incident you plan for will not look like the incident that is happening in front of you. Remember if you don’t control the situation, who will? Learn that Emergency Services involve all first responders, not just one agency.

 Any other insights on an education or career in emergency services?

Dr. Ronald Wakeham: It is in your blood or it isn’t. It is okay to try the career but if you don’t like it, get out early. This has to be a total commitment to education and training.

 Feel free to share any other insights on an education or career in emergency services that you think might be of value to our readers.

Dr. Ronald Wakeham: To be a professional, one must have the education, the training and the experience. Getting the title of “Professional” takes time and effort.

If you’re interested in a degree in emergency management, take a look at the best schools in the field at every level:

The various offices and agencies that make up the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also offer numerous pathways to support preparation, coordination, response, and relief in the face of natural disasters, terror attacks and other public safety crises. Check out these degree programs and get started on your path:

Take the next step towards your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

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