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How to Become an EMT or Paramedic

What Does an EMT/Paramedic Do?

paramedics performing CPR

EMTs and paramedics provide vital emergency care to ill and injured patients before they reach the hospital or while being transported between facilities. As providers gain experience, there are growing opportunities within hospital emergency departments, as well as in community-based preventative care and education settings with the goal of preventing the need for a hospital visit. The swift and skilled response of EMTs and paramedics can often mean the difference between life and death for their patients.

The duties of EMTs and paramedics include:

  • Responding to emergency calls
  • Assessing patients and quickly formulating care plans
  • Stabilizing broken bones or spinal injuries so patients can be transported safely and comfortably
  • Providing life support such as CPR and airway management
  • Extricating patients who have become entrapped
  • Performing procedures within their scope of practice, such as wound bandaging, administering medications, or conducting and interpreting medical tests
  • Transporting patients to an appropriate facility, either by driving or providing care en route
  • Communicating with the receiving staff about the patient’s condition and care plan
  • Working positively and professionally with other emergency personnel, such as fire, law enforcement, or emergency management personnel
  • Giving emotional support to patients or family members during times of stress or even death
  • Documenting the care given in the patient’s medical record
  • Decontaminating equipment after every patient interaction
  • Monitoring for possible infectious diseases or at-risk situations and reporting them to the appropriate authorities
  • Maintaining equipment, vehicles and supplies

While EMTs and paramedics perform similar job functions, paramedics have advanced training that allows them to perform more complex medical procedures. These professionals are commonly referred to collectively as “EMTs.”

Due to growth of the elderly population, the need for qualified EMTs is increasing rapidly. While most of these professionals still work primarily in an emergency response capacity, a growing number are embracing new roles in home health care to include chronic disease management and preventative care. These “community” roles will likely expand in response to federal legislation that rewards proactive, coordinated care.

Most EMTs and paramedics find their jobs incredibly meaningful and rewarding. Their skill and decision-making can truly save the lives of some of their patients. By providing timely, appropriate care, they can also shorten patients’ hospital stays and lessen the pain and disability that results from a serious injury or illness. EMTs take pride in caring for people during some of the most painful and difficult moments of their lives.

There is also a lot of down time and routine, nonemergency tasks that occupy the day of an EMT. The rapid and frequent swing of necessary mental prowess can lead to fatigue and burnout. The regular and repeated physical demands on EMTs can take a toll, with common injuries to knees and backs.

Workplace Details

EMTs and paramedics work in a variety of settings:

  • Private ambulance companies, which account for almost half of all EMT jobs
  • Governments, often health districts or city fire departments
  • Hospitals, usually in an emergency department or urgent care setting

Working as an EMT can be a full-time job, and about 30 percent work overtime. Some choose to use EMS as supplement income, working only nights or weekends. Traditional shifts run 12 or 24 hours and include evenings, weekends and holidays. In small towns and rural areas, EMTs might work a more irregular schedule or even on a volunteer basis.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
Texas
$35870
California
$37770
New York
$41140
Illinois
$41840
Pennsylvania
$33480

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0 AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$26,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 32%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 170

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$18,280$27,060$39,300
Huntsville$21,960$38,240$61,360

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$54,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $75,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$31,450$56,010$77,200
Fairbanks$30,750$48,820$61,500

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$33,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 180

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$26,240$31,350$48,080
Tuscon$28,860$43,760$57,490

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$26,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$17,450$26,510$46,570
Fort Smith$16,970$23,010$35,100

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$33,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $60,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 670

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$20,730$29,930$59,610
San Francisco Bay$21,830$41,660$63,810
San Diego$19,550$26,830$55,730
Sacramento$22,370$39,770$60,450

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$36,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $71,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 33%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 210

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$26,770$41,610$75,230
Colorado Springs$21,000$32,140$57,290

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$44,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $65,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$28,550$43,370$58,830
Bridgeport$38,070$54,020$71,930
New Haven$32,280$49,830$79,910

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$34,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$31,740$38,230$64,610
Dover$25,430$30,540$49,030

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$59,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $73,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$25,620$44,710$68,510

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$29,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 400

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$20,550$28,610$42,260
Orlando$26,690$37,150$56,100
Tampa$20,980$28,240$38,040
Jacksonville$21,240$27,030$37,080

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$30,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 400

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$23,390$34,010$51,340
Augusta$23,730$30,350$46,380

HAWAII

Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$33,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 380

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$18,690$34,490$51,220

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$32,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $89,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 300

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$19,910$37,970$100,760
Rockford$19,040$28,150$38,890

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$30,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$20,810$29,320$45,350
South Bend$21,290$33,870$55,460
Fort Wayne$22,860$32,810$49,710

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$31,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$25,570$36,620$60,110
Cedar Rapids$18,230$29,520$48,290

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$27,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$20,070$32,840$49,280
Kansas City$25,000$36,760$58,120

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$28,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 190

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$19,980$29,000$47,670
Lexington$18,240$36,450$55,600

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$36,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$22,680$39,250$55,310

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$32,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$22,660$30,920$40,920
Lewiston$25,300$38,050$48,330

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$39,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $60,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$24,440$42,850$63,380
Frederick$24,820$33,230$51,040

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$37,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $56,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 150

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$26,750$35,940$52,920
Worcester$27,050$36,880$59,930
Springfield$26,650$42,280$57,110

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$29,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$20,550$30,170$44,310
Grand Rapids$20,470$33,910$46,980

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$35,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $61,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 150

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$27,110$43,160$70,890

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$33,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $54,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$24,930$30,270$39,200
Gulfport$21,510$38,540$55,770

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$31,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 160

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$19,860$34,150$50,390
Kansas City$25,000$36,760$58,120

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$29,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$32,830$41,420$48,940

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$31,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$21,850$31,800$45,400

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$41,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $69,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 34%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$26,200$43,310$71,960
Reno$18,520$40,320$62,310

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$37,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $56,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$22,210$36,240$47,150
Nashua$21,830$34,670$50,910

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$30,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 290

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$25,220$31,810$56,830

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$32,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$20,780$30,700$53,740

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$37,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $59,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 750

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$25,550$35,350$59,090
Buffalo$20,280$27,380$48,560
Rochester$21,390$34,010$46,320
Albany$24,030$35,120$48,760

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$32,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 380

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$23,960$35,220$49,350
Raleigh$22,560$33,390$46,800
Greensboro$25,050$29,840$39,240
Winston - Salem$21,210$29,780$41,070

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$30,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $51,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Bismarck$16,490$19,730$46,010

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$28,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 400

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$22,020$30,970$49,270
Columbus$19,900$25,370$38,530
Cincinnati$20,990$31,940$46,740
Dayton$21,110$28,790$54,310

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$28,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$19,820$31,610$46,450
Tulsa$21,020$31,390$39,090

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$37,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $57,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$26,520$42,820$63,370
Salem$23,430$34,660$46,010

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$29,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 420

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$25,030$33,500$58,920
Pittsburgh$22,160$30,680$47,180
Harrisburg$20,060$28,780$46,030
Allentown$25,730$37,050$52,550

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$34,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $52,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$25,700$34,820$54,300

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$30,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 190

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$22,450$30,380$43,830
Columbia$19,010$31,030$48,940
Charleston$21,880$32,210$49,830

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$27,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Sioux Falls$21,320$27,640$41,130
Rapid City$21,400$30,240$53,080

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$31,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $52,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 450

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$23,680$30,840$53,230
Memphis$27,580$36,340$58,200
Knoxville$20,260$25,300$40,330
Chattanooga$25,130$31,590$48,170

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$33,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $53,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 820

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$24,900$38,490$61,280
Houston$24,950$31,820$48,310
San Antonio$20,640$29,860$43,760
Austin$26,220$39,840$66,910

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$30,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 34%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$22,150$36,630$56,150
Ogden$18,690$34,810$47,150

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$30,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Burlington$22,030$29,440$39,050

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$30,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 220

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$23,090$32,950$49,400
Richmond$20,410$29,900$45,180

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$53,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $97,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$32,290$72,300$100,130
Spokane$28,170$47,440$62,530

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$24,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$18,520$27,670$46,850
Charleston$20,440$23,530$37,560

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$28,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$20,940$29,270$49,600
Madison$16,390$19,840$39,700

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$33,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cheyenne$21,550$34,960$43,750
Casper$23,570$36,150$58,930

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMTs and paramedics earn a median salary of $31,980, which translates to a median hourly wage of $15.38. The highest paid 10 percent make more than $55,110, and the lowest paid 10 percent make a median income of $20,860.

Salary range varies considerably with training level. Paramedics - and in particular, paramedic firefighters - typically command the highest salaries. The type of employer also matters; private ambulance services usually pay less than hospitals and government entities. EMTs and paramedics who work in a unionized environment may be able to negotiate more favorable salaries and benefits through collective bargaining.

EMTs and paramedics should enjoy very good job prospects in the near future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is expected to grow by 24 percent between 2014 and 2024, considerably faster than average.

Demand for EMTs is largely driven by growth of the elderly population. Older people are more prone to serious medical conditions such as heart attacks and strokes that require emergency care. Recent growth in the number of specialized medical facilities is also a boon for EMTs, who are needed to transport patients to trauma centers, rehabilitation hospitals and skilled-nursing facilities.

Candidates can generally improve their job prospects by seeking advanced certification and training and by choosing a career path suited to their geographic location. For example, tactical combat response training might be more helpful in a large city, while community paramedicine training might be in demand in more rural areas.

NREMT’s website maintains job listings for EMTs and paramedics. City, county, health district and hospital job boards are also a good source of job leads, as are job-specific publications and magazines.

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$35350 Per Year

$16.99 Per Hour

Chicago IL Median Pay

$37970 Per Year

$18.25 Per Hour

Steps to Become an EMT/Paramedic

1

Get certified as an EMT.

This is the first step for both EMTs and paramedics; it’s not uncommon for paramedic programs to require students to have half a year of EMT experience under their belt prior to enrolling.

Show Me Schools »

Entry-level requirements for EMT work depend on the level of certification:

  • Basic EMT certification (called EMT-B) requires about 150 hours of instruction in a certificate program. Training covers patient assessment, basic supportive care, equipment handling and emergency response.
  • Advanced EMT certification requires about 300 hours of instruction in a certificate program. The curriculum typically covers advanced life support, plus administration of some oral and IV medications.
  • As mentioned above, paramedics must earn EMT certifications and then complete an additional training program

Any EMT certificate program will also involve clinical rotation components for learning outside of a classroom.

High school students interested in an EMT career should take as many science classes as possible, especially anatomy and physiology.

2

Pass your exam to become a certified EMT.

NREMT offers three levels of national certification for EMTs:

  • EMT (EMT)
  • Advanced EMT (NRAEMT)
  • Paramedic (NRP)

For each certification level, the candidate must complete an NREMT-accredited training program and pass a background check as well as cognitive (knowledge) and psychomotor (practical) exams.

In addition to certification, many states require the licensure of EMTs and paramedics, though exact requirements vary. In some states, NREMT certification is sufficient, while others require state-level certification. Some employers require both credentials, regardless of state minimums. Some states also require a state-administered exam and background check.

3

For paramedics, continue with additional education and training.

Becoming a paramedic requires about 1,200 hours of formal instruction and often results in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Students should therefore plan on an additional two-year commitment at minimum, during which they’ll learn advanced techniques like IV administration, intubation, suturing, and cardiac interpretation.

In addition to their classroom learning, paramedics complete clinical rotations – much like medical students, rotating through the various hospital departments, which might include labor & delivery, surgery, and the intensive care unit.

4

Continue your education throughout your career in order to maintain credentials.

EMTs and paramedics must engage in regular continuing education in order to renew their certifications/licenses.

With appropriate training, EMTs may advance to become Advanced EMTs or paramedics. EMTs and paramedics who are also certified firefighters are in high demand in some locations and command good salaries. Many EMTs expand their horizons by following specialized career paths in tactical response, critical care transport and hospital-based emergency care. With appropriate education, EMTs and paramedics can serve as clinical instructors and professors within accredited training programs. Others use their time as an EMT to prepare them for further careers in the fire service, nursing, or emergency management.

Explore Degree Paths

CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

1-2 years

Technical schools, community colleges, universities, specialized EMT schools, health districts, hospitals and the military all offer EMT and paramedic training. To qualify for licensure, students must complete a training program accredited by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).

EMT certification programs are generally completed in one to two years and cover the following example subjects among others.

Intro to emergency medical technology

Providing a solid overview of the role and responsibilities of this professional.

Anatomy and physiology

EMTs must have a good grasp of the parts of the human body and the function of our organs and anatomical systems.

Assessment

Students learn the all-important skills that allow EMTs to quickly size up an emergency situation and respond by making proper treatment decisions.

Respiration and airway management

Students learn about the equipment and techniques that allow responders to ensure proper respiration and intervene to open the airways or provide artificial respiration when necessary.

ASSOCIATE DEGREE

2 years

For aspiring paramedics, the educational path continues with either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. The associate degree is a common choice for those who don’t seek an instructional, administrative or managerial role.

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During the ensuing two years of coursework, students will study the following subjects among others.

Intro to paramedicine

Aspiring paramedics are introduced to their chosen field, thoroughly exploring the responsibilities of this important role.

Trauma

Chest trauma, brain trauma, spine trauma… these are just a few subjects that students will explore as they learn proper responses to a variety of emergency scenarios.

Special populations

Since emergency responders must be prepared to administer care to all populations, courses like this will prepare students to care for everyone from neonates to geriatric populations.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE

4 years

For paramedics who want to become educators or enter a managerial or administrative role in emergency medicine, a Bachelor of Science degree could be just the ticket. This degree path is designed for the paramedic to assume greater responsibilities in leadership or education. It typically requires an additional two years, with courses like the following examples.

Disaster management

Students learn how to respond managerially to unfolding crises and also to devise plans for various scenarios and circumstances in order to minimize injury and loss of life.

EMS administration

Paramedics gain managerial skills necessary to supervise and direct others in high-stress life-and-death situations.

Leadership

Successful leadership involves so many skills. Leaders must be good at communicating, delegating, planning, motivating, embracing responsibility and making difficult decisions, among other things. Plenty of fodder for an important course preparing students to assume leadership roles!

Keys to Success as an EMT or Paramedic

Necessary Skills and Qualities

The work of an EMT can be physically and mentally demanding. These professionals work outdoors in all types of weather.

Good working with others

EMTs are very collaborative and team-oriented. In addition to their squad mates, they often work alongside police officers, firefighters and dispatchers. They work under the authority and oversight of an emergency physician who conducts reviews of their work and provides input for improvement. In some cases, EMTs assist the emergency department physicians and nurses in caring for the patient upon arrival at the hospital.

Physical fitness

Physically, EMTs and paramedics need excellent strength and fitness to lift and carry heavy loads. They must be healthy enough to endure long work hours in harsh conditions. EMTs and paramedics experience relatively high rates of on-the-job injuries due to frequent bending, kneeling, lifting, carrying heavy loads and entering dangerous situations. Their work can also expose them to infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. Agitated or violent patients are another workplace hazard. EMTs mitigate these risks by wearing protective clothing, following safety protocols and working collaboratively with police officers and firefighters.

Quick thinking

To care for seriously ill patients, EMTs and paramedics rely on excellent reasoning and decision-making skills. They must be able to assess patients’ needs quickly and accurately and plan for appropriate care. They often must attend to several pressing matters at once, such as the patient’s condition, scene safety and communication with the receiving facility.

Emotionally stability

This is an essential quality for EMTs. They must be able to remain calm in upsetting situations and when dealing with distressed patients, families or coworkers. A strong sense of empathy can help them connect with patients and ease their distress. EMTs also need excellent communication skills in order to relay information between the patient, colleagues and receiving care team.

Comfortable with equipment and machinery

They must be comfortable working with a wide range of equipment and tools, including vehicles, medical equipment, hazardous materials and protective clothing.

Additional Credentials

EMTs can enhance their resumes and job prospects by pursuing advanced skills training. In addition to the basic and advanced EMT certifications and the standard paramedic certification, a variety of additional certification options are available, including the following among others.

  • Certified Flight Paramedic (FP-C), administered by the International Board of Specialty Certification (IBSC) and the Board for Critical Care Transport Paramedic Certification (BCCTPC)
  • Certified Critical Care Paramedic (CCP-C), from the IBSC and BCCTPC
  • Certified Tactical Paramedic (TP-C), also from the IBSC and BCCTPC
  • Certified Community Paramedic (CP-C), from the IBSC and BCCTPC
Jody Carter, MS, CEM, NREMT-P

Jody Carter, MS, CEM, NREMT-P was first licensed as an EMT in 1998, as a Paramedic in 1999 and an instructor since 2005, during which time he has worked on ambulances in urban, rural, and suburban settings. After a time teaching for a Homeland Security contractor, Jody moved into emergency management. He spent 4 years as a Disaster Manager for the American Red Cross and now serves as the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for a series of hospitals across his home state of Arkansas.

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