EMT - First Responder: Career Education to Be a First Responder

Working as an EMT (emergency medical technician)-First Responder requires little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

EMT-First Responders are health care professionals who have a basic understanding of emergency medical services. First responders have completed the first level of EMT training; this designation is different than certification as an EMT-Basic. A first responder must complete a training program and earn certification, often by passing a state-administered exam or the test provided by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).

Required Education Completion of a training program for EMTs-First Responder
Certification Certification required of all EMTs; many states use the exam provided by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT)
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 23% for EMTs and paramedics*
Median Salary (2013) $31,270 for EMTs and paramedics*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

EMT-First Responders provide basic assistance to individuals who are suffering from injuries or other health related problems. In order to handle these types of situations, EMT-First Responders must be able to analyze situations quickly, have knowledge of health care strategies and be in good physical condition. They are the first and most basic, responder to emergency situations in many instances. EMT-First Responders are trained to handle the following situations:

  • Bleeding
  • Broken bones
  • Blocked airways
  • Heart attacks
  • Emergency child deliveries

EMT Training

Formal training is required by all states in order to become an EMT-First Responder. During training, many students are brought along as volunteers to emergency situations. They are volunteers at this stage because they have not had enough training or received their certification. Along with training, students are required to pass examinations to become certified.

Students must be at least 18 years of age and usually have a high school diploma or its equivalents in order to receive EMT training. There are varying class and program types that provide EMT education. Most EMT training programs can be completed within 3-10 weeks. Some schools may provide college credit for students who complete EMT training.

EMT training programs emphasize emergency skills. Students learn how to assess patients who are experiencing cardiac emergencies and other traumatic situations. Training programs also teach students how to provide respiratory healthcare and other medical help, using equipment, such as splints, oxygen systems, stretchers, backboards and suction mounts.

EMT Certification

All states require EMT-First Responders to be certified, which typically involves passing a qualifying examination. To be eligible for the exam, applicants must complete a state-approved training program and hold a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) credential. Once eligible, applicants are tested on topics ranging from oxygenation to cardiology. To maintain their credentials, EMT-First Responders must complete 12 units every two years. Continuing education coursework may cover:

  • Patient assessment
  • Injury and illness
  • Patient prep
  • Circulation issues
  • Childbirth and children

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects significantly rapid job growth for EMTs of all levels. As a whole, jobs for EMTs and paramedics are expected to grow 23% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). BLS data from May 2013 shows a median salary of $31,270, but it should be noted that this figure includes EMTs of all levels, from first responder up to paramedic.

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