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Emergency Medical Technician: Summary of Becoming an EMT

Emergency medical technicians require a significant amount of formal training. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Emergency medical technicians perform medical services during emergency situations. In many cases, they help stabilize a patient who is being transported to a hospital. Their precise duties and responsibilities vary according to their EMT rank. EMT-Basic is the lowest level of emergency medical technician, followed by EMT-Intermediate and finally EMT-Paramedic. Entry-level EMT positions require the completion of a non-degree award program typically offered by a technical institute or community college.

Required Education Postsecondary training program
Other Requirements Certification through National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) required in all states; CPR certification
Projected Job Growth23% from 2012-2022 (for all emergency medical technicians and paramedics)*
Average Salary (2013) $31,270 annually (for all emergency medical technicians and paramedics)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Training Requirements

As medical professionals, EMTs must be trained to handle potentially stressful situations. Students must successfully complete an EMT-Basic program and pass a series of exams before being able to practice in the field. Students must be 18 years old with a high school diploma in order to participate in EMT-Basic training. They may also be required to obtain CPR certification and certain immunizations.

EMT-Basic training programs may be completed in as little as one semester of coursework. Students receive a combination of clinical and classroom education. They learn how to use a variety of medical equipment, such as immobilizing backboards, suction mounts, defibrillators and oxygen masks. They also learn how to take vital signs, assess patients, administer IVs and lift immobile patients. Courses may include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Airway management
  • Bleeding control
  • Medication assistance
  • EMT documentation

Advanced Training

EMTs may advance their careers with additional training. Intermediate-level training programs may consist of anything from 30-350 hours of coursework and are usually available to those with a minimum amount of EMT-Basic experience. They learn to conduct advanced emergency procedures, such as giving medication and installing airway devices. EMTs may also advance to paramedic status by completing an EMT-Paramedic training program. Paramedic-level programs often take two years to complete and culminate in associate's degrees.

State Licensure and Continuing Education

EMTs must be licensed by the state in which they work. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but typically include passage of a certification exam administered by the National Registry for Emergency Medical Technicians. Exams are available at all EMT levels and consist of two parts: a written portion and a skills assessment (www.nremt.org). EMTs are also required to renew licensure regularly by completing continuing education, such as coursework in:

  • Patient preparation
  • Patient health assessment
  • Ailment and injury types
  • Medical traumas

Salary and Career Information

The BLS predicted that EMTs and paramedics will have a much faster than average employment growth of 23% in the 2012-2022 decade. They also earned median annual wages of $31,270 in 2013, according to the BLS.

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