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Emergency Medical Technician (EMT): Trade School Diploma Overview

Depending on one's career goals, becoming an EMT can come to fruition through basic, intermediate or paramedic training programs. Some of these programs can lead to diplomas, though many lead to certificates. Each program has its own prerequisites, which may include meeting age minimums, holding first aid certification and passing a background check. Admission to an intermediate or paramedic training program usually requires current EMT-B certification or licensure.

Essential Information

In general, all of these programs address airway management, pharmacology, pediatric care, anatomy, trauma and life support procedures. Clinical experiences and skills labs are critical components of all programs as well. Following the completion of any of the diploma programs, graduates need to get licensed, which requires the passing of a state or national exam. Continuing education must be taken to maintain licensure.

  • Program Levels: Basic, intermediate, paramedic.
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma and CPR certification; EMT basic level training is required for admission to the paramedic level.
  • Online Availability: Not commonly available online.
  • Program Length: Single course to a year of training or more.

Emergency Medical Technician - Basic Diploma

An EMT-Basic level diploma program provides students with the medical training they need to become a basic EMT. The scope of practice at this level is generally defined at the state level, but in most cases, individuals who are basic EMTs will provide life support procedures, provide fundamental patient care and assist higher level EMTs and paramedics.

EMT-Basic programs typically require a high school diploma. Students may also need to have cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification or be affiliated with an emergency medical service. Some schools may require reference letters or completion of a physical exam. Students may also have to pass a criminal background check.

Unlike most other diploma programs, EMT training usually consists of one class as opposed to multiple courses. In the EMT-Basic program, students learn fundamental life-saving, patient care and emergency response skills through classroom and practical study. Fundamental skills learned in this program may include:

  • Airway management
  • Trauma care
  • Pediatric care
  • Pathophysiological care
  • Emergency care theory
  • Emergency equipment use

Upon completing a program, students must pass a state examination to become licensed as a basic EMT. This test contains written and practical exams. Some states administer their own exams, but it is also common for states to use the exam provided by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). Continuing education is usually required to maintain an active license.

Emergency Medical Technician - Intermediate Diploma

An EMT-Intermediate (EMT-I) program allows students to qualify for recognition as an EMT-I in their state. Through a program, students build upon their EMT-Basic skills and knowledge.

To enter an EMT-I program, students typically must be at least 18 years old. Schools usually require students to have CPR certification, submit proof of immunization and health history, complete a criminal background check and possess a current EMT-Basic license within the state.

In an EMT-I program, students learn advanced skills in life support, emergency care and patient care. Some of the skills learned in this program through classroom study and practical training include:

  • Patient stabilization techniques
  • Life support procedures
  • Transportation of injured patients
  • Pharmacology
  • Terrorism response actions

Students must become licensed as an EMT-I upon completing a diploma program. Licensing is regulated at the state level and usually includes passing written and practical tests. Testing processes for EMT-I is usually similar to the process for EMT-Basic.

Emergency Medical Technician - Paramedic Diploma

The highest level of emergency medical technician is a paramedic. In a paramedic diploma program, students build upon the skills learned in previous EMT training programs. At this level, students are prepared to serve as the lead on an emergency response team.

To enter a paramedic program, students must have at least an EMT-B license. Students may need to complete a criminal background check and health check-up. Some schools may also have prerequisite classes in reading, math and writing that must be completed at a certain grade point average before students are admitted into the paramedic program.

In a paramedic program, students will study the same topics they learned in their previous EMT studies, in addition to advanced skills that are specific to paramedics, through classroom studies, clinical experiences and practical laboratory work. Some of the skills a student may learn include:

  • Anatomy
  • Trauma care
  • Pediatric life support
  • Cardiac care
  • Physiology

The NREMT examination is commonly used to license paramedics in all states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Maintaining a paramedic license usually requires continuing education.


Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports employment outlook and salary information for basic and intermediate EMTs and paramedics together. According to the BLS, as of May 2012 there were 239,100 jobs held in this field. The BLS projects job growth of 23% from 2012-2022. The BLS reported the mean annual wage for EMTs and paramedics was $35,110, as of May 2014.

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