How to Become a Certified First Responder

Research the requirements to become a certified first responder. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in emergency medical services.

Do I Want to Be a Certified First Responder?

Also known as emergency medical responders, these professionals can be the earliest healthcare workers to arrive at an accident or scene of a medical emergency. As a crucial part of the emergency medical assistance team, a first responder quickly assesses emergency situations, calls an ambulance and administers first aid. They must be able to remain calm in the midst of life-or-death crisis situations.

Job Requirements

Becoming a certified first responder requires a high school diploma or GED, completion of training classes and certification. The following table shows the requirements typical to become a certified first responder:

Common Requirements
Licensure and/or Certification Certification from National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT)*
Experience None (Entry Level)***
Key Skills First responder/EMR (Emergency medical responder) skills*
Technical Skills Use of field emergency care equipment**
Additional Requirements CPR for health care provider certification*

Sources: *National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, **U.S. Department of Transportation, ***National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

Step 1: Obtain CPR Training

First responders are required to have certification in CPR for healthcare providers. Training and certification can be found through the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and other venues. These courses provide more in-depth training than standard layperson CPR courses. Instruction includes 1- and 2-rescuer CPR techniques, use of an automatic external defibrillator and rescue breathing.

Step 2: Complete a State-Approved First Responder Course

The U.S. Department of Transportation First Responder National Standard Curriculum is the standard for first responder training. The curriculum is divided into seven modules for a total of 26 lessons addressing patient preparation, airway management, patient assessment, circulation, medical emergencies and illnesses, situations involving childbirth and infants and EMS operations. The course also teaches how to use certain medical equipment and report to responding emergency medical technicians and authorities. The 40-hour course generally takes around 30 days to complete.

Success Tip

  • Take classes in anatomy and similar disciplines. A knowledge of human anatomy and physiology will help with understanding the skills needed as a first responder.

Step 3: Take the Certification Exam

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) offers certification and recertification to first responders. Applicants must pass cognitive and psychomotor examinations, which can be taken through a state licensing agency as well as the NREMT. The cognitive portion of the exam covers a full range of emergency medical care topics, while the psychomotor test consists of a hands-on demonstration of learned emergency skills. Upon completion of these exams, certification is awarded.

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