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First Responder Certification and Diploma Program Information

Get information on first responder certificate programs. Read about where the courses are offered, what's in the curriculum and what continuing education opportunities are available.

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Essential Information

First responders are emergency personnel who learn to assess injured people at accident scenes, begin treatment where appropriate and then assist more advanced emergency medical providers when they arrive on scene. Currently, there is not a first responder diploma program; however, first responder certificate programs can be found at local community colleges or, occasionally, at fire or police stations.

The first responder certificate is the introductory program for pre-hospital and emergency medicine training. Students learn basic medical treatments and practical skills training in emergency medical care. The program can be completed in approximately four months, and it includes 40 hours of training and coursework from a state-approved program. Upon completion, students will have earned cardiopulmonary resuscitation credentials and completed state-approved cognitive and psychomotor exams. Related programs include wilderness first responder certificate programs and emergency medical technician (EMT) certificate and diploma programs.

Educational Prerequisites

In addition to the age requirement, most first responder certificate programs all require students to meet the state's emergency medical services requirements. Some programs will also require certification in basic life support or an approved equivalent.

Program Coursework

First responders will need strong communication, assessment and emergency care skills. Students can develop the necessary skills and learn more about the first responder role through coursework in areas, such as the following:

  • Childbirth
  • Bleeding and soft tissue injuries
  • Circulation
  • Patient assessment
  • Airway
  • Lifting and moving patients
  • Legal and ethical issues
  • Illness and injuries
  • Defibrillation
  • Legal and ethical issues

Employment Outlook

Graduates of the first responder certificate program can gain the experience they will need for the next levels within the field, including emergency medical technician and paramedic positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (, job prospects for emergency medical technicians and paramedics will be favorable, with growth in this field expected to remain much faster than average from 2010 to 2020. The BLS also notes that these professionals had an average annual salary of $34,370 as of May 2012.

Continuing Education

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification is required for many first responder positions and courses are offered commonly offered through first responder programs. Students who hold a first responder certificate may also consider a paramedic emergency medicine or emergency medical technician (EMT) programs at the associate's degree level. Bachelor's degree programs in emergency medical services (EMS) are available to gain further preparation for emergency medicine careers or graduate programs in medicine or related field.

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Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics