Emergency Medicine Degree Program Options

Emergency medicine undergraduate programs prepare students to work as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics. Aspiring emergency medicine physicians may also complete postgraduate residency programs.

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Essential Information

In associate's degree programs, students study topics in anatomy, physical assessment, and cardiology, and they practice emergency medical skills in school labs. They get hands-on experience riding with EMTs and in hospital emergency departments. Many programs prepare graduates for EMT or paramedic licensing. A bachelor's degree program in emergency medicine focuses on emergency medicine administration. Some programs require students be certified EMTs or have completed courses in emergency medicine.

Medical school graduates become board certified in emergency medicine by completing a residency program in this area. These programs offer 3 to 4 years of training in all aspects of emergency care, giving learners experience through work as emergency department physicians. Applicants to emergency medicine residency programs must be registered through the National Resident Matching Program and submit their applications through the Electronic Residency Application Service.


Associate's Degree in Emergency Medicine

In a 2-year program in emergency medicine, also known as emergency medical science, emergency medical services (EMS) or emergency medical technology, students learn to respond quickly and effectively in high-pressure medical situations. Programs include clinical experiences in a hospital and in the field. Prerequisites for an associate's degree program include a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Associate's degree programs include a mix of classroom and laboratory work. In addition to introductory and advanced courses in anatomy and physiology, students complete classes in:

  • Advanced life support for special populations
  • Cardiology
  • EMS management
  • Pharmacology
  • Physical assessment

Bachelor's Degree in Emergency Medical Services

On the bachelor's level, programs in emergency medicine focus on EMS management and administration, as well as pre-hospital medicine. Emergency medical care is a rapidly changing field due to medical and technological advancements, and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) program in emergency medicine help students adapt to and be a part of these changes.

Some colleges require little more than a high school diploma or the equivalent. Others mandate applicants already are registered EMTs or have completed 50-60 credit hours. Courses in a B.S. program train students to take leadership roles in the field. An equal emphasis is put on the scientific and humanist sides of pre-hospital medical care. Classes cover:

  • Disaster management
  • Healthcare and law
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Trauma management
  • Women and children

Residency Programs in Emergency Medicine

Residency programs are offered through universities and medical institutions, including hospitals and research centers. Residents complete a didactic program, in addition to gaining extensive clinical experience at one or more medical centers. Requirements include a passing score on the first step of the U.S. Medical Licensure Exam (USMLE) and submission of a dean's letter, at least three additional letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Some programs give preference to applicants who completed a clerkship in an emergency department during medical school.

Residents in emergency medicine usually attend lectures, seminars, conferences, and workshops, as well as round table discussions and interactive presentations involving various emergency medicine scenarios. They also complete labs in airway management, orthopedics, ultrasound, and wound repair and take part in clinical research. Topics of study in an emergency medicine residency program include:

  • Aeromedical transport
  • Emergency room management
  • International health
  • Management of critically ill patients
  • Trauma care

Popular Career Options

Associate's degree programs in emergency medicine usually lead to entry-level positions as an EMT or paramedic. Employers might include:

  • Hospitals
  • Fire stations
  • EMS companies
  • Ambulance services

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for EMTs and paramedics was projected to rise 24% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary of EMTs and paramedics was $31,980.

As the healthcare industry continues to expand and the population continues to grow and age, physicians and surgeons in general can expect a 14% increase in jobs for the decade spanning 2014-2024, based on BLS figures. The BLS does not provide specific salary data on emergency doctors, but it stated that various physicians and surgeons earned median annual salaries over $187,200 in 2015.

Continuing Education

Students who have completed their residencies might opt to enroll in an emergency medicine fellowship program, which can offer more specialized study in areas such as administration, disaster services, pediatric emergency medicine or resuscitation medicine. Fellowships typically last 24 months and include a faculty appointment.

Licensure for EMTs and paramedics varies by state; however, most states require candidates to earn certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. This organization offers certification for basic EMTs and paramedics, as well as two designations for intermediate EMTs.

Once they've completed their residencies, prospective emergency medicine doctors must earn state licensure to practice. Requirements vary by state buy typically include graduation from an accredited medical school and completion of both steps of the USMLE.

Additionally, board certification in emergency medicine is offered through the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM). To qualify, applicants must have graduated from medical school, completed a residency in emergency medicine and, in some cases, earned state licensure (www.abem.org). They also must pass qualifying and oral exams. In addition to basic certification, ABEM also offers professional designations in a number of subspecialties, including emergency medical services, pediatric emergency medicine and sports medicine.

Undergraduate emergency medicine programs provide students with skills needed to be EMTS or emergency medicine doctors. State licensure is required for doctors, and EMTS must obtain certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.

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