How to Be an Emergency Medical Technologist

Find out how to become an emergency medical technologist. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in emergency medical technology. View article »

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  • 0:00 Emergency Medical…
  • 1:15 Step 1: Complete…
  • 2:19 Step 2: Get Certified…
  • 3:25 Step 3: Pursue…
  • 4:05 Step 4: Advance to…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Emergency Medical Technologist?

Degree Level None; associate's degree can be helpful
Training EMT, paramedic training
Certification and Licensure Required certification via the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians; licensure varies by state
Experience Each EMT level requires a minimum of experience
Key Skills Problem-solving and communication skills; physical strength; know how to use and maintain emergency medical tools and supplies; able to work irregular hours, nights, and weekends
Salary (2015) $35,430 (mean for EMTs and paramedics)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Emergency medical technologists are more commonly known as emergency medical technicians (EMTs). These professionals are trained to treat patients suffering from acute illness or trauma, and they provide care before a patient is transported to a medical center or en route to the health care facility.

There are multiple levels of emergency medical technologists, ranging from EMT-Basic to paramedic. The majority of EMTs work full-time, although hours generally include evenings, nights, and weekends and can be irregular, such as 12-hour shifts. EMTs work in vehicles, transporting patients to medical care settings. They may work indoors or outdoors to pick patients up and often must assist at the scene of emergencies. While helping save lives can make for a fulfilling career, this job can be hazardous and is highly stressful. Additionally, despite the demands of the job, salary potential is limited. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMTs and paramedics earned an average salary of $35,430 as of May 2015.

Step 1: Complete EMT-Basic Training

A high school diploma or the equivalent is required to enroll in an EMT-Basic program, and students are typically required to have CPR certification before enrollment. The EMT-Basic program is generally offered through 2-year colleges and emergency medical service providers, like hospitals and fire departments. Depending on the program, it consists of around 120 hours of training and takes 1-3 months to complete.

Basic training for emergency medical technicians is based on national standards and prepares students to sit for the EMT-Basic exam offered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). The EMT-Basic training focuses on teaching students how to bandage injuries, assess patients, and use various pieces of medical equipment. Students also learn to deal with heart and lung emergencies, mental and behavioral issues, poisoning, overdoses, allergic reactions, and environmental contamination.

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Step 2: Get Certified and Licensed

In all states, EMTs must be licensed. While licensure requirements vary by state, they typically involve passage of the NREMT EMT-Basic exam. Some states have their own examinations administered by local licensing agencies. Candidates must usually have a current CPR card and a clean criminal record. Licenses usually need to be renewed periodically.

There are also requirements to sit for the NREMT exam. Candidates must be at least 18 years old and need to have completed their EMT-Basic training within the past 2 years. Applicants must pass the cognitive and psychomotor exams to become certified. The cognitive exam is designed to test the applicant's knowledge of the emergency medical services field, while the psychomotor exam is designed to demonstrate the applicant's competence with techniques learned in EMT-Basic. Once an applicant has passed both exams, he or she is considered a certified EMT. This certification must be renewed regularly, usually every 2 years.

Step 3: Pursue Intermediate EMT Training

Following completion of the EMT-Basic exam, an emergency medical technician might choose to pursue EMT-Intermediate training and certification. EMT-Intermediate requires around 1,000 hours of training and instruction and is divided into two levels: Intermediate 1985 and Intermediate 1999. These training programs emphasize advanced airway techniques and intravenous therapy. The Intermediate 1999 training also covers advanced cardiac management and medicinal practices. Following completion of this training, EMTs sit for cognitive and psychomotor NREMT exams.

Step 4: Advance to Paramedic Training

Paramedics provide more advanced prehospital services than lower-level EMTs. Paramedic training typically takes 1-2 years to complete and may be offered as part of an associate's degree program. Coursework includes upper-level classes in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, patient assessment, cardiology, trauma management, medical emergencies, and clinical studies. Paramedics must pass the corresponding NREMT exams and will need to renew their certification every 2 years.

Success Tip:

  • Take an ambulance operator course. Ambulance licensure is separate from paramedic licensure, so students who plan on driving an ambulance can start the process early on. The course usually requires classroom instruction and around 10 hours of practical experience.

To become an emergency medical technologist, or EMT, you'll need to complete an EMT-Basic training course and earn licensure, which generally requires passing a certification exam through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. EMTs often advance to EMT-Intermediate and paramedic status with additional training and licensure.

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