How to Become a CPR Trainer: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 05, 2020

Learn how to become a CPR trainer. Research the education requirements, training, certification, and experience you need to start a career in CPR training.

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Should I Become A CPR Trainer?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) trainers coordinate and lead classes in which people learn the life-saving procedures used when someone experiences a cardiac or breathing emergency. Their job duties include coordinating class times and locations, transporting and cleaning equipment, ensuring completion of paperwork, and evaluating student performance. CPR instructors often work for the American Red Cross (ARC), the American Heart Association (AHA) or for medical centers.

Except for medical services instructors, who teach EMT and paramedics, very few CPR trainers teach on a full-time basis. The work environment for a CPR trainer is usually an educational setting, although community centers, hospitals, and other locations sometimes host CPR classes. CPR trainers usually teach alone, but collaboration with other instructors may be necessary for larger groups. Some CPR trainers are EMTs or paramedics themselves and teach life-saving skills on a part-time basis in addition to their primary career.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma
Certification Basic life support and basic life support instructor certification
Experience Some employers may prefer candidates with 2-3 years of teaching experience
Licensure and Certification Certifications available form the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Red Cross (ARC)
Key Skills Teaching, presentation and speaking skills, physical dexterity to perform CPR, ability to lift and move class equipment weighing up to 50 pounds
Salary $34,320 per year (Median Salary for Full Time EMTs and Paramedics)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May, 2018)

Steps to Become a CPR Trainer

Let's take a look at what steps you'll need to take to become a CPR trainer:

Step 1: Obtain Basic-Level CPR Certification

Possessing basic CPR or basic life support (BLS) certification is usually required for admission to an instructor-level CPR training course. Basic courses are offered by organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, the American Safety and Health Institute and the National Safety Council. Available courses may be designed for healthcare providers, non-healthcare providers who require certification for their job or for individuals who want to learn CPR but do not require any certification. Some programs require that participants pass exams with a minimum score.

Success Tip:

  • Contact the American Heart Association. The AHA requires aspiring CPR trainers to contact its training center to determine if it is accepting new instructors. Contacting the AHA while completing a basic CPR program allows individuals to determine whether to pursue instructor training through the AHA.
  • Practice. CPR is performed slightly differently on adults, children and infants. After earning CPR certification, but before going on to teach it to others, potential instructors should practice CPR techniques on dummies and carefully review all procedures.

Step 2: Take the Red Cross Pre-Course Exam

The Red Cross requires that aspiring CPR trainers pass an initial pre-course exam before beginning instructor training. The pre-course exam is available online. Passing this exam is a prerequisite to attending an instructor training course offered by the Red Cross. Students intending to attend a program through the AHA do not need to take this exam.

Step 3: Complete the First Required Course

Both ARC and AHA training consist of two courses. The AHA's first course, entitled the 'Core Instructor Course,' teaches planning and preparation, management, methods of instruction and cultural sensitivity. This course can be completed online, in a classroom or via a CD in a self-directed format. Students are awarded a certificate upon successful completion of the course.

The first course in the Red Cross instructor training series is the Fundamentals of Instructor Training (FIT). In this course, students are introduced to the Red Cross as an organization and learn about its history, organizational structure and activities.

Step 4: Complete the Instructor Course

The AHA does not offer instructor training solely in CPR. Instead, it offers Basic Life Support, Heartsaver, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support courses that prepare graduates to work as instructors. Classes are available online, in a classroom or a hybrid format of online and classroom training.

Most Red Cross instructor courses are designed for a specific audience and prepare instructors to work with that specific audience after completion. Examples of course audiences include babysitters, professional childcare providers, lifeguards and emergency response professionals. These classes are offered online, in a classroom or in hybrid formats.

Step 5: Declare a Discipline

After completing the core instructor course, potential trainers choose a specialization and take an instructor training course in basic life support (BLS), Heartsaver CPR, advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) or pediatric advanced life support (PALS). Students learn how to teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques and are granted authority to hand out completion cards to those who take their class.

Step 6: Pass an Observation

The AHA requires that new instructors be monitored when teaching their first course. If the student successfully presents the CPR training to the group, the professional recommends them for CPR instructor certification. The Red Cross does not have this requirement.

Success Tip:

  • Utilize AHA and ARC instructor resources. The Red Cross and the AHA offer instructors access to online instructor resource networks. These networks allow instructors to print certificates, manage course records, access training materials and communicate with other instructors. The Red Cross' online network also allows CPR trainers certified by another organization to become certified by the Red Cross.

Step 7: Re-Certify as Required to Advance Your Career

Stay current! ARC instructor certifications are valid for two years. They may be renewed as long as the instructor has taught as least one CPR course during the certification period.

AHA instructors are required to teach at least four classes during the 2-year certification period. AHA-certified instructors must pass an exam to re-certify.

To become a CPR trainer, you need to complete CPR certification and instructor training courses, including passing an observation and recertifying as required.

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