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How to Get EMS Certified: Certification Program Info

Emergency medical services certification is typically a required credential for emergency medical technician (EMT) and paramedic professionals. Get some quick facts about the training and other requirements necessary to qualify for EMT and paramedic jobs.

Emergency medical technicians can receive three levels of certification: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and EMT-Paramedic. Each requires a high school diploma or GED, completion of a specific training program, passing an examination, and other requirements such as a background check that may vary by state. Licensing for EMTs is required in all states.

Essential Information

Emergency medical services (EMS) certifications establish the proficiency of emergency personnel. EMS workers who typically require certification are EMTs and paramedics. Training programs for these professions usually result in certificates or associate's degrees and prepare students for certification and state licensure.

Education High school education or equivalent, EMT/paramedic training program
Training Programs Offered by community colleges and technical schools
Examination Requirements Varies by state, but most use the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT)
Projected Job Growth* 24% (2014-2024)
Median Annual Salary* $31,980 (2015)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

EMS Certification

EMTs and paramedics are often the first responders to accidents and other emergencies, like fires. They are responsible for evaluating patients' conditions, providing treatment to stabilize patients and transporting patients to medical facilities. Once at a medical facility, they hand over care of a patient to emergency room personnel and inform the staff about the patient's condition and any treatment given.

Determine State EMS Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many states use the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) as the certifying body for EMTs and paramedics (www.bls.gov). The levels of certification offered are: First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate 1985, EMT-Intermediate 1999 and Paramedic. Each certification level requires a different level of training. Some states use other titles and have established unique certifications. States may require that certification candidates be sponsored by an organization like a hospital, the military or a licensed emergency transportation service.

Complete EMS Training and Testing

A high school diploma or its equivalent is usually required to enroll in EMT and paramedic training programs. State-approved training courses may be offered by community colleges and technical schools. Students receive classroom instruction and complete field experiences. In addition, most programs require that students earn CPR certifications and be up-to-date with their vaccinations. Students who complete training may then apply to take the appropriate NREMT test to earn certification.

The NREMT exams include both cognitive and psychomotor components (www.nremt.org). The cognitive exams are computer adaptive exams that select questions of varying difficulty based on an individual's previous answers. The only exception is the EMT-Intermediate 1999 exam, which is multiple-choice. The psychomotor exams test the practical application of skills needed by EMTs and paramedics.

Apply for Licensure

While most states require NREMT certification, all require licensure according to the BLS. To obtain a license, each state requires a completed application form along with the payment of an application fee. Some states require that applicants pass criminal background checks, pay all tax liabilities and be current on child support payments. Most states require that EMTs and paramedics participate in continuing education and renew their licenses every 2-3 years.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment opportunities for EMTs and paramedics were predicted to rise 24% during the 2014-2024 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate was significantly faster than average, and an aging population could be one of the primary reasons for job growth. As of 2015, the median salary for EMTs and paramedics was $31,980, per the BLS.

EMT training includes both classroom and field experience. Certification is required at every level and calls for completing a training program and passing an exam. EMT and paramedic median annual salary was around $32,000 in 2015, and the job growth outlook for these professions is much faster than the job market.


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