Medical First Responder: Career Profile

Sep 14, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a medical first responder. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about paramedic and emergency medical technician (EMT) training, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Medical first responders are required to complete emergency medical technician or paramedic training. These programs typically last from three to twelve weeks in length. Medical first responders must also have a state license.

Essential Information

Medical first responder is a term used for EMTs and paramedics. EMTs and paramedics must be high school graduates and complete special training programs, which are offered at several levels. EMT-Basic programs may take just a few months, while 2-year associate's degrees are the standard for paramedics. All states require that EMTs and paramedics be licensed or certified, which calls for training and passing national examinations.

Required Education EMT or paramedic training
Other Requirements State license
Projected Job Growth 7% from 2018-2028* for Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics
Median Salary $34,320 (2018)* for Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Profile for Medical First Responders

Upon arriving on the scene of an accident or health crises, medical first responders or emergency medical technicians (EMTs) evaluate the injured person's situation. This includes determining whether the patient has preexisting conditions and then deciding on an appropriate treatment, which may include CPR, administration of oxygen or other measures. After assessing the situation, medical first responders may treat the injured person using special medical equipment such as:

  • Oxygen delivery devices
  • Stretchers and immobilization backboards
  • Splints and wraps
  • Suction devices

Occupational and Salary Information

The BLS predicted that job opportunities for paramedics and emergency medical technicians will grow 7% for the years 2018-2028 ( This employment growth is faster than the national average projection for that same period. The median annual wage for EMTs and paramedics was $34,320 in May 2018. The lowest-paid workers earned $22,760 or less annually in 2018, and the highest-paid professionals made over $58,640 annually that same year.

Required Education and Certification

Formal training is required to become a medical first responder. In order to enter a training program, students must have a high school diploma and be at least 18 years old in most states. First responder or EMT-Basic training programs can typically be completed in 3-12 weeks. Students get ride-along training, as well as learn about common emergencies such as:

  • Heart attacks
  • Broken bones
  • Respiratory issues
  • Unexpected childbirth

In order to practice, all states require medical first responders to be licensed or certified. To become licensed, some states require candidates to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification exam, while others mandate prospective EMTs to successfully complete a state exam. Those who pass become licensed and must renew the certifications every 2-3 years.

The 7% job growth projected for medical first responders from 2018-2028 is faster than average when compared to all occupations. Applicants who complete the appropriate postsecondary training and gain experience in the field through an internship or practicum should be able to compete effectively for jobs as a medical first responder.

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