All emergency medical technicians (EMT) must be licensed, although each state has its own specific requirements. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) provides certification standards that are applicable in most locations. Some states provide their own examinations, while others use the NREMT tests.
Typically, EMT-Basic training includes at least 130 hours' worth of classroom and emergency medical experience, which can be completed in 2-4 months. EMT-Paramedic training is more extensive, requiring at least 1,200 hours or about two years of work. Individuals enrolled in a paramedic training program may also have the option to complete an associate's degree program in conjunction with their training. In addition to online coursework, each of these programs requires on-site clinical training in hospital and ambulance settings. Applicants must have CPR or life support certification, and they may be required to submit health and immunization documentation.
EMT certification cannot be completed 100% online. However, those willing to go on-site for portions of the practical training can take Web-based coursework. Due to the nature of distance learning, online courses are often most suitable to those who have already completed a certification program and are looking for renewal, individuals with a healthcare background or students with high motivation and strong discipline.
Hybrid EMT training is available from community colleges and some four-year universities. To be eligible for enrollment, prospective students may have to submit documentation regarding their health status, immunizations and valid CPR or basic life support certification.
Like traditional on-campus programs, distance learning EMT training focuses on the technical, safety and ethical issues involved in being an emergency responder. Though not necessarily required, some schools recommend that students complete classes in areas like anatomy before enrolling to help them be prepared for the coursework. Students in a hybrid EMT program learn about specific medical conditions and how to handle them, in addition to the following:
- Medical terminology
- Anatomy and human development
- Safety protocols
- EMS systems
- Patient assessment
- Emergency responses to specific populations (children, the elderly and those with special needs)
- Oxygenation and ventilation
Online & On-Site Components
For initial EMT-Basic or EMT-Paramedic training, some programs provide Web-based instruction through lectures by streaming audio and video, PowerPoint presentation, discussion board participation and self-conducted examinations.
On top of the online instruction, students need to attend weekly skill sessions and complete clinical time in an ambulance or hospital environment. Practical skills that cannot be learned online may include patient assessment, administering oxygen and bandaging.
Certification and License Renewal Requirements
To be eligible for NREMT certification, candidates must finish an approved training program and pass a written and practical exam. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, other common requirements for state licensure include being at least 18 years old and having a clean criminal background check (www.bls.gov).
Most states require license renewal after two or three years. EMT-Basic and EMT-Paramedic refresher courses are available online for EMTs looking to brush up on their skills. Online courses are also available for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) that can count toward license renewal.
Hybrid EMT training programs provide a blend of online coursework, which is provided through a virtual classroom, and on-site practical training, which gives them real-world emergency response experience, so that graduates are ready to take state licensure exams. Depending on the student's previous education, these programs are offered at several different levels.