Emergency Medical Technicians: Career and Salary Overview

Sep 17, 2019

Becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT) requires a certificate or an associate's degree, in addition to the appropriate state license. There are three levels of EMT, which are basic, intermediate and paramedic, and each level has its own degrees of responsibility. Jobs in this field expected to continue their rapid growth rate during the next decade.

Essential Information

Emergency medical technicians (EMT) respond to emergencies and provide pre-hospital medical care to ill or injured individuals. Depending on their level of certification, EMTs may be trained to clear blocked airways, control bleeding, administer medication, perform CPR and apply splints. These professionals need to complete approved EMT programs and pass state licensing exams.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree
Other Requirements Licensure required in all states
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% (EMTs and paramedics)
Average Salary (2018)* $37,760 (EMTs and paramedics)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Overview: Emergency Medical Technicians

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) arrive on-scene to medical emergencies and accidents. They analyze the severity of injuries or illness, provide medical care and transport the patients to nearby hospitals.

Certification Requirements

Because EMTs often work in life or death situations, all states require EMTs to be certified before practicing in the field. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) prescribes minimum certification standards that must be met by all EMTs. However, specific certification requirements vary by state, with some states implementing more stringent standards than the minimum demanded by the NHTSA. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) provides various levels of EMT certification exams that are in compliance with NHTSA regulations. The duties of EMTs depend on their level of certification.

Certified First Responders

Although the NREMT also certifies first responders, first responders are not technically emergency medical techs. First responders fill the gap between individuals who are trained to provide advanced first aid and those who are certified EMTs. Certified first responders often work with volunteer fire departments and volunteer emergency medical service providers. First responders can administer medical oxygen to patients, apply splints, take vital signs and operate automated external defibrillators (AEDs).


EMT-Basic is the first (lowest) level of EMT certification. Individuals with an EMT-Basic certification can perform medical assessments, operate AEDs, open airways and perform CPR. An emergency medical tech can also administer epinephrine injections with EpiPens and apply splints to immobilize fractured bones.


The specific tasks that EMT-Intermediates are allowed to perform will vary by state. In general, EMT-Intermediates can perform all duties of EMT-Basics and certain invasive procedures, which may include performing intubations and administering intravenous therapy. Some states are phasing out the EMT-Intermediate level in favor of a 2-level EMT certification system.


Of all EMTs, paramedics are able to administer the most advanced medical treatments. These may include cardiac monitoring, needle thoracostomy, suturing and operation of manual defibrillators. In needle thoracostomy, needles are inserted into chest cavities to release air trapped inside because of lung disease, lung puncturing or other chest injuries.

Salary Overview: Emergency Medical Technicians

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median hourly salary of EMTs was $16.50 as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov). The average annual wages of EMTs were $37,760 as of May 2018. EMTs employed by state governments earned an average of $61,580 per year in May 2018, the highest average pay for any employer of EMTs.

Employment Outlook

According to projections data released by the BLS, employment of EMTs is expected to increase 24% during the 2014-2024 decade, which is faster than average. Job prospects for EMTs remain favorable because, as the population ages, need for emergency medical services continues to grow.

EMTs can be classified as basic, intermediate and paramedic, and must complete a certificate or associate's degree program, depending on their desired level of employment. State licensure is also required in this rapidly-growing field. The median salary for EMTs in 2018 was almost $32,500, but salary varies by employer.

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