EMT Jobs: Career Options, Duties and Job Descriptions

EMTs require some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties, salary expectations and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

As an emergency medical technician, formal and extensive training is necessary, as the life of a human being can depend on your actions. EMTs must possess driving, communication, and problem-solving skills. They must complete a certificate or associate's degree program and pass a certification exam.

Essential Information

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provide initial assessment and treatment of patients in emergency situations, including automobile accidents and sudden physical illnesses. A prospective EMT may obtain training through certificate and associate degree programs at the basic, intermediate and paramedic levels. They learn about anatomy, emergency medical procedures and practices, and hone their skills through hands-on experience.

All states require certification for EMTs and paramedics, which calls for education and passing a national examination. There may be other requirements as well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says job opportunities for EMTs should increase much faster than average for all occupations from 2014 to 2024.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree program
Other Requirements All states require certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 24% (much faster than average)
Median Salary (2015)* $31,980

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

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Emergency Medical Technician Job Description

As the first responders to a pre-hospital emergency scene, EMTs are responsible for initially assessing, treating and transporting patients to a medical facility. Knowledge in anatomy and physiology, pharmacology and trauma are necessary. EMTs typically operate as part of a team, in conjunction with firefighters and police dispatched to the scene of an accident or incident. Due to the nature of the emergency medical services profession, EMTs are often required to work odd hours and weekends. Working as an EMT can also be physically and emotionally demanding.

Career Options

EMTs are most commonly classified in the EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic levels. Each successive level requires more training, undertaken through certificate or associate's degree programs, and state licensure; correspondingly, each progression entails a broader scope of EMT capabilities, with paramedics performing the most advanced life support functions. EMTs are generally employed with fire and rescue departments, as well as ambulance services. However, EMTs can also work in health care facilities and inter-hospital transport services.

Job Duties

EMTs must be prepared to respond to a wide range of emergencies, spanning automobile accidents, violent crimes, seizures, childbirths, strokes, heart attacks, drug overdoses, and poisonings. After arriving on the scene, EMTs may bandage and splint injuries, mobilize patients, check vital signs, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, open airways, treat shock, control bleeding, and administer oxygen. Intermediate-level EMTs may additionally, depending on the state, make advanced assessments, perform defibrillations and apply sophisticated airway management techniques. In addition to fulfilling the same functions as basic or intermediate EMTs, EMT-Paramedics are able to perform more complex tasks, such as interpreting electrocardiograms and intravenously administering medications.

To become an EMT, you must complete a certificate or associate's degree program and pass a national certification test. Good communication and knowledge of emergency medical tasks are essential. More training can move you up to higher level classifications, such as a paramedic.

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