EMT Requirements and Qualifications Overview

Jan 02, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an EMT. Get a quick view of the requirements and details about training, job duties, and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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  • 00:01 Essential Information
  • 0:42 Licensing Requirements
  • 3:17 Education Requirements
  • 3:44 Career Outlook & Salary

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Essential Information

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provide urgent medical care to sick or injured people. They may be employed by hospitals or other medical facilities, fire departments, or private ambulance services. EMTs respond to a variety of emergencies, including heart attacks, traumatic injuries, and childbirth. They also work with police and firefighters at the scene of an emergency before transporting patients to medical facilities for more comprehensive treatment. In addition to having a high school diploma or the equivalent, EMTs must undergo significant training and earn certification and state licensing before they can work. Strong physical health, good vision, and a clean criminal record also are important for EMTs.

Required Education H.S. diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements Certification and state license
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 23% (EMTs and paramedics)*
Median Salary (2015) $31,980 (EMTs and paramedics)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

EMT Requirements

All states require EMTs to be licensed; however, licensing requirements vary by state and EMT level. Becoming licensed entails formal training at the EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, or EMT-Paramedic level. Training programs vary from 2-6 months and are available at emergency medical service academies, community colleges, technical schools, and universities. These programs help prepare aspiring EMTs for the appropriate National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification exam.

EMT-Basic Training

EMT-Basic is the minimum level of certification for a career in emergency medical services. Training courses typically include 100 hours of training in urgent situations, such as cardiac and respiratory emergencies, childbirth, and major disasters. Instruction may cover human anatomy, lifting and moving bodies, airway management, blood stoppage, trauma management, and patient assessment. Some programs provide training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), while others require students to hold CPR certification before admission.

EMT-Intermediate Training

Intermediate-level certification is divided into EMT-Intermediate 1985 and EMT-Intermediate 1999 classifications. Depending on the state, EMT-Intermediate training programs are comprised of 30-350 hours of classroom and clinical instruction. These programs focus on more in-depth instruction in life support care. Students may learn advanced principles of trauma management, medication administration, and intravenous treatment. Internships may be required to complete these programs.

EMT-Paramedic Training

The highest level of emergency service training is EMT-Paramedic. Paramedic-level training programs can take up to two years to complete and lead to certificates or associate's degrees in EMT-Paramedic. Associate of Applied Science in EMT-Paramedic programs incorporate general education with emergency-specific training. Core courses may range from medical terminology to emergency service management and psychology. These programs also incorporate field training and clinical practicums.

Certification and Licensure

After completion of a training program, candidates must pass the respective NREMT certification exam. Though some states administer their own licensing exams, most accept passage of a certification exam administered by the NREMT. The NREMT offers separate exams for each level of EMT certification, and each exam is comprised of both a written, competency portion and a practical demonstration portion. EMTs must renew certification every 2-3 years by earning continuing education credits and passing a recertification exam.

EMT Qualifications

To be eligible for an EMT training program, candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent degree, and a clean criminal record. Aside from formal training, EMTs must also have keen senses, especially eyesight and color vision. Physical fitness is also necessary for this position, because EMTs may be required to lift and move people. Manual dexterity, alertness, and the ability to control one's own emotions are also beneficial for a career in emergency medical services.

Salary Info and Career Outlook for EMTs

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2015, the median annual salary of EMTs and paramedics was $31,980. In the same year, the BLS noted that there were about 236,890 of these workers employed nationwide. Jobs for EMTs and paramedics are expected to be in high demand during the coming years; the BLS anticipated that employment in the field would grow 23% from 2012-2022.

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