First Responder Certification and Diploma Program Information

First responders are emergency personnel who learn to assess injured people at accident scenes, begin treatment where appropriate and then assist more advanced emergency medical providers when they arrive on scene. Find out the prerequisites and time commitment required to pursue a first responder certificate, as well as information about common courses, employment outlook, and salary information.

Essential Information

The first responder certificate is the introductory program for pre-hospital and emergency medicine training. Students learn basic medical treatments and practical skills training in emergency medical care. The program can be completed in approximately four months, and it includes 40 hours of training and coursework from a state-approved program. In order to enroll in the certificate program, students must meet the state's emergency medical service requirements and have prior certification in basic life support.

Upon completion, students will have earned cardiopulmonary resuscitation credentials and completed state-approved cognitive and psychomotor exams. Related programs include wilderness first responder certificate programs and emergency medical technician (EMT) certificate and diploma programs. First responders may need to obtain licensure depending on what state they work in.

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Certification Programs for First Responders

Students develop strong communication, assessment and emergency care skills and learn more about the first responder role through coursework in areas such as the following:

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  • Lifting and moving patients/patient assessment
  • Legal and ethical issues

Employment Outlook

Graduates of the first responder certificate program can gain the experience they will need for the next levels within the field, including emergency medical technician and paramedic positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (, job prospects for emergency medical technicians and paramedics will be favorable, with growth in this field expected to remain much faster than average from 2014 to 2024. The BLS also notes that these professionals had an median annual salary of $31,980 as of May 2015.

Continuing Education

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification is required for many first responder positions and courses are offered commonly offered through first responder programs. Students who hold a first responder certificate may also consider a paramedic emergency medicine or emergency medical technician (EMT) programs at the associate's degree level. Bachelor's degree programs in emergency medical services (EMS) are available to gain further preparation for emergency medicine careers or graduate programs in medicine or related field.

Prospective first responders can earn a certificate in approximately 4 months and use it to pursue a career field that is growing much faster than the average growth rate of all occupations. Furthermore, students can use the certificate as a stepping stone to an EMT or EMS program at the associate's and bachelor's degree level, respectively.

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