Should I Become an EMT?
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are often the crucial difference between life and death in an emergency. These dedicated individuals are the first on the scene to provide life-saving medical treatment and stabilize the patient during transport to the hospital. They're generally called to respond via 911 and work hand-in-hand with firefighters and the police.
There are four types of EMTs, with each type requiring a different level of training. The more complex the medical care, the longer the training to become certified. The four types from the shortest length of EMT training to longest are:
- Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs) - Administer life-saving techniques like CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while waiting for more qualified medical professionals to arrive.
- Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) - Offer onsite treatment and care during the ambulance ride to the hospital, like controlling bleeding, stabilizing breaks, and addressing shock.
- Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians (AEMTs) - Can also administer fluids and some medications and use the medical equipment found in an ambulance.
- Paramedics - Provide advanced triage with sophisticated medical equipment and administer about 30 different types of drugs.
How Long Does It Take to Become an EMT?
You'll need to be at least 18 years old to begin EMT training, and programs usually require a high school diploma or GED to enroll. Then, you'll get different degrees of EMT training based on the type of EMT you want to become. With each certification level comes the ability to provide more advanced medical care. States have their own standards for approving programs for each type of EMT, but in general, you can anticipate the length of time to complete a program as follows:
|EMR||2-4 weeks/55-65 hours|
|EMT||3-11 weeks/120 hours|
|AEMT||The EMT program PLUS an additional 350 hours|
|Paramedic||Two years/1,200 to 1,800 hours|
State-approved EMT programs can be provided by all kinds of educational providers from universities to community colleges to private training facilities. Some of the top schools in the country offer EMT training programs as well. Regardless of the type of program you choose, typical coursework can include study in the following subjects:
- Patient assessment
- Basic life support and CPR
- Pediatric care
- Moving and transporting patients
- Assisting other medical professionals
- Psychiatric emergencies
Programs also require a certain number of internship or fieldwork hours. Once you complete your educational program, you'll need to get certified and licensed before you're ready for your new career.
How to Become EMT Certified
All EMTs are required to be certified. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians provides certification at the national level. Some states may only require certification at the state level, but the NREMT certification is the most common. To become EMT certified, you'll need to obtain the following:
- A current certification to perform CPR
- Completion of an educational course scaled to your type of EMT
- A passing grade on a computer-based cognitive test administered through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Responders
- A passing grade on a psychomotor exam that tests your hands-on ability to assess a patients' needs and deliver care.
The NREMT recommends that you apply for your cognitive exam about four weeks before you want to take it. Once you pass your cognitive exam, you'll take your psychomotor exam at your state EMS office or an approved school.
Applying for Licensure
Once your certification process is complete, you'll also need to apply for an EMT license in your state. The difference can be confusing. Certification attests that you have the necessary skills to provide medical care, while your state license grants you the permission to provide that care. Many states (like Florida) require nothing more than an application, proof of your NREMT certification and completed educational program, current CPR certification, and a criminal background check. Other states will mandate their own state exam.
How Much Money Can You Make as an EMT?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, EMTs and paramedics earned a median, annual wage of $34,320 in May 2018. However, due to the difference in certification levels, a paramedic can expect to make more than an EMT. Earners in the top 10% made more than $58,640, while those in the lowest wage category earned $22,760. Job demand is on the rise, with a 15% increase expected between 2016 and 2026, which may be due to a growing population and an increase specifically in the number of seniors.