How to Become an EMT in California

Jan 02, 2019

Find out how to become an EMT in California. Research the California training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in the emergency medical services field.

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  • 0:00 Career Info
  • 1:05 Complete Prerequisites
  • 2:08 Complete EMT-Basic Training
  • 3:12 Take the NREMT Exam
  • 4:31 Get California License
  • 5:21 Get Hired

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Career Info

Degree Level Postsecondary EMT training program
Licensure and Certification CPR certification, National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification, and state EMT-Basic licensing
Experience 120 hours classroom and at least 10 hours clinical experience in the field
Key Skills Able to work in stressful situations and follow patient safety protocols; empathy; good communication and problem-solving skills; familiar with automated external defibrillators, oxygen tanks, gurneys, patient restraints, and ambulance equipment
Salary $37,410 (2015 mean for EMTs and paramedics in California)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California Medical Services Authority (CMSA).

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are health professionals who arrive first at the scene of an accident. They assess each emergency situation and determine the best way to provide initial treatment to victims. These professionals are required to stay calm in extreme circumstances and must use personal precautions when dealing with potentially hazardous or infectious situations.

They should also have:

  • Strong communication and problem-solving skills
  • Empathy
  • Familiarity with automated external defibrillators, oxygen tanks, gurneys, patient restraints, and more

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that emergency medical technicians and paramedics working around the nation earned a mean annual wage of $35,430, while those working in California earned $37,410.

Complete Prerequisites

Common prerequisites for enrolling in EMT training include the equivalent of a high school diploma and proof of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. The American Heart Association (AHA) and the Red Cross offer CPR certification.

Course topics discussed in CPR certification programs may include CPR for infants, adults, and children; use of defibrillators; and choking relief strategies. Students typically learn through lectures and hands-on practice with simulated victims. After candidates complete the program, their certification is usually good for up to two years before individuals must recertify.

To gain a better understanding of the human body, it is recommended that high school students take several courses related to human biology. Potential courses may discuss the anatomy of the body and how different bodily systems interact with one another.

Complete EMT-Basic Training

The next step to becoming an EMT in California is to complete an EMT-basic training program. Community colleges and vocational institutions offer EMT training at the basic level. Students must complete training courses approved by the California Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA). Topics covered in these training courses might include strategies for identifying illness symptoms, stabilizing trauma patients, and transporting patients, along with protocols for communicating with other medical personnel.

Programs typically require at least ten clinical hours of ride-along experience to pass basic training and meet state requirements. Additionally, students must complete labs and take final exams. During clinical training, students may learn about administering oxygen to patients, assessing immediate patient needs, and utilizing other basic life support techniques.

Take the NREMT Exam

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) offers the exam that all EMTs must take to be eligible for licensing in the state of California. Upon passing the exam, individuals will be NREMT-certified. To take the exam, applicants must have completed a recognized EMT training program and be no younger than 18 years old. The exam covers emergency medical services questions, especially questions related to patient care techniques for children and adults. Those who successfully pass the exam will be certified for two years.

The NREMT recommends that all exam candidates take plenty of time to review certain texts, such as EMT training manuals, updated CPR guidelines, and any additional exam preparation texts. Each electronically administered test provides different questions at random, so there is no standard set of questions that will be asked on every exam. Nevertheless, some study guides may provide examples of how questions are asked, which may prove useful to some students.

Get California License

After passing the NREMT exam, individuals must register with the emergency medical services (EMS) agency within their county. According to the EMSA, some EMS agencies have additional licensing requirements. For example, several EMS agencies may require applicants to pass a background check prior to becoming licensed EMTs in California.

To avoid problems, it is recommended that individuals contact their county EMS agencies to find out licensing regulations. California requires each EMT to be licensed through the county of employment, so individuals who work in multiple counties may need to meet licensing requirements in each of those regions.

Get Hired

As of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that about 40% of EMT positions are offered through ambulance companies. Some EMTs are required to undergo several hours of instruction before they can drive an ambulance. Other positions are offered through local government, hospitals, doctors' offices, and other support services.

Those with EMT basic licensure can also advance to the next level in the field. At the intermediate level, EMTs can do more tasks, such as administering medicine to patients. To advance to this position, individuals will require additional classroom training, clinical experience, and a field internship. Individuals will also have to pass additional exams administered by the county of employment.

Again, aspiring EMTs in California should:

  • Meet basic prerequisites
  • Complete an EMT-basic training program
  • Pass the NREMT exam
  • Gain licensure through their California county
  • Obtain a job in the field
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