Schooling Needed to Become a Medical First Responder

Sep 15, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a medical first responder. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training levels, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

A medical first responder, also know as an emergency medical technician (EMT), requires a high school diploma and certification. There are three levels of training available which typically include completing accredited coursework and passing an exam. State licensing is also required.

Essential Information

A medical first responder, or emergency medical technician (EMT), arrives quickly to provide medical care to injured and sick people. An EMT may work for private ambulance services, in hospitals, or with police and firefighters. There are various EMT levels with somewhat different schooling requirements, which can range from a certificate to an associate's degree in emergency medical technology. These emergency response professionals also need to become certified and state licensed.

Required Education Certificate or an associate's degree in emergency medical technology
Other Requirements Certification and state licensure
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for emergency medical technicians and paramedics
Median Salary (2018)* $34,320 for emergency medical technicians and paramedics

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Every state mandates that an EMT hold a high school diploma or GED. High school students who aspire to become EMTs should take classes in anatomy, biology and chemistry, because they help with subsequent EMT schooling.

There are no college education requirements to become an EMT, but technical schools, community colleges and some 4-year colleges and universities offer EMT certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs. Some 2- and 4-year EMT programs at colleges award credit for EMT classes taken before enrolling. Hospitals and state and local governments also provide EMT training.

Post-schooling Certification

Nearly every EMT program provides the education needed to take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification exam that most states require before awarding a license. Each NREMT exam is somewhat different, depending on the EMT level. The EMT-Paramedic exam is the most difficult. All EMT exams must meet requirements for EMT certification set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Training Levels


Students seeking the EMT-Basic designation typically must learn to assess a patient's condition and respond to trauma and cardiac emergencies. Aspiring medical first responders may complete EMT-Basic schooling within 11 weeks of study.


Students interested in the EMT-Intermediate designation must accumulate 30-350 hours of training, depending on state requirements. They study emergency medical response techniques like administering medications and intravenous fluids.


It can take up to two years to finish the schooling needed to become an EMT-Paramedic, the most advanced of all medical first responder levels. Students learn techniques to control bleeding, use sophisticated equipment and procedures to clear airways, and administer intravenous fluids and medications.

Each EMT schooling level includes courses in anatomy, biology and physiology and requires hands-on field training under the supervision of certified EMTs. Trainees assist with basic procedures, including transporting patients and monitoring vital signs.

To summarize, prospective medical first responders have the opportunity to enter and advance in the field via certifications. The job growth outlook for medical first responders is faster than the job market as a whole through 2028.

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