How to Begin a Professional Career as an EMT

How to Begin a Professional Career as an EMT
Emergency Medical Technicians: A Quick Look
Median Salary $31,020 per annum
Entry-level education Post-secondary certification
On-the-job training No
Primary employers Ambulance services
Number of positions (U.S.) 239,100
Job Growth (2012-2022) 23% (Much faster than average)
New positions (2012-2022) +55,300

emtWhat Does An EMT Do?

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are trained to respond to medical emergencies. EMTs respond to emergency calls (along with paramedics) and may perform first aid and stabilization procedures before transporting injured or sick patients to the nearest medical care facilities. Read more.


EMTs earn a median salary of $31,020 per annum, or $14.91 per hour. Read more.

Becoming An EMT

EMTs must complete a formal training programs and receive state licensure. We have all of the details about How to Begin a Professional Career as an EMT here. Read more.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for EMTs is very good, with a projected 33% job growth rate from 2010-2020, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read more.

EMT Salary

How much do EMTs make? The average emergency medical technician salary was $31,020 per year in 2012, according to data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10% of EMTs earned $53,550 or more, while the bottom 10% earned $20,180 or less. The majority of emergency medical technicians work full-time. Because EMTS need to be available in order to respond to emergencies, EMTs may work nights as well as weekends, often resulting in varied work schedules. About 1/3 of EMTs worked more than full-time hours according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How To Become An EMT

How Long Does It Take To become An EMT?

Becoming an EMT doesn't necessitate a college degree, but training can take as long as a full associate's program. While the basic certification can be earned after about 120-150 hours, paramedics receive many times that amount, up to 2,000 hours of instruction. At the Paramedic level, students are increasingly seeking two-year associate degrees to learn their advanced skills, and even four-year bachelor degrees to prepare for supervisory or managerial positions.

Educational Requirements

Basic EMT training includes a formal classroom education in the fundamentals of emergency medical care as well as a preceptorship with a field training officer. Students must obtain a diploma from a nationally accredited and state-approved institution to become eligible for National EMT Certification. All valid EMS courses are regulated by state governments. Once coursework is successfully completed, EMT students can sit for the National Registry exam to demonstrate their competence and fitness before the state. Trainees should apply for a license within two years of completing their vocational schooling. A student's supervising officer may be consulted as part of the application process. Students will further need a current health care provider's CPR credential (CPR/ACLS) and passing scores on state-approved psychomotor and cognitive examinations to measure their physical ability and breadth of knowledge, respectively. Note: The specific educational requirements required to become an EMT may vary state-by-state.


Both the institution offering an EMT program and the program itself must be accredited, the latter with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). National standards for EMS accreditation are brand new for 2013, and they are already being enforced by most states as a condition of EMT licensure. The updated accreditation status of any EMS program can be verified at the Commission's website at


The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) is the certifying body for EMTs in the United States. As part of the pre-hospital emergency medical care team, EMTs are certified at one of three levels or tiers: Basic (EMT-B), Advanced (AEMT) or Paramedic (EMT-P). There may also be regional committees that set the scope of practice for local EMTs. These bodies, such as New York City's REMAC Committee, may have additional certification and testing requirements even for those who have met national and state benchmarks.


Completion of the exam and receipt of the certification confers the professional title on graduates. In order to work as an EMT, however, certificate-holders must contact their local EMS agency and apply for a state EMT license. This usually means another round of eligibility requirements, fees, a possible background check or even drug testing to ensure applicants are in compliance with state guidelines.

EMT job description

Professional competence is of the utmost importance for EMTs, or Certified Emergency Medical Technicians, given the crucial role these first responders play in saving lives on the front lines. What does an EMT do? As the first medic to interact with people in distress, the EMT is responsible for preserving patients' health while quickly moving them to safety and a larger medical facility for intervention. EMTs are turnkey workers at the root of the healthcare system. They are public servants with communication skills and the ability to conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner. Many EMTs benefit from union membership. Common employers include private ambulance companies, police and fire departments, public agencies, hospitals, or any combination of these. EMTs are also, in a sense, athletes who must meet rigorous physical requirements. They spend their days driving, running, standing, sitting, kneeling, bending, lifting, pushing, pulling and climbing, both indoors and outdoors in a variety of climates. Sensory acuity is equally important; EMTs must have good ear-eye-hand coordination and be able to visually discriminate between objects with adequate precision. Paramedics are the most extensively trained EMTs. Basic EMTs, for instance, are usually not allowed to give patients shots, start intravenous lines or otherwise break the skin—this is up to the paramedic, who is permitted to use a much larger range of techniques and about 40 different medications. Remaining active in the field is important to qualify not only for jobs but also continued certification. Generally, EMTs need to be using their skills in an emergency or rescue service to keep their license and title in good standing. Consequently, there is a strong emphasis in the EMS sector on continuing education and refresher ISTs, or In-Service Training courses.


The purpose of EMT training is not only to acquire a license to practice, but to master the skills demanded of modern EMTs. Students are evaluated at all stages of the educational process for their suitability to the position in terms of mental and physical agility. They must be comfortable with the whole range of emergency skills needed to stabilize patients in the field and swiftly move them to hospital. Basic EMTs have the following medical care duties:
  • Medical assessment
  • Trauma assessment
  • Bleeding control
  • Burn management
  • Shock management
  • Bag-Valve-Mask (BVM) ventilation
  • Oxygen administration
  • Cardiac arrest intervention with a defibrillator (AED)
  • Joint immobilization
  • Traction splinting
  • Long bone fracture immobilization
  • Spinal immobilization (seated patients)
  • Spinal immobilization (supine patients)
Advanced EMTs and Paramedics must additionally be familiar with:
  • Dynamic cardiology
  • Static cardiology
  • Intravenous therapy, including intravenous bolus medications
  • Pediatric intraosseous infusions
  • Pediatric respiratory compromise
  • Pediatric ventilatory management
  • Supraglottic Airway Device

Alternative Job Titles

  • Ambulance Technician
  • Emergency Medical Responder or EMR

Job Outlook

Job positions for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are expected to grow by 23% from 2012 to 2022, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is significantly faster than the 11% national average for all occupations. Approximately 55,300 new positions are projected for this time period. Demand for EMTs will increase steadily as the baby boomer demographic in the United States continues to age, leading to an increase in health emergencies related to old age. Improvements in medical technology and an increase in specialized medical facilities will also require more transportation of ill patients between facilities, which requires the services of EMTs and paramedics.

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