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Certified EMT: Career and Salary Facts

EMT stands for emergency medical technician. Learn about becoming certified as an EMT at the basic, intermediate or paramedic level. Explore EMT training programs, certification requirements, job outlook and salary potential.

What You Need to Know

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are often the first people on the scene of a medical emergency. As an EMT, you assess the situation, perform triage, and stabilize patients before and during transport by managing airways, controlling bleeding, treating shock, and providing CPR. There are several levels of training and qualifications for EMTs, the highest of which is an EMT-Paramedic.

Programs Certificate or degree programs in emergency medical technology
CertificationCertification available at each level of EMT training; requirements vary by state
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 6% (all EMTs and paramedics)
Average Annual Salary (2019)*$38,830 (all EMTs and paramedics)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training Do I Need?

There are different levels of training for EMTs that are often available at local community or technical colleges. These programs include:

  • First Responder
  • EMT-Basic
  • EMT-Advanced
  • EMT-Paramedic

Due to the hands-on nature of the profession, most programs are only available on campus. Your program should be approved by the state in which you want to work and should prepare you to take your state's licensure exam. When applying to a program, you can expect a background check and drug test. In addition, you are required to be at least 18 years of age at the time you complete your training. Some programs require EMT students to be certified in CPR prior to enrollment.

How Can I Get Certified?

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require that EMTs and paramedics be licensed. In some states, licensure depends on certification by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). The NREMT certifies EMTs based on national requirements. Exams for each EMT level require completion of both written and skill tests. In order to maintain state licensure or NREMT certification, you often need to take a certain number of continuing education courses every 2 years. Some schools offer these courses online.

What Are The Job Responsibilities?

EMTs provide emergency medical assistance in response to 911 calls. The duties they perform depends on their level of certification. They work in collaboration with firefighters and police officers to save lives in emergency situations. Here are some of the tasks they perform on a regular basis:

  • Assess the condition of sick or injured patients
  • Provide appropriate treatment, like first-aid or life support
  • Transport patients to a hospital or other healthcare facilities in an ambulance
  • Complete documentation regarding the care provided
  • Clean medical equipment and replace supplies

It may be necessary for EMTs to decontaminate the inside of an ambulance if it's determined that a patient has a contagious disease.

What Kind of Salary Can I Expect?

Salaries vary depending on your level and geographic region. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for EMTs and paramedics was $18.67 as of May 2019; that's an average annual salary of $38,830. During 2019, Hawaii, Washington, Maryland, Alaska, and District of Columbia were the five locations with the highest annual average wage for EMTs in the nation. The pay for EMTs and paramedics is expected to grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the national average growth for all occupations.