EMT: Career, Outlook and Education Information

Explore the career requirements for an EMT - Emergency Medical Technician. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an EMT?

EMTs are medical professionals who are sent out by dispatchers to provide medical assistance at the scene of an emergency. Their job is to assess a patient's condition, utilize emergency care protocols and techniques to stabilize the patient, and transport them to an appropriate medical facility. EMTs must have clear speaking skills and should be in good physical shape.

Learn more about the career of EMT from the table below:

Education RequiredHigh school diploma or GED, CPR certification, and postsecondary EMT training
Education Field of StudyEMT (basic or intermediate), paramedic
Key ResponsibilitiesAdminister first aid and life-saving procedures prior to hospital arrival, perform emergency diagnostic and treatment procedures as needed, coordinate with other first responders, assess the nature of the illness or injury for triage purposes, maintain transport vehicles
Licensure/CertificationAll states require licensure, many require certification
Job Growth (2014-2024)24% for EMTs and paramedics*
Median Salary (2015)$31,980 for EMTs and paramedics*

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as an EMT?

As an EMT, you'll usually be sent out by dispatchers to provide medical assistance at the scene of an emergency. You'll frequently work with other first responders, such as firefighters, police, and paramedics. Your role will be to assess patients' conditions and use emergency care procedures in order to stabilize them before transporting them to a hospital or other healthcare facility.

What Is the Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that EMT and paramedic employment opportunities were expected to increase by 24% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov), a rate of growth that is much faster than average, suggesting that these jobs should be readily available. As an EMT, you can find employment with commercial ambulance services, local governments, hospitals and manufacturing facilities. As of 2015, the median salary of EMTs and paramedics was $31,980, according to the BLS. The highest-paid EMTs and paramedics worked for state government; architectural, engineering, and related services; and junior colleges that year.

What Education Do I Need?

To become an EMT, you'll need to complete a formal training program. A high school diploma is usually the only prerequisite, as well as CPR certification. Training programs are generally offered at community colleges, vocational schools, and state agencies. Depending on the institution, progressive tiers of EMT training are available, including a basic and intermediate EMT program, as well as paramedic training.

In an EMT training course, lessons cover the fundamental techniques of emergency care, such as patient assessment, respiratory management, and emergency childbirth. You'll also receive instruction on treating fractures, heart attacks, bleeding, and other conditions. Additionally, you can learn how to use basic emergency technologies and equipment, such as oxygen delivery systems and splints. You'll usually ride along to observe ambulance EMTs on-site and participate with emergency care under supervision. Basic EMT training generally lasts up to three months, and intermediate certificate programs can take an additional 1-3 semesters.

Will I Need a License or Certification?

All states require you to obtain a license to practice healthcare as an EMT. Most states also require professional certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). You might need to take both the NREMT certification exam and a state-administered EMT exam to earn both credentials. However, some states accept the NREMT exam for licensing purposes. You'll typically need to maintain your license and certification with continuing education or refresher courses.

What Are Some Related Careers?

Police and firefighters are two careers closely related to EMTs; both are first responders who are called to handle emergencies dealing with fire or other dangerous situations. Both occupations typically only require a high school diploma or the equivalent, though some employers ask for prospective police to have some postsecondary education.

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