Emergency Medical Services Careers

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in emergency medical services. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Career in Emergency Services Entail?

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics provide patients with ambulatory care before they reach a medical center. Their job is to safely transport the patient from the scene of the emergency to the hospital or medical institution while also treating their most urgent injuries, requiring emergency medical professionals to be extremely responsive under pressure. When assessing and treating a patient, they need to be able to extract information from the injured person or people around them in a calm and effective manner.

EMTs and paramedics receive rigorous training before they are put to work in the field, but their specific responsibilities will be dictated by their level of experience and certification. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Postsecondary non-degree program (required)
Paramedic certificate (required to become a paramedic)
Associate's degree (optional)
Bachelor's degree (optional)
Key Responsibilities Respond to emergency calls
Assess and treat patients at scene of accident or other disaster
Transport patients to medical facilities
Licensure/Certification Required Licensure and certification required
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 24% (much faster than average)*
Median Salary (2015) $31,980*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Duties Could I Have in an Emergency Medical Services Career?

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics (EMT-Ps) provide first aid and life support care to people who have suffered injuries, heart attacks and life-threatening illnesses. As an EMT or EMT-P, you'd perform emergency procedures on-site and in an ambulance, prioritizing the patient's needs under the direction of a physician. You'd also document a patient's condition, record procedures performed and submit your report to treating physicians and nurses.

As an EMT, you'd be the first at the scene of the accident to evaluate the patient's condition and perform cardiac or respiratory procedures. As a paramedic, you could administer medications, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs) and use equipment that EMTs are not trained to operate.

What Training Do I Need?

Individual states dictate the level of training that you'll need to be an EMT or EMT-P. Training programs for all levels can be found in colleges, universities and technical schools. EMT-Basic training focuses on reacting to cardiac, trauma and respiratory emergencies and learning basic emergency procedures. You'd learn to assess the patient, manage bleeding, treat broken bones, clear airways and respond to cardiac arrest. An EMT-Intermediate program might prepare you to use advanced airway devices and provide medications.

A paramedic certificate program takes about a year to complete and involves classroom courses and hands-on training. You'd study anatomy and physiology, patient assessment, trauma, case management and medical emergencies. After completing a training program, you could qualify to take state licensing exams or obtain certification through the National Registry for Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).

You'll need to be licensed as an EMT to enroll in a paramedic certificate program. If you'd like a more comprehensive education, you could enroll in paramedic associate's degree program. Although an advanced degree isn't necessary to work as an EMT or EMT-P, a bachelor's degree in emergency medical services or emergency medical services management could help you move into a management or supervisory role.

What Kind of Licensing or Certification Would I Need?

All states require you to be licensed to work as an EMT or paramedic. Most states offer different levels of licensing, which dictate the types of services you can perform. You might be able to obtain additional endorsements to a basic license, such as a pharmacology endorsement that allows you to provide drug treatments. Voluntary certification is available through NREMT, though some states use the credentialing exam for licensure. You could pursue basic, intermediate or advanced EMT certification or credential as a first responder or paramedic.

Where Might I Work?

EMTs and EMT-Ps work indoors and outdoors, in any weather and at any hour. You could work as part of a team, alongside other emergency medical service professionals, firefighters and police officers. You might become part of a helicopter crew that airlifts patients to the nearest trauma center. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that most people who perform emergency medical services work for ambulance service companies, and those who live in rural and suburban areas are usually volunteers (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are not a great deal of other medical careers that are available without completing some kind of degree program, although one such option is to become a home health aide. Required to hold a high school diploma and undergo training, home health aides visit people in their homes to administer medication and provide help. Another option is to become a firefighter. Firefighters also need to gain a postsecondary nondegree award in order to work, providing help to people in need of rescue services by putting out fires and responding to emergency situations.

You may also want to consider becoming a police officer, aiding the community by fighting crime and keeping the peace. Police officers don't necessarily need a college degree, though the specific requirements will vary according to the seniority of the position.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • Eastern Kentucky University

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