How Do I Become EMT Certified?

Do you like serving others and enjoy the medical field? Depending on your current level of training, you can become certified as an emergency medical technician (EMT) in as little as six months. Read on for certification and licensing requirements to provide the initial medical response to accidents or health crises as an EMT. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are the first responders to emergencies, accidents, and trauma sites. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), EMTs and paramedics provide basic or advanced medical care, depending on their individual training, to injured, ill, or traumatized individuals, meeting their health needs to sustain life in transport to a medical facility. Often, EMTs and paramedics work in conjunction with police officers and/or firefighters to take care of people involved in accidents, shootings, or other emergency events.

Important Facts About a Career as an EMT

Work EnvironmentIndoors and outdoors, in all types of weather
Similar OccupationsFirefighters, physicians' assistants, registered nurses, police officers
Key SkillsCompassion, interpersonal skills, listening skills, physical strength, problem-solving skills, and speaking skills
On-the-Job TrainingField training in a hospital and/or ambulance is typical

Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Education and Essential Skills

There are three levels of EMT certification: basic, intermediate, and paramedic. The lowest level of EMT certification, EMT - Basic, requires that students complete approximately 100 hours of classroom instruction and 15-30 hours of supervised clinical training. Many schools that offer these programs have flexible scheduling, such as evening and weekend courses. In an EMT training program, you'll learn:

  • Basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • First aid
  • Patient assessment and stabilization
  • Respiratory and trauma management
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Basic life support
  • Cardiac management

To become a certified EMT, you'll first need to complete a training program. Training programs for EMTs generally take six months to two years to complete, depending on the level of EMT certification you plan to achieve. You must be 18 years old and have completed a criminal background check before you can apply to any EMT training program. Individuals interested in becoming EMTs - Intermediate or paramedics will first need to earn EMT - Basic certification. Some programs include basic certification in pursuit of an award at the intermediate or paramedic level.


To become a certified EMT - Basic, you must complete a state-recognized training program and pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification exam or a state licensing exam (

The NREMT exam tests both your cognitive and practical skills; there is a different exam for every level of EMT. You'll be allowed three attempts to take the test. If you can't pass it by the third try, you'll have to complete an additional 24 hours of training before you can try again. Once you become a certified EMT - Basic, you'll need to complete continuing education and re-certify every two years.

Levels of Certification

The NREMT offers two levels of certification above the EMT - Basic level: EMT - Intermediate and EMT - Paramedic. Each certification has specific training and examination requirements. EMT - Intermediate and paramedic training build on the basic-level training and may take up to an additional two years to complete.

Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual wage in May 2018 for EMTs and paramedics was $34,320 ( The BLS has projected that the employment of EMTs and paramedics would grow by 15% from 2016-2026. You'll have a chance at the best job opportunities if you achieve the highest level of certification, per the BLS.

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