What Are the Education Requirements to Be an EMT?

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) spend their days and nights helping critically ill or injured patients get the immediate care they need. You'll need to think on your feet and stay calm under pressure to be successful in this field. If this job description sounds ideal, read on to learn about the educational requirements to work as an EMT. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Overview of an EMT

Emergency medical technicians provide life support to ill or injured patients while they're en route to an acute care facility, such as a hospital. In this field you may need to manage severe bleeding, broken bones, cardiac problems and breathing issues. Your specific job duties will depend on the amount of training you've completed and your certification level. EMT-basics can assess and manage cardiac, respiratory and trauma emergencies, while EMT-intermediates can do all this as well as administer intravenous fluids and some medications. On top of everything EMTs can do, paramedics can administer a wider variety of medications and interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs).

Important Facts About This Occupation

Work EnvironmentIndoors and outdoors in all weather conditions
Schedule RequirementsAbility to work irregular and long hours, including overnight and weekends
Key SkillsCompassionate, excellent at problem-solving, good at listening and speaking, physical strength
Similar OccupationsFirefighters, registered nurses


If you want an entry-level position as an EMT, you'll need to complete a one to two semester EMT-basic training program. Through coursework and labs, you'll learn how to perform patient assessment procedures, such as recording pulse, breathing rate and temperature. You'll also learn how to use oxygen tanks and nebulizers, stabilize injured patients, manage a patient's airway, and monitor electrocardiographs (EKGs).


An EMT-intermediate program is for currently licensed EMTs. You'll receive the advanced training needed to treat pregnant women, children, patients with behavioral disorders, and the elderly. You'll also learn how to administer intravenous (IV) fluids and medications. For students interested in becoming a paramedic, you can go on to degree or fast-track programs.


The most advanced training for an EMT is a paramedic program. Through labs and clinical experiences, you'll cover advanced treatment procedures for patients suffering from burns, substance abuse, shock or allergic reactions. Programs may award a two-year associate's degree.

Licensure Info

You'll need to be licensed by your state of residence to work as an EMT. In most cases, this entails passing certification exams administered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) after completing a state-approved training program appropriate for the level at which you wish to be certified. You could be certified as an EMT-basic, EMT-intermediate or paramedic.

Continuing Education

NREMT certification lasts two to three years. To be recertified, EMTs at all levels must complete 72 hours of continuing education or pass a competency exam. If you choose to go the education route, many schools offer EMT and paramedic refresher courses to help you meet these requirements.

Job Outlook

A job growth of 15% was projected for EMTs and paramedics between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The demand for EMTs is expected to rise, as the baby boomer generation grows older. Also, as hospitals become more specialized, patients are frequently transferred from one facility to another for treatment, resulting in a need for more emergency medical technicians. The BLS also reported that EMTs and paramedics earned a mean annual wage of $37,760 in 2018.

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