What Is an Emergency Medical Technologist?

Emergency medical technologists, also known as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), are the first ones at the scene of a medical crisis. To learn more about this career, including job duties, required education and employment prospects, read on. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Defined

As an EMT, you may work in the emergency department of a hospital, or you may accompany ambulances, fire trucks or medical helicopters to assist those in need of immediate medical attention. At the scene of the emergency, you'll stabilize and prepare patients for transport to medical facilities. You'll quickly assess a patient's illness or injury and communicate that assessment to a waiting emergency medical physician. The physician may direct you to perform lifesaving procedures, such as an endotracheal intubation. You may also be required to administer medications and perform medical diagnostic tests, such as electrocardiograms.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Similar Occupations Physician Assistant, Registered Nurse, Firefighter, Police Officer
Key Skills Compassion, speaking/listening, and problem-solving skills
Work Environment Potentially 40+ hour weeks and 12 or 24 hour shifts
On-the-Job Training Internships are available

Occupation Levels

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT, www.nremt.org) is the national certification organization for emergency medical services personnel. The NREMT certifies four basic levels of emergency medical service professionals. The levels are progressive with each level building on the one before it. The four levels are First Responder-EMR, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic.


EMTs are pre-hospital leaders of medical crisis management. To be an EMT, you must show good judgment, be emotionally stable and be able to deal with high stress situations. You'll need a driver's license in case you have to drive an ambulance or transport vehicle. Since you'll need to accurately document the details of the care you provide, you'll need good written communication skills. As an EMT, you'll need a high degree of physical conditioning, stamina and flexibility to be able to lift and carry patients. You must have good math skills so that you can quickly and accurately calculate medication dosages.

Education and Training

To begin as a first responder, you'll need basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and First Aid certifications. To become an EMT-Basic, you'll need to complete a EMT training program, which consists of theory and clinical coursework. This training is offered by community colleges and vocational schools and is designed to prepare you for the national EMT-Basic exam, but may not award college credits.

If you want to move into a more responsible role, you can complete an EMT-Intermediate training program, which builds on the EMT-Basic training. EMT-Paramedic programs often require the completion of a two-year degree program and many hours of on-the-job and clinical training. There are online EMT and paramedic programs that offer the theory portion of the curriculum; however, clinical labs must be completed on campus. Paramedic programs may include courses in:

  • Medical terminology
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychology throughout the life cycle
  • Basic and advanced life support
  • Crisis intervention and management


All EMT levels in the U.S. require licensure. In order to qualify to take the NREMT exam, you must be at least 18 years old, have completed an EMT instructional program from a state-approved institution within the last two years and you'll need to show proof of current CPR certification. The NREMT licensure exam consists of both cognitive and psychomotor components. You must renew your license every two to three years and update your skills and knowledge through continuing education and refresher courses. State licensure requirements vary, so be sure to check your state's exact regulations.

Employment and Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), job opportunities for EMTs and paramedics are expected to grow 15% from 2016-2026. The BLS reported that in May 2018, the median annual salary for EMTs and paramedics was $34,320.

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