Paramedic and Emergency Medical Technician

Learn about the various levels of emergency medical technician (EMT) training, including paramedic. Find information about required training, certification and licensing here, as well as how much you might earn as an emergency medical professional.

Are Paramedic and Emergency Medical Services for Me?

Career Overview

The emergency medical technician (EMT) is one of the first to respond to a scene where people may require immediate medical attention, such as a car accident, heart attack, stroke, natural disaster or violent crime. As an EMT, your job will be to assess, stabilize and provide ongoing care to a patient while transporting him or her to a hospital by ambulance or helicopter. By comparison, a paramedic provides advanced emergency medical services, which requires training beyond the EMT-Basic certification and can lead to a higher paramedic's salary.

Professional Designations

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certifies EMTs and paramedics at the following levels: Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, Advanced EMT (AEMT) and Paramedic (NRP). Two levels of competency are associated with the intermediate level, making for a total of six professional designations (www.nremt.org).

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 48% of EMTs worked for ambulance services in 2012. The remainder were employed by local governments and hospitals. In May 2013, the BLS reported that EMTs and paramedics earned a median annual wage of $31,270. Nationwide, employment for these emergency medicine workers was expected to grow by 23%, or much faster than average, from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Become a Paramedic or Emergency Medical Technician?

Overview of Requirements

To become certified as an EMT, you must complete a training program that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of Transportation National Standard Curriculum and become licensed by your state. All programs require a current CPR credential and successful completion of a certification exam. Admission requirements for most EMT programs include a physical exam, criminal background check and drug test.

Certificate and Associate Degree Programs

Technical certificate programs for first responders can be found at a number of community colleges and can take approximately 1-2 years to complete. Some paramedics choose to augment their certificate with an Associate of Applied Science program that includes a concentration in emergency medical services or paramedicine. In addition to acquiring new clinical skills, the credits and experience gained through an associate degree program may be applicable to other health-related programs, such as registered nursing (RN). Instruction for both certificate and degree programs can take place in hospitals, operating rooms, classrooms, laboratories and out in the field, where you can learn how to administer medication, interpret electrocardiograms (ECGs or EKGs), intubate patients and perform defibrillations.

Required Skills

Emergency medicine is not for everyone. You must be both physically and emotionally fit and able to tolerate potentially frightening and dangerous situations when dealing with injured or mentally unstable individuals. You must be prepared to address a variety of medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, bleeding, fractures, airway obstruction, gunshot wounds and even childbirth. Compassion and patience for patients are key when working in these challenging situations.

Licensing

Obtaining a professional certification from the NREMT can help you qualify for an EMT or paramedic's license, required by all 50 states. Additional requirements may include a passing score on a state-sponsored exam and a background check.

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