Becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic can take anywhere from one to three years, depending on a student’s choice of career and educational path. EMT training focuses on life support techniques in first-response situations, including CPR, tourniquet application, and treatment of wounds. Paramedics deliver more advanced procedures and therefore require more extensive education and training. This guide below reviews basics of the profession and provides a strong focus on the educational steps needed to enter the field. Interested students can also learn about average salaries and projected job growth for this exciting field.
Paramedics and EMTs provide care for sick and injured people who need emergency medical treatment. This is a high-stakes position that requires professionals to act quickly and accurately, thinking on their feet as care for patients in chaotic situations.
EMTs work in a variety of capacities, but are most recognized for providing immediate medical attention in emergency situations. These may include car crashes, natural disasters, in-home health failures, and accidents. In addition to providing CPR and treating a variety of external wounds, EMTs also transport patients to hospitals or other medical facilities as needed.
Many first responders begin their careers as EMTs to gain experience before pursuing additional training to become a paramedic. In addition to performing all of the same treatments and procedures as EMTs, paramedics are also trained in advanced skills such as administering IVs and providing respiratory procedures.
According to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, there are around 700,000 EMTs in the United States who treat 25 to 30 million patients annually.
Paramedics tend to enjoying a higher earning potential and more professional opportunities than EMTs, though the median pay for both is $31,700. Those on the top end of the spectrum, usually composed of paramedics, make an average of $54,690 annually.
The highest paying states and areas for Paramedics are as follows:
|State/Area||BLS Annual Mean Wage 2014|
|District of Columbia||$56,390|
The map below shows details of the 10th, 50th, and 90th percentile earners for each state.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for paramedics and EMTs are expected to grow by 23 percent between 2012 and 2022. This rate is significantly faster than most occupations in the nation, due in part to a steady rise in specialized medical facilities requiring paramedics to transfer patients for treatment. A growing elderly population also creates an increase of health emergencies such as strokes or heart attacks.
The top 10 states experiencing the most growth for Paramedics and EMTS from 2012-2022 are shown in the following table:
Select a state below for more information about employment and job growth for paramedics and EMTs.
EMT basic training (EMT-B) takes anywhere from six months to two years to complete, depending on the institution. These programs are offered at technical institutes and community colleges and typically include 120 to 150 hours of coursework. While enrolled in an EMT-B course, students learn how to complete patient assessments and handle emergency situations. A hands-on learning component also instructs students on proper use of field equipment. Some programs require enrollees to become certified in CPR before beginning classes, while others include this training in the curriculum.
Depending on the state, EMTs and paramedics are required to pass either a state or national licensing exam after completing their training and passing a background check. Administered through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), the exam includes both cognitive and psychomotor sections and uses computer-adaptive technology to tailor questions based on student response.
Candidates have three opportunities to pass the exam, with a 15-day waiting period required between each attempt. If a student does not pass by the third attempt, remedial training may be required. Once successful, professionals are required to be recertified every two years.
Advanced EMT training typically requires 300 hours of coursework. In addition to covering the EMT Basic topics, these programs include advanced instruction on using medication, complex airway devices, IVs, and EKGs.
The educational requirements for becoming a paramedic are rigorous and typically include completing a two-year degree at a community college or technical school. Some programs require trainees to work as an EMT for six months before applying. Coursework typically covers anatomy and physiology, as well as advanced life support, which is practiced through clinical training in hospitals and ambulances.
An EMT diploma or certificate is the starting point of education for those who aspire to enter the field. If they wish to build their knowledge and skills further, paramedics and EMTs may decide to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree.
The emergency medical technician certificate program equips students with the foundational skills needed to provide emergency medical care to patients en route to a hospital. Students learn basic life support procedures to help patients in various emergency situations, including those who are suffering from illness, have been the victim of violence, or have gotten into an accident. In order to deliver this critical care, students in paramedic schools are taught skills such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to open a patient’s airway.
The EMT certificate program typically takes one to two years to complete, and prepares students to pass the licensing examination in their state. Examples of common courses and skills gained are given below.
Provides an overview of basic life support techniques in an emergency care setting.
Familiarizes students with how to work in the EMT care environment.
Teaches aspiring EMTs how to assess the condition of a patient and make treatment decisions.
Introduces students to the procedures for opening and managing a patient’s airway.
After earning an EMT certification, many students enroll in a paramedic associate degree program to advance their careers. Paramedics have more patient care responsibilities than EMTs, so the training received at this level is more comprehensive and advanced than a certificate. Building on students’ previous experience, this degree provides instruction on advanced emergency care techniques, including cardiac care, patient stabilization, and airway treatments. To help students deepen their understanding of emergency medical care, associate degree programs commonly offer the following courses:
Covers the steps involved with treating trauma patients.
Provides an understanding of how to treat patients requiring special or extra care.
Explains the use of medications during emergency care.
Describes the treatment of cardiac emergencies.
Paramedics who wish to advance their careers may elect to enroll in a four-year bachelor’s degree program. Bachelor’s degree graduates often procure jobs as healthcare administrators, paramedic training managers, or clinical supervisors. Some students use this degree as a springboard to go even further in their education, enrolling in physician assistant programs or medical school. Students can expect to gain a number of valuable skills throughout their degree, including:
Students who aspire to supervisory roles in an emergency care setting learn how to manage the work of paramedics as they navigate their way through chaotic situations.
Students build on existing knowledge of emergency care, gaining a deeper understanding of how to effectively work in an emergency environment through planning and executing patient care strategies.
Taking a managerial role in the field includes completing administrative tasks. Students learn various managerial functions, including budgeting, staffing, completing employee evaluations, and organizational planning.
Online paramedic schools are a convenient option for students who want to receive EMT training that can easily fit into their schedules. These programs allow students to combine online classes with in-person training, providing both theoretical and hands-on education. This is an attractive choice for many, but to get the most out of their education, students must find a school matched to their unique needs. Some characteristics to look for when choosing a school include:
Paramedics work with patients in high-pressure environments where their actions could mean the difference between life and death. They need specialized training from reputable institutions to ensure they get the best education and preparation to obtain their license. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) should accredit any school under consideration. This organization guarantees that online paramedic programs provide students with an education that adequately prepares them for the demands of the field.
Students need to be trained on the latest techniques, and part of that includes being knowledgeable about equipment used by paramedics. When looking for a school, students should inquire about the varied types of equipment used during training and confirm that it is in good working order.
The EMT field is extremely demanding, so students should look for schools that have faculty members with significant experience. Finding out how long teachers have worked as paramedics and whether or not they are still practicing can go a long way toward determining if a department offers qualified faculty.
Like other medical providers, paramedics and EMTs must show compassion when working with people in physical and emotional distress. Physical strength, stamina, and coordination are imperative for moving patients quickly and treating them with precision.
In addition to receiving a state license and NREMT certification, EMTs and paramedics who want to drive emergency vehicles must take a separate training course. Though this is not an exhaustive list, the following certifications are available to EMTs and paramedics:
It takes the work of many dedicated professionals to help communities during emergency situations. The following list provides examples of careers for those who want to serve their communities during times of crisis.
Many professionals are dedicated to helping those in distress. Whether assisting with a medical emergency or another type of crisis, the following careers provide professional fulfillment through working to keep communities safe.
There are many paramedic schools to research and potential students shouldn’t have to go it alone. This search tool is designed to help prospective students find schools based on specific criteria, such as state and degree level.