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Emergency Medical Technician (EMT): Trade School Diploma Overview

Learn about the multiple diploma levels for emergency medical technicians (EMTs), which include basic, intermediate and paramedic training. See prerequisites, licensure information and sample courses, along with career data like employment outlook and salary.

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Essential Information

Depending on one's career goals, becoming an EMT can come to fruition through basic, intermediate or paramedic diploma programs. Each program has its own prerequisites, which may include meeting age minimums, holding first aid certification and taking a background check.

The curriculum of the intermediate and paramedic levels piggybacks from what was learned from the previous program. From basic to paramedic, some of the program content addresses airway management, pharmacology, pediatric care, anatomy, trauma and life support procedures. Following the completion of any of the diploma programs, graduates need to get licensed, which requires the passing of a national examination of written and practical testing. Continuing education must be taken to maintain the license.


Emergency Medical Technician - Basic Diploma

An EMT-Basic level diploma program provides students with the medical training they need to become a basic EMT. The scope of practice at this level is generally defined at the state level, but in most cases, individuals who are basic EMTs will provide life support procedures, provide fundamental patient care and assist higher level EMTs and paramedics.

Education Prerequisites

EMT-Basic programs typically require a high school diploma. Students may also need to have cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification or be affiliated with an emergency medical service. Some schools may require reference letters or completion of a physical exam. Students may also have to pass a criminal background check.

Course Topics

Unlike most other diploma programs, EMT training usually consists of one class as opposed to multiple courses. In the EMT-Basic program, students learn fundamental life-saving, patient care and emergency response skills through classroom and practical study. Fundamental skills learned in this program may include:

  • Airway management
  • Trauma care
  • Pediatric care
  • Pathophysiological care
  • Emergency care theory
  • Emergency equipment use

Certification and Continuing Education

Upon completing a program, students must pass a state examination to become licensed as a basic EMT. This test contains written and practical exams. Some states administer their own exams, but it is also common for states to use the exam provided by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). Continuing education is usually required to maintain an active license.


Emergency Medical Technician - Intermediate Diploma

An EMT-Intermediate (EMT-I) program allows students to qualify for recognition as an EMT-I in their state. Through a program, students build upon their EMT-Basic skills and knowledge.

Education Prerequisites

To enter an EMT-I program, students typically must be at least 18 years old. Schools usually require students to have CPR certification, submit proof of immunization and health history, complete a criminal background check and possess a current EMT-Basic license within the state.

Course Topics

In an EMT-I program, students learn advanced skills in life support, emergency care and patient care. Some of the skills learned in this program through classroom study and practical training include:

  • Patient stabilization techniques
  • Life support procedures
  • Transportation of injured patients
  • Pharmacology
  • Terrorism response actions

Certification and Continuing Education

Students must become licensed as an EMT-I upon completing a diploma program. Licensing is regulated at the state level and usually includes passing written and practical tests. Testing processes for EMT-I is usually similar to the process for EMT-Basic.


Emergency Medical Technician - Paramedic Diploma

The highest level of emergency medical technician is a paramedic. In a paramedic diploma program, students build upon the skills learned in previous EMT training programs. At this level, students are prepared to serve as the lead on an emergency response team.

Education Prerequisites

To enter a paramedic program, students must have at least an EMT-B license. Students may need to complete a criminal background check and health check-up. Some schools may also have prerequisite classes in reading, math and writing that must be completed at a certain grade point average before students are admitted into the paramedic program.

Course Topics

In a paramedic program, students will study the same topics they learned in their previous EMT studies, in addition to advanced skills that are specific to paramedics, through classroom studies, clinical experiences and practical laboratory work. Some of the skills a student may learn include:

  • Anatomy
  • Trauma care
  • Pediatric life support
  • Cardiac care
  • Physiology

Certification and Continuing Education

The NREMT examination is commonly used to license paramedics in all states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Maintaining a paramedic license usually requires continuing education.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports employment outlook and salary information for basic and intermediate EMTs and paramedics together. According to the BLS, as of May 2012 there were 232,860 jobs held in this field. The BLS projected a job growth of 33% from 2010-2020. The BLS reported the mean annual wage for EMTs and paramedics was $34,370, as of May 2012.

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