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How to Be an Emergency Medical Technologist

Find out how to become an emergency medical technologist. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in emergency medical technology.

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Do I Want to Be an Emergency Medical Technologist?

More commonly known as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), emergency medical technologists are trained to treat patients suffering from acute illness or trauma. EMTs provide care before a patient is transported to a medical center or en route to a health care facility.

The majority of EMTs and paramedics work full-time, although hours will likely include evenings, nights, and weekends and can be irregular, such as 12-hour shifts. EMTs work in vehicles, transporting patients to medical care settings. They may work indoors or out to pick patients up, and often must assist at the scene of emergencies. This job can be risky, including injuries and illnesses, but highly rewarding.

Job Requirements

There are a number of levels of EMTs and each requires certification following specific career-based training. The table below outlines the requirements to become an emergency medical technologist as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Common Requirements
Degree Level None required, associate's degree can be helpful
Degree Field EMT paramedic
Certification and Licensure Required; certification via the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, license requirements vary by state
Experience Each EMT level requires a minimum amount of experience
Key Skills Problem-solving skills, excellent communication skills, physical strength
Technical Skills Know how to use and maintain emergency medical tools and supplies
Additional Requirements May work irregular hours, nights, and weekends

Step 1: Complete EMT-Basic Training

A high school diploma usually is required to enroll in an EMT-Basic program, which might be offered through a vocational school, community college or 4-year school. Formal training courses also can be found independent of scholastic institutions. EMT-Basic programs are fairly short and consist of 100 hours of training. Students need to have CPR certification before entering an EMT-Basic program.

Basic training for emergency medical technicians is based on national standards. Students in these programs usually learn about bandaging, how to use various pieces of medical equipment and how to assess patients. Students also learn to deal with heart and lung emergencies, mental and behavioral issues, poisoning, overdoses, allergic reactions and environmental contamination.

Step 2: Get Certified/Licensed

Most states require passage of the exam administered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) as one of the conditions for EMT licensure; however, some states have their own examinations administered by local licensing agencies. Candidates must usually have a current CPR card and have a clean criminal record. Licenses usually need to be renewed periodically.

Applicants for the NREMT exam must be at least 18 years old and need to have completed their EMT-Basic training within the past two years. Applicants must pass the cognitive and psychomotor exams to become certified. The cognitive exam is designed to test the applicant's knowledge of the emergency medical services field, while the psychomotor one is designed to demonstrate the applicant's competence with techniques learned in EMT-Basic. Once an applicant has passed both exams, he or she is considered a certified EMT. This certification must be renewed, usually every two years.

Step 3: Pursue Intermediate EMT Training

Following completion of the EMT-Basic exam, an emergency medical technician might choose to pursue EMT-Intermediate training and certification. Divided into two levels, Intermediate 1985 and Intermediate 1999, these programs emphasize advanced airway techniques and intravenous therapy. The Intermediate 1999 training also covers advanced cardiac management and medicinal practices. EMT-Intermediate programs are followed up with cognitive and psychomotor NREMT exams. The EMT-Intermediate level requires 1,000 hours of training and instruction.

Step 4: Advance to Paramedic Training

Paramedics specialize in advanced medical knowledge and exhibit expertise in EMT techniques, which usually is obtained through college programs. It typically takes one or two years to complete paramedic training and may be part of an associate's degree program. Coursework includes upper-level classes in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, patient assessment, cardiology, trauma management, medical emergencies and clinical studies. Aspiring paramedics must pass the corresponding NREMT exams and will need to renew their certification every two years.

Success Tip:

  • Take an ambulance operator course. Ambulance licensure is separate from becoming a paramedic, so students who plan on driving an ambulance can start the process early on. The course usually requires some classroom work and at least eight hours of practical experience.
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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics