EMT Education Requirements and Employment Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an emergency medical technician (EMT). Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provide medical care in emergency situations. They assess medical conditions, provide emergency treatment and transport patients to medical facilities. EMTs require extensive training in order to handle the wide array of situations they encounter in this high-pressure career. Additionally, they must be certified, usually by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians or through the state in which they work.

Required Education Training programs at the appropriate EMT level: basic, intermediate, and paramedic; some programs lead to certificates or diplomas; paramedic programs resulting in associate's degrees are available
Certification and Licensing Certification or licensing required in all states; most states utilize the exams proctored by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT)
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 23% for EMTs and paramedics*
Median Salary (2013) $31,270 for EMTs and paramedics*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for Emergency Medical Technicians

EMTs are required to pass a rigorous training program before they can begin providing medical services; these programs are typically offered at technical schools and community colleges. Most schools require applicants to undergo a criminal background check and a medical exam, as well as to hold CPR certification.

EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic are the three levels of training available. Although EMT education varies by state, the nationally defined EMT standards require about 100 hours of training for EMT-B, 1,000 hours for EMT-I and 1,300 hours for EMT-P programs.

Diploma Programs

Diploma programs are usually offered at the EMT-Basic level and teach basic emergency skills and patient assessment. Students are educated in the operation and maintenance of common emergency equipment through formal instruction and an internship. These internships typically involve clinical experience assisting an ambulance crew or working in an emergency room.

Certificate Programs

EMT certificate programs are available at the paramedic, intermediate and basic levels. Programs combine classroom study and clinical practices, offering students medical courses in human anatomy and physiology as well as EMT training.

EMT coursework can include life support systems, medical terminology and EKG interpretation. Students receive advanced instruction in many emergency practices, such as the use of airway devices, how to start intravenous fluids and how to administer medications.

The majority of certificate programs require students to participate in a ride-along internship, which usually involves joining local ambulance or fire department EMTs as they perform their duties. Many certificate programs offer credits that are transferable to EMT-Paramedic associate's degree programs.

Associate's Degree Programs

Most EMT associate's degree programs prepare students for EMT-Paramedic licensure. The curriculum includes general education and medical courses, such as anatomy and physiology, biology and composition. Additionally, students acquire high-level EMT skills through extensive coursework, field experience and clinical practice.

Students learn advanced practices in pharmacology, emergency trauma care, cardiac assessment, shock treatments and patient management. Students are required to complete a lengthy internship working with a mobile emergency team.

Certification and Licensing Requirements

Following educational training, EMTs are required to be certified or licensed either at the state or national level. Some states provide their own examination, while others use the examination developed by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (www.nremt.org). In addition, candidates must recertify every two or three years by enrolling in continuing education courses or refresher programs.

Employment Outlook

Between 2012 and 2022, job opportunities for emergency medical technicians were expected to grow by 23%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This faster-than-average rise is due to a large segment of the general population entering retirement age and the probable increase of age-related health emergencies. EMTs with higher levels of training and certification were expected to do well in this competitive job market (www.bls.gov).

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