EMT Requirements and Qualifications Overview
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provide urgent medical care to injured and sick people. They may be employed by hospitals, ambulatory agencies and fire departments. EMTs respond to a variety of emergencies, including heart attacks, injuries, cardiac problems and childbirth. They also work with police and firefighters at the emergency scene before transporting patients to medical facilities for more comprehensive treatment.
All states require EMTs to be licensed; however, licensing requirements vary by state and EMT level. Becoming licensed entails formal training at the EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate or EMT-Paramedic level. Training programs vary from 2-6 month and are available at emergency medical service academies, community colleges, technical schools and universities. These programs help prepare aspiring EMTs for the appropriate National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification exam (www. www.nremt.org).
EMT-Basic is the minimum level of certification for a career in emergency medical services. Training courses typically include 100 hours of training in urgent situations, such as cardiac and respiratory emergencies, childbirth and major disasters. Instruction may cover human anatomy, lifting and moving bodies, airway management, blood stoppage, trauma management and patient assessment. Some programs provide training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), while others require students to hold CPR certification before admission.
Intermediate-level certification is divided into EMT-Intermediate 1985 and EMT-Intermediate 1999 classifications. Depending on the state, EMT-Intermediate training programs are comprised of 30-350 hours of classroom and clinical instruction. These programs focus on more in-depth instruction in life support care. Students may learn advanced principles of trauma management, medication administration and intravenous treatment. Internships may be required to complete these programs.
The highest level of emergency service training is EMT-Paramedic. Paramedic-level training programs can take up to two years to complete and lead to certificates or associate's degrees in EMT-Paramedic. Associate of Applied Science in EMT-Paramedic programs incorporate general education with emergency-specific training. Core courses may range from medical terminology to emergency service management and psychology. These programs also incorporate field training and clinical practicums.
Certification and Licensure
After completion of a training program, candidates must pass the respective NREMT certification exam. Though some states administer their own licensing exams, most accept passage of a certification exam administered by the NREMT. The NREMT offers separate exams for each level of EMT certification, and each exam is comprised of both a written, competency portion and a practical demonstration portion. EMTs must renew certification every 2-3 years by earning continuing education credits and passing a recertification exam.
To be eligible for an EMT training program, candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent degree, as well as a clean criminal record. Aside from formal training, EMTs must also have keen senses, especially eyesight and color vision. Physical fitness is also necessary for this position, because EMTs may be required to lift and move people. Manual dexterity, alertness and the ability to control one's own emotions are also beneficial for a career in emergency medical services.
Salary Info and Career Outlook for EMTs
As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2012, the median annual salary of EMTs and paramedics was $31,020. In the same year, the BLS noted that there were about 232,860 of these workers employed nationwide. Jobs for EMTs and paramedics are expected to be in high demand during the coming years; the BLS anticipated that employment in the field would grow 33% from 2010-2020.
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