How Long Does IT Take to Become an EMT?

The time required to become an EMT, or emergency medical technician, varies based on the level of EMT a student hopes to become. Some EMT certificate programs can be completed in as few as three weeks. Training programs for paramedics can last as long as two years and often culminate in an associate's degree.

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EMT Job Description and Program Levels

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are often among the first to arrive at the site of an emergency situation, whether it's an accident, crime or natural disaster. EMTs are responsible for providing urgent medical care to patients on site and transporting them to hospitals or critical care centers to receive treatment from doctors.

Specific duties for EMTs vary by type of employment and education or certification level. In addition to national certification, individual states or regions may offer alternative certifications or designations for emergency medical personnel. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) offers certification to emergency medical personnel at five levels:

  • First responder
  • EMT-basic
  • EMT-intermediate (1985)
  • EMT-intermediate (1999)
  • Paramedic

EMT Program Lengths

Each level can take a different amount of time to complete. For example, the first responder level can be completed considerably faster than it takes to become a paramedic. In many circumstances, students must complete the preceding level of EMT training to qualify for a subsequent level of EMT training.

First Responder and EMT-Basic

Coursework and training to become an EMT-basic or first responder can generally be completed in as little as three weeks on an accelerated basis. For part-time students, these programs may take around 8-11 weeks to complete. Such programs teach students how to manage respiratory, cardiac and trauma emergencies, as well as assess patient conditions.

EMT-Intermediate

To become an EMT-intermediate 1985 or 1999, students generally must complete 30-350 hours of training. This training requirement varies according to the procedures the state allows these EMTs to perform. In EMT-intermediate programs, students learn more sophisticated life support skills, like advanced airway management, intravenous procedures and medication dispensing. Students must also complete a clinical component in addition to lectures and coursework. Completion of an EMT-intermediate program typically culminates in a certificate.

Paramedic

Training programs to become a paramedic, the most advanced level of emergency medical technician, usually entail coursework in anatomy, physiology and patient care. Students may learn advanced treatment procedures, airway ventilation, paramedicine, defibrillation and special situations. Curricula also often incorporate general education courses. Paramedic programs usually last from six months to two years, and students may earn associate's degrees in emergency medical services upon completion.

EMT Licensure

After completing any level of EMT training, students must also pass practical and written examinations administered by a state licensing authority or the NREMT. The written portion assesses comprehension of medical tasks and health issues. The practical exam tests a student's ability to perform EMT duties efficiently. Exams may only be offered at certain times throughout the year, causing a delay between the time students complete training and obtain licensure. EMTs are generally required to renew their licenses every 2-3 years through continuing education.

Salary and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a 23% job growth for EMTs and paramedics in the years 2012-2022. EMTs and paramedics earned median salaries of $31,270 annually, as of May 2013.

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