How to Become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)?

About Emergency Medical Technicians

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provide emergency medical care for injured and sick patients. These medical professionals are responsible for responding quickly to emergency calls, assessing patients’ conditions rapidly, providing essential medical care, and transporting patients to hospitals or other health care facilities. While many EMTs operate ambulances, others work on helicopters or airplanes.

Education and Experience Needed

Before you can land a job as an EMT, you’ll need a high school diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), along with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Then you’ll be ready to enroll in a one- or two-year postsecondary EMT program at your local community college or emergency care training center.

In this type of program, you’ll learn all the basics of becoming an EMT, such as how to evaluate a patient’s condition quickly, how to handle trauma, how to address cardiac emergencies, and how to use medical equipment.

If you want to become an Advanced EMT (AEMT), you’ll need to complete a higher-level EMT training program. You’ll learn how to administer intravenous fluids and emergency medications and use more complex medical equipment.

You don’t need a bachelor’s degree to become an EMT, but if your career path includes becoming a staff nurse or a registered nurse (RN), it’s in your best interest to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you’re considering pursuing higher-level positions, such as a physician assistant or a health care administrator, you’ll need a master’s degree or a doctoral degree, too.

However, even entry-level EMTs need EMT-Basic certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) before they can work in the field. You’ll need to finish an EMT program and pass a two-part test to get certified, and you may also need to pass a background check. Each state has its own requirements and may even require a specific certification program.

While you don’t need prior experience to get an entry-level job as an EMT, certain qualities and skills can help you excel at this job. Since you’ll need to ask patients critical questions and act based on their responses, you’ll need excellent speaking and listening skills.

Because you’ll have to take action quickly, you’ll need considerable decision-making and problem-solving skills, too. Physical strength also helps, since you’ll be on your feet and lifting equipment and patients throughout the day.

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Average Salary

When you work as an EMT, you can expect a median annual salary of about $33,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Working for a state, local, or private hospital often means a higher salary, at a median of $36,000 per year. Ambulance services typically pay the lowest salaries in this field, with median annual wages of around $30,000.

If you’re highly skilled, you may be able to take your pick from the best EMT positions available. According to the BLS, this job market is expected to grow 15 percent or much faster than average over the next decade.

Typical Duties and Tasks

As an EMT, you’ll respond to 911 calls, evaluating patients’ medical needs and deciding on treatment methods as quickly as possible. You may have to provide first aid treatment, perform CPR, or bandage an injury. In many cases, you’ll also transport patients to medical facilities, where you’ll update emergency nurses and physicians on patients’ conditions and treatments. You may also need to document emergency situations and report the treatments that you provided.

Since you’ll specialize in emergency situations, you can expect to work at a fast pace and encounter high levels of stress on a daily basis. As an EMT, you’ll typically work 12-hour shifts, and you’ll often work overnight, on weekends, or on holidays.

Advancement Opportunities

Many EMTs start out at the EMT-Basic level but can quickly become Advanced EMTs with additional training. As an EMT, you might also choose to advance to a paramedic position.

Working in emergency medicine isn’t your only option, though. With additional training and certification, you can become an RN, a physician assistant, or even a physician. You could also take on a role as an EMT manager, where you can exercise your skills in administration. With average salaries ranging from $68,500 for RNs to $252,000 for physicians, you could choose from a variety of high-paying careers.

Want to work in a fast-paced environment where being a hero is just part of your daily to-do list? Contact the community college or career training center in your area to start the training and education you need to pursue a rewarding career as an EMT.