EMT/Paramedic Degree Programs and Training

When someone is having a health emergency, EMTs and paramedics are on the front lines of delivering the care they need. These professionals -- who work for government agencies, fire departments, hospitals and ambulance services -- must be able to respond quickly and make urgent, yet accurate, decisions on how to treat someone that's sick or injured. In order to perform in such a high-pressure environment, EMTs and paramedics must complete extensive training.

Degree programs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), the exact educational and training requirements for paramedics and EMTs depend on what state they live in. However, these professionals are generally required to complete a high school diploma, or its equivalent, and a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification before they can enter an emergency medical technology program. Once enrolled in a school, paramedics and EMTs may be able to complete their studies within two years or less. Some of the degree programs available to these health professionals include:

  • Certificate programs. These programs, which generally take less than a year to complete, give students the fundamentals they need to deliver pre-hospital care, trauma life support, pediatric advanced life support and advanced cardiac life support.
  • Associate degrees. Students in EMT/paramedic associate degree programs may be able to finish their studies within two years. They typically receive more in-depth knowledge about the management of emergency care than those who earn a professional certificate.
  • Bachelor's degrees. Students who want to pursue management positions in the emergency medical field may decide to complete a four-year bachelor's degree program. This program provides a broader look at the emergency medical field by offering courses that teach advanced concepts of pre-hospital patient care, as well as leadership skills needed to supervise other EMTs and paramedics.
  • Graduate degrees. Emergency medical professionals who want to become leaders in the field may enroll in graduate degree programs on the master's or doctoral level. These students can expect to build on their previous knowledge and experience, and gain the tools they need to conduct research or run medical facilities. These graduates can pursue a number of careers, including emergency medical educator, supervisor and quality assurance coordinator.


The exact curriculum that students enrolled in EMT and paramedic programs study depends on the school they enroll in, but there is coursework that is widely available. Generally, students in these programs can expect to learn the following subjects:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Emergency pharmacology
  • Medical terminology
  • Legal issues in emergency medicine
  • Emergency medical research
  • General psychology
  • Trauma management
  • Health insurance
  • Emergency medical administration

The amount of classroom and hands-on instruction that paramedics and EMTs must complete depends on what job they wish to pursue when they graduate. For example, those interested in becoming entry-level EMTs are required to complete about 150 hours of training, while advanced EMTs complete 300 hours of instruction. Students who want to become paramedics are required to receive 1,200 hours of instruction.

In addition, depending on the state the student lives in, paramedics and EMTs may be required to complete an additional eight hours of training to learn how to drive an ambulance.

Career outlook

According to the BLS, there will be a rise in the need for EMTs and paramedics because of natural disasters, car accidents and violent crimes -- as well as the increase in the elderly population around the country. As a result, jobs for these professionals are expected to increase by 23 percent between 2012 and 2022 -- a rate that exceeds the average growth of most professions. The BLS reports that EMTs and paramedics earned a national annual median salary of $31,270 per year as of May 2013.


Advanced Learning in EMS, Advanced Learning in EMS, Accessed May 25, 2014, http://www.naemt.org/about_ems/advancedlearning.aspx

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Emergency Medical Services, University of South Alabama, Accessed May 25, 2014, http://www.southalabama.edu/alliedhealth/ems/bachelor.html

Certificate Programs, Capital Community College, Accessed May 25, 2014, http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/cpHealthEMT-Paramed.htm

Emergency Medical Care, Western Carolina University, Accessed May 25, 2014, http://www.wcu.edu/academics/departments-schools-colleges/HHS/hhs-schools-depts/healthsci/health-sciences-majors/master-of-health-sciences/mhs-curriculum/emergency-medical-care.asp

Emergency Medical Services Professions AAS, Lone Star College System, Accessed May 25, 2014, http://www.lonestar.edu/ems-aas.htm

Emergency Medical Services, Valencia College, Accessed May 25, 2014, http://valenciacollege.edu/west/health/ems/

EMTs and Paramedics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm

EMTs and Paramedics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292041.htm

Undergraduate Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Accessed May 25, 2014, http://ehs.umbc.edu/undergrad

What's the Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic?, UCLA Center for Prehospital Care, Accessed May 25, 2014, https://www.cpc.mednet.ucla.edu/node/27

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