How to Become an EMT and Paramedic

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics are responsible for taking care of people who have been involved in medical emergencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), there has been an increased need for these professionals because of factors such as the aging population around the country, natural disasters, car accidents and people becoming injured by acts of violence. It takes specialized skills and training to care for patients going through trauma, so paramedics and EMTs are required to complete a number of steps in order to enter the profession.

Program requirements and prerequisites

Before being admitted into an emergency medical training program, prospective paramedics and EMTs must first complete a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as earn a certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In addition, students who wish to pursue this field are encouraged to take courses in anatomy and physiology in high school.

After students have met the basic requirements, they can go on to enroll in a program offered by a community college, emergency care training facility, or technical school. The amount of training that these programs require depends on the level of the program. Students who enroll in basic EMT training programs are required to complete 150 hours of training, but with 300 hours of training, they can receive an advanced EMT certification. Those who want to become a paramedic must receive more in-depth training, which generally takes about 1,200 hours to complete. No matter what program they enroll in, students ready to work as an EMT/paramedic should be given the theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience they need to obtain a license when they graduate.

Depending on what state they live in, EMT and paramedic students may also be required to complete ambulance driver training.

Necessary skills and qualifications

The rigors of the emergency medical profession aren't for everyone. As a result, people who pursue EMT and paramedic jobs should have certain physical and personal characteristics in order to be successful. Ideal candidates for these careers should exhibit a great deal of compassion and patience, as well as listening skills and interpersonal skills in order to help people during their time of distress. In addition, these professionals are required to be physically fit and have good problem-solving skills.

All paramedics and EMTs are required to obtain a license from their state, although the licensing requirements vary from state to state. Generally this process involves passing an examination -- either one that is specifically administered by the state, or the one given by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. In addition, some states require EMTs and paramedics to undergo a background check, as those with a criminal history may be barred from working in this field.

Working environment

According to the BLS, EMTs and paramedics generally seek employment at hospitals, government agencies and ambulance services. Although many paramedics work 40 hours per week, some positions require long shifts, with employees working 12 to 24 hours in a stretch.

The emergency medical field can be physically and emotionally grueling, and as a result, the rate of workplace illnesses and injuries are higher for EMTs and paramedics than for workers in other professions. Because of the physical rigors of the job, they may be vulnerable to sprains and strains, and their proximity to contagious patients sometimes leads to exposure to illnesses like HIV and hepatitis B.

The need for paramedics and EMTs is on the rise. In fact, jobs for these professionals are expected to increase by 23 percent between 2012 and 2022. As of May 2013, the national annual median salary for these positions is $31,270, with the lowest 10 percent earning up to $20,420 and the highest 10 percent earning at least $54,710.


Emergency Medical Services Workers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed May 25, 2014, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ems/data2009.html

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

Major: Emergency Medical Technology, The College Board, Accessed May 25, 2014, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-allied-health-diagnosis-intervention-treatment-emergency-medical-technology

What are the requirements to be a paramedic?, EMS1, Accessed May 25, 2014, http://www.ems1.com/careers/articles/1058465-What-are-the-requirements-to-be-a-paramedic/

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

Emergency Medical Services Workers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed May 25, 2014, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ems/data2009.html

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