How To Become An EMT

Become An EMTEmergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) provide assistance to ill and injured patients outside of standard medical facilities and hospitals.  In general, EMTs assess a patient's health and perform appropriate medical procedures such as: CPR, bleeding control, shock management, ventilation, and immobilization.  Another primary responsibility of an EMT is the transportation of a patient to a medical facility.

Approximately 220,000 people are employed as EMTs in the U.S. alone.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics projects that EMT employment should grow as fast as the average for all occupations over the next 10 years.  EMTs are typically employed by ambulance services, hospitals and local governments.  EMT salaries range from $20,000 to over $50,000 annually depending on location and experience.

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EMTs work in all types of conditions, both indoors and outdoors.  EMT work can often be both physically and mentally demanding.  EMTs are expected to be physically fit, and will do considerable heavy lifting, kneeling and bending.  EMT work is also stressful due to the nature of the patients conditions.  EMTs are often expected to work more than 40 hours per week and may have irregular working hours.

EMTs and Paramedics require formal training and certification.  Each state will require an EMT to become licensed, but will have varying regulations.  EMTs can advance their careers by obtaining advanced certifications.

Steps to Becoming an EMT

  1. Understand The Requirements - The first step to becoming an EMT is to understand the entry requirements.  The requirements vary by state, so it is critical to verify the requirements with your state's EMS office.  If you are planning on becoming a certified EMT-Basic you must be at least 18 years old, pass a state-approved EMT-Basic course, hold a current CPR credential and pass a state-approved EMT-Basic psychomotor exam
  2. Select the Right Class - Most EMT classes are provided by community colleges and technical schools.  Make sure that your program is approved by both the state and the NREMT.
  3. Study and Pass Your EMT Exam - To become a certified EMT you will typically need to pass an NREMT EMT-Basic exam.  The EMT-Basic exam will test both your skills and your knowledge.
  4. Become State Licensed - Once you have become certified, you must earn your state license.  Although the requirements vary by state, you will typically be required to renew/recertify every few years by taking EMT continuing education courses.
  5. Find A Job - EMTs are employed in a number of different industries.  Ambulance services are the biggest employers of EMTs, accounting for about 45% of all positions.  Local governments and hospitals are the other major employers of EMTs.  EMT Salaries vary dramatically by both location and experience.
  6. Advance Your Career- EMTs have a variety of career advancement opportunities available.  With additional training, EMTs can achieve additional certifications which allow for greater earning potential. Currently, the NREMT recognizes the following certifications:
    • First Responder–  Entry level EMS services.  Provides basic first response first aid and patient management. If you are an employee of a police or fire agency you will most likely be required to be a first responder.
    • EMT-Basic (EMT-B) – This certification level provides basic life support.
    • Intermediate/85 (EMT-I) – NREMT certification level based on the 1985 EMT-Intermediate National Standard Curriculum.
    • Intermediate/99 – (EMT-I) - NREMT certification level based on the 1999 EMT-Intermediate National Standard Curriculum.
    • Paramedic – (EMT-P) – This is the highest level of EMT certification supported by the NREMT.  Paramedics can administer a wide range of medication, provide advanced life support, and perform advanced surgical and electrical therapies

Knowing how to become an EMT from start to finish is important. Details matter. Knowing where you want to end up from the start and being prepared for the challenges along the way will make the journey easier and more enjoyable. This work can be rewarding and is highly respected. Emergency Medical Technicians have the power to change and, hopefully, to save lives.

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