An emergency medical technician (EMT) is often one of the first people to respond during an emergency medical situation. And EMTs are often the first point of contact for people suffering trauma, injury, or illness. It’s a job that carries a lot of responsibility.
A career as an EMT requires dedication, patience, and a desire to help those in need. Do you feel drawn to this line of work? Here’s some information to help you decide if becoming an EMT is right for you.
EMT Educational Requirements
A high school diploma or GED is required for becoming an EMT. If you’re currently in high school, you’ll receive your diploma upon graduation. But the GED is an alternative for people without a high school diploma.
Most training programs for EMTs require students to have previous CPR training. This means before you can begin an EMT training course, you should already have CPR certification.
CPR certification means you’ve had formal CPR training, passed the written exam, and become officially certified.
People with a busy schedule often prefer online CPR training. Online classes teach the skills needed to respond to breathing and cardiac emergencies. However, to become an EMT, you’ll need to combine online learning with in-person training.
If you plan to become an EMT, you’ll need to prove your CPR skills to a certified instructor. Therefore, you need more than just online courses. Some institutions – such as the American Red Cross – offer blended training. Blended training is a combination of online learning and in-person courses.
You’ll receive CPR certification once you’ve passed the course and demonstrated your skill. And most states require CPR recertification every year for EMTs.
Enroll in a Certified EMT Training Program
Future EMTs must successfully complete a state-approved training program in emergency medical technology. It’s important to choose an accredited program. Completing an unaccredited program will prevent you from becoming a certified EMT.
An EMT must receive certification by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). This applies to all states. And some states also have their own certification examination. To remain certified, you’ll have to re-register every two years.
EMT schools are located in every state throughout the US. You can find programs at universities, technical schools, and community colleges.
There are practically hundreds of options for EMT training. Trying to choose a program can feel overwhelming. Here are some things to keep in mind when searching for an EMT school.
- Accreditation is Mandatory
You can take the state and national certification exams only after you complete an accredited EMT program. It doesn’t matter if you receive EMT training online or in-person; the course must have accreditation. Check with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs to make sure a program is accredited.
- Experienced Instructors
It’s best to learn from instructors who are EMTs, physicians, or trained in other medical fields. If possible, check instructor credentials before enrolling in a program.
Enrolling in an Online EMT Course
EMT training online is an option. However, online training also requires some in-person classes. The hands-on nature of the job makes it almost impossible to learn everything from a video or article.
If you’re interested in training online, consider a program that offers a combination of the two. That means you can take an online course but also have hands-on training.
The American Red Cross is an example of a hybrid EMT training program. Their blended training offers online courses and in-person classes.
If you search the internet, you’ll discover hundreds of programs offering EMT training online. It’s possible some of these programs aren’t accredited.
Any online EMT course accepted for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification is valid. Contact the NREMT if you have doubts about an online EMT training course.
Basic EMT Training
Basic training for becoming an EMT consists of 130 hours of combined hands-on emergency medical experience and classroom training. It typically takes 2 – 4 months to complete this training.
As mentioned above, it’s not possible to do all of the training online. You will need some hands-on training that you can’t receive online.
Topics you can study online cover issues such as ethics and safety. And other issues that EMTs often face on the job. You may also learn about specific illnesses, how to handle them, and what actions to take with patients.
An online course might focus on the following:
- Medical terms
- The human body and development
- EMT safety protocols
- Emergency medical system operations
- Patient assessment
- Responding to children, the elderly, and those with special needs
- Proper ventilation and oxygenation
Online courses are generally taught via lectures, presentations, video, audio, and discussion boards. Practical skills you can’t learn online are generally taught in a classroom, hospital, or some other location.
Pass the Cognitive Exam
After completing the training, you must pass the NREMT cognitive exam.
The exam is given via computer and consists of 60 to 110 questions. You’ll have to answer questions about topics such as resuscitation, cardiology, airways, trauma, and ventilation.
Most trainees finish the exam within two hours. And a score of 70 or better is considered passing. If you fail the exam, you can retake it 15 days after the last test. To try again after three failed attempts, submit official documentation stating you’ve completed remedial training.
Pass the Psychomotor Exam
The psychomotor exam tests your ability to perform emergency skills. This exam is given by your state’s emergency management services offices or an approved local training institution.
To pass this exam, you’ll have to demonstrate that you’re skilled in several areas. The test might ask you to:
- Conduct a patient assessment
- Manage a patient who is in cardiac arrest
- Immobilize a patient with an injured spine
- Care for a patient that has a long bone fracture
- Immobilize a dislocated joint
- Control bleeding
- Provide mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
Check with your local EMS office to find out where the test will take place. The EMS office will also tell you the score needed for a passing grade.
Certification and License
You’ll receive your EMT certification after completing the classes and passing the exams. However, an EMT license is required to work as an EMT.
After certification, you must get your EMT license from your local EMS office. Once you’ve received your license, you’re able to work as an EMT in your state.
What to Expect on the Job
A career as an EMT is both mentally and physically demanding. You need:
Physical strength. EMTs are required to lift people of various weights. EMTs also spend a great deal of time on their knees, tending to patients, causing knee pain.
There is also a lot of standing and stretching the body to reach wounded individuals in various places and positions. You must have the physical strength to endure the wear and tear on your body.
Problem-solving skills. An EMT never knows what the day will bring. That means an EMT must have the mental ability to handle whatever situation arises. You’ll often find yourself in situations where you must make quick decisions concerning patient care.
Good communication skills. As an EMT, you have to interact with people from all walks of life. That means you must communicate effectively with all types of people. You must also do this while people are in stressful situations.
It’s also necessary to communicate with hospitals and other EMTs about emergencies effectively.
EMT Salary Expectations
EMTs save lives. And many people in this line of work love it because they love helping people. However, EMTs must also earn a living wage.
An EMTs salary varies based on the location of the job. Some EMTs earn less than $21,880 a year. While for others, the annual salary is around $33,380. And for the highest earners, the yearly salary can go as high as $56,990 per year.
The highest earners in this field are generally in large heavily-populated areas. For example, an EMT who works in New York City would make more than an EMT who works in Rhode Island.
Some of the highest-paying states for EMTs include Washington, Alaska, Connecticut, and Maryland.
EMTs that work for the government also tend to earn more than EMTs that work for hospitals. And EMTs that work for ambulance services generally earn the least.
EMT Job Outlook
Job opportunities for EMTs are expected to increase. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMT positions are currently on track to increase by more than 17,000 jobs over the next 10 years.
Violent events, car crashes, and natural disasters are common occurrences. Combine this with the booming elderly population in the US, and you can see why EMT jobs will continue to grow.
Also, since the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are leaving large cities in favor of more rural areas. And as these rural areas grow, they will need EMTs to provide services.
The Work of an EMT
The workload of an EMT is unpredictable. You never know if you’ll have a slow day or a day full of emergency calls.
If you work in an urban city, you’ll likely get more calls than an EMT who works in a smaller city. But if your city has plenty of ambulances, that means you might not receive many calls.
Most EMTs don’t start as workers handling 911 emergency calls. It’s more common for new EMTs to start providing services for nursing homes and dialysis patients.
It’s not as exciting as handling emergency calls. But the slower-paced atmosphere makes it possible to get more on-the-job experience. Also, even when new EMTs are on 911 emergency calls, they’ll usually drive the truck while more experienced EMTs handle the patients.
If a local fire department is on the scene, they’ll likely have paramedics with them. In that case, EMTs usually stand back until they’re asked to assist.
EMT Training and Courses
The bottom line is, if you want to become an EMT, you must have the best training. And the best training comes from an accredited online EMT course or a physical school. Only take courses from schools or programs that are accredited by the NREMT.
Online training is available, but it’s done in combination with physical classes. Skills that require hands-on training will require you to attend a lab or class. Before choosing your EMT program, get a clear understanding of what’s expected.