How to Become an EMT or Paramedic
EMTs and paramedics need to be physically fit as their job requires a considerable amount of bending, lifting, and kneeling.
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics must complete a postsecondary educational program. All states require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed; requirements vary by state.
Both a high school diploma or equivalent and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification are prerequisites for most postsecondary educational programs in emergency medical technology. Most of these programs are postsecondary non-degree award programs that can be completed in less than 1 year; others last up to 2 years. Paramedics, however, may need an associate’s degree. Educational programs in emergency medical technology are offered by technical institutes, community colleges, and facilities that specialize in emergency care training. High school students interested in becoming EMTs or paramedics should take courses in anatomy and physiology.
Programs at the EMT level include instruction in assessing patients' conditions, dealing with trauma and cardiac emergencies, clearing obstructed airways, using field equipment, and handling emergencies. Formal courses include about 150 hours of specialized instruction, and some instruction may take place in a hospital or ambulance setting.
Programs at the Advanced EMT level typically requires about 300 hours of instruction based on the scope of practice. At this level, people must complete the requirements for the EMT level as well as more advanced ones, such as using complex airway devices, intravenous fluids, and some medications.
Paramedics have the most advanced level of education. They must complete EMT and Advanced EMT levels of instruction, along with courses in advanced medical skills. Community colleges and technical schools may offer these programs, which require about 1,200 hours of instruction and may lead to an associate's degree. Paramedics’ broader scope of practice may include stitching wounds or administering intravenous medications.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certifies EMTs and paramedics. All levels of NREMT certification require completing a certified education program and passing the national exam. The national exam has both written and practical parts.
All states require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed; requirements vary by state. In most states, an individual who has NREMT certification qualifies for licensure. In others, passing an equivalent state exam is required. Usually an applicant must be over the age of 18. Many states require background checks and may not give a license to an applicant who has a criminal history.
Although some emergency medical services hire separate drivers, most EMTs and paramedics take a course requiring about 8 hours of instruction before they can drive an ambulance.
Compassion. EMTs and paramedics must be able to provide emotional support to patients in an emergency, especially patients who are in life-threatening situations or extreme mental distress.
Interpersonal skills. EMTs and paramedics usually work on teams and must be able to coordinate their activities closely with others in stressful situations.
Listening skills. EMTs and paramedics need to listen to patients to determine the extent of their injuries or illnesses.
Physical strength. EMTs and paramedics need to be physically fit. Their job requires a lot of bending, lifting, and kneeling.
Problem-solving skills. EMTs and paramedics need strong problem-solving skills. They must be able to evaluate patients’ symptoms and administer the appropriate treatments.
Speaking skills. EMTs and paramedics need to be able explain procedures to patients, give orders, and relay information to others.