Emergency Medical Technician

Average Salary $31,020
Years Higher Education 2
Job Outlook Excellent

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to emergencies, from someone who may be having a heart attack in her home to multi-vehicle accidents on the highway. EMTs are most frequently found in ambulances but some may provide care for patients being transported by air as well.

They provide first-line medical or emergency care for sick and injured people at the scene, which may be in the person’s home, at an accident site or other places and while they are being transported to the hospital for care. They typically operate in teams with one person serving as an emergency vehicle operator while the other continues to provide life-saving emergency care to the patient en route to a medical facility.

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians describes four categories of emergency medical practitioners:

  • Emergency medical responders (EMRs) are trained in skills to provide immediate lifesaving care for critical patients. Typically, responders can provide on-scene interventions but do not act as the primary caregiver. These EMRs may be members of a volunteer fire department, part of law enforcement, medical reserve corp volunteers or members of an industry response team. Licensure as an EMR requires completion of an accredited training program.
  • Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) conduct basic, noninvasive interventions to help save lives and reduce harm at emergency sites. They can do everything a responder does, plus they have the skills needed to transport patients safely. In many places, EMTs provide the majority of out-of-hospital care. To be licensed as an EMT, you must take an accredited course.
  • Advanced emergency medical technicians do everything emergency medical responders and EMTs do and can also conduct limited advanced and pharmacological interventions. Advanced emergency medical technicians must complete an accredited course to become licensed.
  • Paramedics are the most skilled emergency responders, trained in and capable to do invasive and pharmacological interventions. Licensure requires successful completion of a nationally accredited paramedic program at the certificate or associate’s degree level.

Working Conditions

Most EMTs and paramedics work full time. They are likely to do shift work that includes weekends, nights and holidays and even 24-hour shift schedules.

EMTs and paramedics may work in either urban or rural settings, though volunteers staff many rural EMT units. They may work for private ambulance services, fire departments, hospitals or other rescue services.

Depending on a system and its coverage area, career opportunities may also exist in areas like wilderness EMS, special operations, special events, hazardous materials, industrial safety, quality management and other areas.

EMTs and paramedics work with other health care professionals, including nurses and physicians, as well as firefighters and police officers.

EMTs and paramedics experience a much larger than average number of work-related injuries or illnesses.

Salary Range and Outlook

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for EMTs and paramedics is expected to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than most other careers. The average salary for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics is $31,020.

Academic Requirements

All 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.

EMTs usually complete a course that takes between 120 and 150 hours to complete. Paramedic classes take longer, between 1,200 and 1,800 hours.

EMTs learn how to:

  • Give CPR
  • Give oxygen
  • Administer glucose to diabetic patients
  • Help people who are having asthma attacks or allergic reactions
  • Extricate patients and prepare them for transport

Paramedics learn everything EMTs learn in addition to more advanced skills, including how to:

  • Administer medications
  • Start intravenous lines
  • Provide advanced airway management for patients
  • Resuscitate patients
  • Help people who have suffered trauma

They may take classes in anatomy, physiology, cardiology, medications and medical procedures. EMT and paramedic courses consist of lectures, hands-on skills training, and clinical and/or field internships.

If you are interested in becoming an EMT or paramedic, these are the basic steps to follow:

Source: UCLA Center for Prehospital Care

Accredited Programs for Paramedics

The National Registry of EMTs (NREMT) requires successful completion of an accredited program as an eligibility requirement for National EMS Certification at the paramedic level. Currently, 44 states utilize the NREMT in the state examination process for paramedic licensure. Successful completion of the NREMT exam is recognized in four states that accept National EMS Certification as an option to state-based testing. Only two states require state-based testing for initial licensure of paramedics. Find out more in this PDF from the National Association of State EMS Officials.

Candidates that graduate from a CAAHEP-accredited program retain the ability to apply for national EMS certification that will enhance the ability to apply for reciprocity in the majority of states.


Gina Riggs, Paramedic, EMS Director, Kiamichi Technology Center, Poteau, Oklahoma, reviewed this career profile.