Becoming an EMT: Training
Generally, a high school diploma is required to enter a training program to become an EMT or paramedic. Workers must complete a formal training and certification process.
Education and Training
A high school diploma is usually required to enter a formal emergency medical technician training program. Training is offered at progressive levels: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and Paramedic.
At the EMT-Basic level, coursework emphasizes emergency skills, such as managing respiratory, trauma, and cardiac emergencies, and patient assessment. Formal courses are often combined with time in an emergency department or ambulance. The program provides instruction and practice in dealing with bleeding, fractures, airway obstruction, cardiac arrest, and emergency childbirth. Students learn how to use and maintain common emergency equipment, such as backboards, suction devices, splints, oxygen delivery systems, and stretchers.
Graduates of approved EMT-Basic training programs must pass a written and practical examination administered by the State licensing agency or the NREMT.
At the EMT-Intermediate level, training requirements vary by State. The nationally defined levels, EMT-Intermediate 1985 and EMT-Intermediate 1999, typically require 30 to 350 hours of training based on scope of practice. Students learn advanced skills such the use of advanced airway devices, intravenous fluids, and some medications.
The most advanced level of training for this occupation is Paramedic. At this level, the caregiver receives training in anatomy and physiology as well as advanced medical skills. Most commonly, the training is conducted in community colleges and technical schools and may result in an associate’s degree. These programs may take up to one to two years. Such education prepares the graduate to take the NREMT examination to become certified as a Paramedic. Extensive related coursework and clinical and field experience is required.
All 50 States require EMTs and Paramedics to be licensed, but the levels and titles vary from State to State. In most States and the District of Columbia certification by the NREMT is required at some or all levels. Some States administer their own certification examination or provide the option of taking either the NREMT or State examination.
In most States, licensure renewal is required every two to three years and generally, EMTs and Paramedics must take refresher training courses or complete continuing education requirements. Many States restrict licensure based on an individual’s criminal history.
Other QualificationsEMTs and paramedics should be emotionally stable, have good dexterity, agility, and physical coordination, and be able to lift and carry heavy loads. They also need good eyesight (corrective lenses may be used) with accurate color vision. Many employers require a criminal background check.
Paramedics can become supervisors, operations managers, administrative directors, or executive directors of emergency services. Some EMTs and paramedics become instructors, dispatchers, or physician assistants; others move into sales or marketing of emergency medical equipment. A number of people become EMTs and paramedics to test their interest in healthcare before training as registered nurses, physicians, or other health workers.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition, Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos101.htm