How To Become An EMT

Like most people in the medical field, Emergency Medical Technicians or EMTs are able to save lives in the course of making a living.

EMTs, together with paramedics, are dispatched by a 911 operator to a scene where they determine a patient’s condition, give the necessary emergency care, and transport the patients to the nearest hospital if necessary.  You will find EMTs in ambulances, police vehicles, fire trucks, hospitals, or sports and industrial settings.

How To Become An EMT

Do you want to be an EMT? 

An EMT works long hours – typically between 40 and 60 hours a week.  Like paramedics, EMTs work both indoors and outdoors in all types of weather.  The work is very physical and strenuous as it involves a lot of bending, kneeling, and lifting.  It is also stressful as EMTs are often in life-and-death situations and need to attend to patients who are in need of immediate attention.

On the other hand, as an EMT, you will be saving lives alongside paramedics, policemen, and firefighters.  People in the field find it exciting, challenging, and fulfilling.

In case you are wondering, the median annual wage for EMTs as of 2013 is $37,000 and the field is expected to grow by 33% from 2010 to 2020.

Here are the steps on how to become an EMT:


Step 1:  Check your state requirements

Although basically similar, there are some variations in the requirements for EMT certification across states.  To make sure that you don’t miss anything, check the prerequisites for your state.


Step 2:   Get CPR certified

As a future EMT, you need to be certified in both basic life support and CPR.  To do this, earn an American Heart Association Basic Life Support (BLS) for Healthcare Providers card.  This is a short course and typically only takes 3 hours.

During this training, you will learn to recognize life-threatening emergencies, provide appropriate CPR to victims, and learn to do other lifesaving skills like helping those who are choking.


Step 3:   Complete an EMT-Basic Training Program

When checking for state requirements, you will also get a list of authorized EMS instructors and training facilities in your state.  Contact an accredited EMT training center of your choice and take the necessary coursework.

Basic training may last from three weeks to one semester.  You will learn about human body, medical terminologies, patient assessments, how to deal with victims suffering from trauma and injuries, and even how to deliver babies.

Training is mostly hands-on and involves extensive field work.  You will get a certificate once you complete the course.


emergency medical technician



Step 4:   Pass the licensing exam

You can’t be an EMT without a license so take the state licensing exam after completing your EMT-Basic Training Program.  Although each state has different prerequisites, forty-six (46) states require that you earn certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).

In case you don’t pass the first time, you still have two chances to pass this required test.  If you still don’t make it, you may retake the EMT course before you can be allowed to take the licensing exam again.


On getting re-certified

You will need to get re-certified every 2-3 years.  There are strict requirements to get re-certified.  You need to work as an EMT, take continuing education courses, and pass the re-certification test which is a written and practical examination.


Step 5:   Level Up

Once you become a certified and licensed EMT-Basic, you can advance yourself even further.

You can be trained and certified to be an Intermediate EMT or even a Paramedic, the highest level for an EMT.

On the job, there is a particular scope of work and responsibility for each EMT level.  For example, when more advanced skills are needed, EMT-Intermediate or Paramedic usually comes to the scene.  Thus, it is highly recommended to train further and do the recommended coursework and certification in order to advance your career. Here’s an overview of the different EMT levels and their training requirements:


EMT Level

Length of Training

*depends on training facility

Training and Skills


Three weeks to one semester

The EMT-Basic is trained to evaluate a patient’s condition and perform emergency medical procedures until advanced life support arrives.  Examples of interventions an EMT-B can do are preventing a patient from going into shock, resuscitation (cardiac massage and artificial respiration), defibrillation to restore normal heart rhythm, controlling severe external bleeding, assisting in childbirth, and splinting bone fractures.

30 and 350 hours of training which includes 75 hours of hospital internship

An EMT-Intermediate will learn more advanced skills like intravenous therapy, pharmacology, advanced airway management and EKG interpretation.

1-2 years

A Paramedic is trained in Advanced Life Support (ALS).  The paramedic has the ability and authority to give medications to ease a victim’s pain.  A paramedic can also treat traumatic conditions, manage high-risk emergency childbirths, start IVs, intubate patients, perform defibrillation to restore normal heart rhythm, interpret EKG’s to stabilize patients with heart conditions, and a host of other advanced life-saving procedures.


If you have the heart and will for this type of career and respond well to emergencies and life-and-death situations, then being an emergency medical technician is perfect for you.  Are you ready to take on the life of an EMT?

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