CK Logo

How to Become a Emergency Medical Technicians

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are heroes; you’ve probably seen them saving lives on TV or countless news reports. As a first responder, EMTs have very important roles that require skill, courage, and dedication. If you’re interested in becoming an emergency medical technician, then this article is for you.

In this article, we’ll answer every question you have about becoming an EMT. What is the difference between an EMT and a paramedic? What are the best EMT programs available? What does EMT training look like? Whether you need academic advice or career guides, CareerKarma has got you covered.

What is an EMT?

In the broad field of emergency medical services, there are many types of care providers. EMTs are entry-level care providers, but they still play an integral role in the large industry of medical care. EMTs supersede CFRs (certified first responders), such as police officers, in the scope of their duties and training. Advanced EMTs make up the next level of care provider, and consist of EMT intermediates and paramedics.

Considering entry-level positions only require one to three years of training, this is an excellent career path. EMTs face challenging yet incredibly rewarding jobs while helping people in a variety of different situations. Being an EMT can also act as a huge stepping stone for several other jobs both in and out of medicine. If you desire a dynamic and rewarding job that is in-demand, a job as an EMT may be for you.

What Does an EMT Do?

An EMT has several significant roles that go beyond administering medical attention during emergencies.

Ensuring Proper Transportation of Patients

One of the many essential roles of an EMT is verifying that their ambulance is properly equipped and in working order. Before leaving the station, an EMT will go through a meticulous checklist to ensure that the ambulance has all the necessary equipment to deliver emergency care. From mechanical inspection to medical apparatus, ensuring that the ambulance is prepared and ready to go is a very important responsibility.

Evaluation of Illness/Injury

A qualified EMT must know how to properly assess a patient’s condition before they can treat them. Emergency medical technicians should be well-versed in anatomy and physiology for this particular role. This role usually earns EMTs the title of “being psychic”, since they can figure out what’s wrong with a patient by performing quick yet effective tests. Patient assessments usually involve checking for trauma, checking orifices, and writing comprehensive reports.

Administer Patient Care

Just as important as patient assessment is the ability to efficiently administer the necessary measures to heal patients. Whether it’s administering oxygen to the patient, or simply carrying them up to a stretcher, this role is what EMTs are best known for. EMTs must know how to deliver CPR, dress wounds, and stabilize their patients as much as they can. This is where soft skills come in handy as well, as it is essential for EMTs to have excellent communication skills and to keep a cool head.

Essential EMT Skills

Soft Skills

As mentioned above, soft skills such as effective communication and quick thinking under pressure are of vital importance to EMTs. As a first responder, you’ll inevitably be responsible for saving multiple lives during critical emergencies. Having good interpersonal skills or being multilingual may help you gather information and rescue patients more effectively. Knowing when to notify hospitals or police stations also falls under this category, as such good networking will undoubtedly come in handy when saving lives.


EMTs require great physical and mental toughness in their line of work. As an EMT, you’ll be asked to do heavy lifting, such as picking up obstacles or carrying patients and patient care apparatus. Being fit is a great asset to EMTs, as their job requires much strenuous activity such as running. Moreover, an EMT will encounter situations that can be gruesome. Keeping a cool head during emergencies is a big example of mental strength.

Creative Thinking

EMTs will face hundreds of different emergency situations. Hence, they must think fast and figure out the best way to take care of a patient (or patients). You may also have to administer lifesaving procedures such as CPR and intravenous therapy in a variety of dangerous settings. Being a quick and creative thinker is of vital importance when it comes to being an EMT.

EMT Salaries and Job Growth

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMTs and paramedics earned a median salary of $35,400 in 2019. Since it requires a short yet intensive amount of training, EMTs can expect to earn relatively good pay. Furthermore, job openings for emergency medical technicians are expected to grow by seven percent (faster than average) from 2018 to 2028.

As a paramedic, you'll earn more money than an EMT. Paramedics generally make an average of about $40,000 annually but can earn as much as $70,000 or more per year. EMT pay averages $33,000 a year, with the top earners taking home $51,000 per year. Earning further certification or licensure can earn you roles in EMT training or management, which will further increase your pay.

There are several other factors that may influence your salary, such as location, experience, and individual performance. The bottom line is that a job as an EMT entails excellent job security, good pay, a rewarding career, and a chance to give back to your community.

How to Become an EMT: A Step by Step Guide

Becoming an EMT is a challenging yet fulfilling process. It usually takes around a year for most students to earn an EMT certificate. Applying for a job as a paramedic usually requires another year or two of continuing education. Read on to discover the necessary steps in order to become an EMT.

Step 1: Meet Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility requirements for EMTs vary from state to state as well as from school to school. In Texas, applicants must be at least 18-years-old and possess a high school diploma/GED certificate. Background checks are also required, so It is also strongly recommended that applicants possess a clean record. Eligible candidates should possess the aforementioned skillset and something that sets them apart from other applicants (such as being bilingual).

Step 2: Complete EMT Courses and Training

Both EMTs and paramedics must obtain CPR certification. Organizations such as the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association regularly provide CPR training. EMTs and paramedics must also complete a postsecondary emergency medical technology program through a community college, technical college, or university. These programs last one to two years and teach students how to assess, care for, and transport patients.

Aspiring paramedics then pursue a two-year associate degree in the field of emergency medical services. These programs prepare learners to administer medications, insert IVs, and resuscitate patients.

Step 3: Pass the NREMT Exam

After taking EMT/paramedic courses, the next step is to attempt and pass the NREMT exam in order to get certified. EMTs and paramedics both need state certification to practice. Most states accept the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians) exam. Candidates must have completed a state-approved training course within the last two years in order to sit for the exam.

The NREMT exam comprises a cognitive test and a psychomotor portion. Candidates have six attempts to pass the cognitive exam and can reapply to take the cognitive exam 15 days after receiving their results. You can take the psychomotor exam through a state emergency services office or approved training site. You can find more information about the NREMT exam on this website.

Step 4: Obtain Certification/Work Experience

After passing your exam, it is necessary to apply for and obtain certification/licensure within two years of being issued a course completion certificate. Once you’ve earned the proper licensure and certification, you can start working. Each certification in EMS builds on the one before, so candidates must become EMTs before they can become paramedics.

If you aspire to become an EMT-intermediate or paramedic, then you will have to complete advanced courses and more hours of training. As an aspiring paramedic, employers will be impressed by work experience, such as volunteering or teaching. Furthermore, you should remember to maintain your cardiovascular health as well as your strength so you can pursue more advanced EMT positions.

Should You Become an EMT?

Ultimately, becoming an EMT is a challenging yet very rewarding venture. Not only is it a highly in-demand profession, but there are several opportunities for career advancement. Training is intense but short, and you can expect to earn a good salary as soon as you start working.

If you aspire to pursue a career in helping others, then there are few options as fulfilling and dynamic as an EMT. The best time to start your journey is now. We here at Career Karma wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors.


How long does it take to become an EMT as compared to a paramedic?
EMT courses and training typically take up 120-150 hours in length. It typically takes between six to 15 months to complete an EMT program. Paramedic programs can be between 1,200 to 1,800 hours. Earning a degree, completing required training, and taking the certification exam requires about two to three years.
Where can I find the best EMT/paramedic schools and programs available today?
This website can help you find the best paramedic schools and programs that offer hybrid programs. EMT National Training is a useful NREMT prep tool that features several positive testimonials.
What kind of paramedic job/internship opportunities are available?
This website can help you find several jobs and internships in EMS to give you work experience or rewarding full-time careers.
Get matched to top bootcamps