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How to Become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

If you have a passion for helping others and are seeking a job where you can be on the go, then becoming an EMT could be a fantastic career path for you. EMTs are medical emergency responders that take care of and deliver a patient to the hospital. It is important for EMTs to make good judgments while acting quickly in stressful situations.

EMTs are primarily responsible for delivering patient care and support in the event of an emergency. This includes assessing the patient’s injuries, determining the right emergency care, and managing treatment. EMTs are trained to insert IV lines, administer drugs, apply pacemakers, and give CPR. EMTs are required to complete EMT certification by taking a course to properly learn these skills.

This job position requires compassion as you provide patients with emotional and medical support when experiencing life-threatening situations. While it can be stressful working as an EMT, there is nothing more rewarding than helping others in times of need. Working as an EMT can help prepare you for other healthcare roles and allies such as doctors, nurses, police officers, and firefighters. 

Sample job description

The emergency medical technician (EMT) responds to emergent and non-emergent requests for medical assistance and delivers high quality patient care, treatment, and customer service in the most expedient, professional, safe, caring, and cost effective manner possible within the prescribed scope of practice, established protocols, and company policies. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience in an emergency care setting. You must be able to problem solve and work under pressure, and you should have a natural desire to help people receive excellent patient care.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Evaluate and assess patient upon arrival to determine appropriate care 
  • Provide patients with basic emergency care and document patient condition, information and more
  • Determine if patient needs to go to an ER or trauma center
  • Communicate with other emergency service personnel 
  • Provide life support care if needed, such as CPR
  • Lift, carry, and transport patients
  • Provide first aid treatment

Education and experience

  • High school diploma required
  • One year of related experience
  • Clean criminal record
  • EMT certification required in most states

Required skills and qualifications

  • Exceptional interpersonal and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to work as a team member
  • Desire to think creatively and help those in need
  • Ability to work well under pressure
  • Excellent listening skills
  • Ability to lift more than 50 pounds

Preferred qualifications

  • Ambulance driver’s license
  • Experience in an emergency response team

Typical work environment

EMTs work both indoors and outdoors and in all types of weather conditions. They have strenuous physical working conditions, and commonly work in metropolitan areas. While many EMTS are full-time employees, some work more than 40 hours a week. They may work 12 or 24 hour shifts and have variable work schedules. Because of this, they may work only a few days a week. 

They will occasionally need to work late or over weekends. EMTs have a higher rate of injury and illnesses due to working conditions. These risks can be reduced by following proper safety procedures.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for an EMT vary widely. EMTs may need to work holidays, nights, weekends, and more.

Available certifications

As EMTs work in a variety of industries, there are certifications that are necessary to become an EMT:

  • CPR certification. Many medical professionals need CPR certification, including EMTs. It may help to have CPR certification even before beginning EMT certification. Certification can be gained online or in person. This is the first step in becoming an EMT.
  • EMT certification. If you want to be an EMT in the medical field, you will need to earn an EMT certification through a local college, fire department, or other nationally recognized service. Requirements vary by state, but you must be able to pass a criminal background check and drug test as well. Most certifications are valid for two years. After this time period, you will need to do continuing education or take a cognitive exam.

Career path

EMTs have entry level education. It is a postsecondary non-degree award. Having a high school diploma is needed along with CPR certification. Next, completing a state-approved education program in emergency medical technology is needed. 

Students must pass the National Registry Emergency Medical Technician exam. Passing the psychomotor exam, which is administered by the state’s emergency management services office or local training institution, is also needed to become an EMT. This exam requires students to perform emergency skills, including patient assessments, controlling bleeding, managing shock, providing ventilation procedures, managing cardiac arrests, and more.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-2041

2020 Employment261,300
Projected Employment in 2030289,900
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift28,600 increase

EMTs will be in high demand in the future. The baby boomer population is aging and will require more emergency services due to things like heart attack, stroke, falls, and other medical emergencies.

Burnout and mental health struggles are also common among emergency service workers, so administrators will need to make programs and services available to those who need help. 

Technology is also shifting in the medical field, with social media and telemedicine adding value, but it will not replace the primary role of EMTs, which is taking care of people in medical emergencies.