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become an emt - 2 emts helping patient

How To Become An EMT

If the thought of helping people and working in your community inspires you, then a career as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) might be the perfect opportunity.

What Does An EMT Do?

When someone calls 911 for any type of emergency where people are injured, it will usually be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) that shows up.

EMTs are the people that provide life-saving measures and transport to those that may be hurt or injured. They will provide services like stabilization of injuries, CPR, drive an ambulance, and so much more.

This job is not for the lighthearted. EMTs can play a large part in whether someone lives or dies. If you want a medical career that does not require so much life and death, you can become a phlebotomist, radiologist, or a sterile process technician.

They are all stressful, but not as bad as a medical responder job.

There are a few different levels of first responders:

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

EMT certifications are for those looking to work as a full fledged emergency medical associate. EMTs can help with higher level emergencies and help stabilize patients and can also transport them if needed. They are educated in ambulance care and can provide services that an EMR cannot.

Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)

Certified EMR professionals are the most basic level and receive training that allows them to provide basic-level care while waiting for more technical medical care to arrive. They do not have the same training as EMTs so they have less responsibility overall than other certifications. EMR personnel also cannot transport patients.

Nationally Certified Advanced EMT (AEMT)

An AEMT offers critical care patients basic and some advanced medical care. They can offer interventions with the various medical equipment on an ambulance and are often the main point of contact from the health care system while transporting patients.

Nationally Certified Paramedic

Nationally certified paramedics have a more complex understanding of patient care and transportation. They provide critical care to patients and are also part of the exchange from the hospital to be able to offer needed care and transportation.

Related: Quick certifications that can pay you well.

become an emt - 2 emts helping patient
EMTs helping a patient

How To Become An EMT

Becoming an EMT does require some training and certification, but no college degree is required.

Below is the recommended path to begin a career as an EMT.

1. High School Diploma or GED

Obtain your high school diploma or GED

2. CPR Certification

Prospective EMTs will be required to be CPR certified. Some EMT training programs will even require it before you can start training.

3. EMT Training Program

Locate a formal emergency medical technology program that is local to you. Be sure it is state-approved.

4. NREMT Exam

All students will need to take the National Registry Emergency Medical Technician exam and pass with a “standard level of competency”. A state-approved course is required before taking the exam.

5. Psychomotor Exam

This hands-on skills test will include tasks like fracture care, immobilization techniques, and other emergency services. It is typically administered locally so check with your state to find details.

6. Continuing Education

Certifications need to be renewed, typically it is every two years. The national certification requires renewals as well and often require continuing education courses.

Basic Education

A high school diploma or GED will typically be required before getting into a emergency medical services training program..

CPR Training

CPR is an important part of any medical technician job so getting CPR certified is highly recommended. Some training programs may require you get certified before you start the program.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Program

A state-approved emergency medical technician (EMT) course will be required. Be sure the training program you sign up for meets or exceeds the National Emergency Medical Services Standards.

In these programs you will learn some of the following:

  • Patient assessment
  • Community relations
  • Medical standards
  • Emotional support
  • Safety measures
  • Administration of medical care

EMT Certifications

Once you have completed the program, then you can sit for the two required tests.

  1. One is a state administered test called a psychomotor test. This will test you on your ability to various required skills like immobilization of spines, setting fractures, or minimizing bleeding.
  2. The second is a national test that is administered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. It is a cognitive exam that will last about two-hours.

Pros + Cons Of Being An EMT

Of course saving lives is a pretty great pro of this job, but there is so much more to consider when going down this path.


  • Every day is different
  • Job security
  • Saving lives
  • Helping people


  • Salaries can be low
  • Long hours
  • On-call
  • Danger

How Much Do EMTs Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for EMTs is $36,930. The lowest 10% make $28,320 while the highest paid can expect to earn more than $60K.

Of course, there are some factors that will impact how much you can earn.

  • Working for a hospital will typically pay more than an ambulance company or local government for example.
  • Where you reside will also play a big part. EMT salaries in big-cities will be noticeably higher than those in more rural areas.
  • Your experience and EMT level will also play a part in your salary.

BLS shows a median salary of $36,930.

Recommended Skills For EMTs

EMT work is not easy. Of course you should love people to get into this career, but there are other skills that would be highly recommended to go into EMT work.


A typical day will have you working with peers, patients, doctors, hospital staff, and more. Being able to communicate well with all different levels of medical teams will be critical in ensuring patients are safe and treated as needed.


Definitely not a job for the weak! You need to move patients, gear, and equipment daily. Also the bending, kneeling, and lifting can take a toll on your body.


Patience is a much needed skill as an EMT. You may spend time waiting for calls to come in, or you may have to wait for a duration of time when onsite with a patient. You will not always be able to control your time, so patience will be key.


EMTs will often deal with relatives, or even gawkers – and both can be in shock at what they are seeing. EMTs will need to have compassion and a sense of “balance” to help decompress situations while still being caring to difficult feelings people are having.