A career as an Emergency Medical Technician appeals to those who have a strong spirit of volunteerism. Although EMTs work long hours and have to think quickly while in  stressful situations, they also enjoy a rich camaraderie that they share with members of the fire and police departments. In a world that is becoming increasingly impersonal, EMTs enjoy strong professional community support and bond together like family. It is not unusual to find several generations of EMTs within families. Overall, EMTs are a caring, compassionate village of helpers who share a selfless desire to use their knowledge and skills to help their fellow citizens at their deepest point of need.

General Description

Emergency Medical Technicians or EMTs are skilled first responders for those in need of medical attention outside of the hospital. EMTs are part of the Emergency Medical Service or EMS, which is a network of first responders who are responsible for the evaluation, stabilization and transportation of sick or injured persons to the point of definitive care, which is usually a hospital. The EMT training, licensing and certification are regulated in accordance with uniform state and national standards. Demand for this profession is growing due to population aging. This article discusses specific steps to take to become an Emergency Medical Technician.

EMTs function as members of ambulance and rescue teams throughout the U.S., and their work is often performed in connection with local police and fire departments. Their knowledge and quick reflexes can be the deciding factor in the survival of a heart attack or car accident. EMTs work long hours and pay can vary from $27K to $50K annually, depending upon seniority and level of skill-training. EMT training and skill levels vary from Basic EMT and advances through intermediate levels to the most skilled level of Paramedic. Becoming an EMT involves passing a specific curriculum tailored for each level. Facilities that train EMTs have to be state approved. EMTs must be CPR certified and obtain a state license in order to work in the field. Certification is specific for the levels of the profession, and is not and is not a requirement  for licensing in every state. EMT Certification serves to signify to stakeholders that the EMT has meet certain national standards.

Steps for Becoming an EMT

1. Obtain CPR Certification: Not all EMT programs offer CPR training and certification in their training program. If the program you select does not include CPR training and certification you will have to obtain CPR certification at another facility.

2. Obtain Basic EMT Training: Enroll in a state approved course for Basic-EMT education. All subsequent levels of EMTs from Intermediate to Paramedic require this first step. Length of EMT training varies according to level. Basic EMT training may take 6 months and Paramedic training can take up to 2 years.

National guidelines for EMT training are determined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA has developed a curriculum titled “Emergency Medical Technician – Basic: National Standard Curriculum” which is the cornerstone for training of EMS personnel that establishes the minimum information that is to be presented within a 110 hour course in the training of EMT-Basic personnel. Other training for skills such as ambulance driving, light and heavy rescue can be added to the basic curriculum. The core EMS curriculum can be added to in various localities, in accordance with the specific emergency demands of the region. Training for EMT-Basic is required before moving on to more advanced training for EMT Intermediate to Paramedic and Advanced.

3. Apply for Your State EMT License

EMT licenses are granted by the state. Requirements for licensing vary across states. Completion of the appropriate curriculum as administered by a authorized institution is required. Some states require certification before issuing a license. Licenses are valid for a period of 2 years, after which they must be renewed in order to continue working.

4. Get Certified

EMT Certifications are regulated by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), a private organization established in 1970 to create national uniform standards for the EMT profession. Some states have their own certification examination. Levels of EMT Certifications correspond with the levels of functioning from EMT Basic to Paramedic. In addition to covering the material in the various EMT curricula (that must meet or exceed the NTSB standards), NREMT certification also involves cognitive and psychomotor examinations that evaluate how personnel respond to various scenarios.

Certification does not confer the legal right to work as an EMT, only state licensing can do that. Licensing is specific for every state in the U.S. Certification is not a prerequisite for getting an EMT license. A valid, unrestricted EMT license is required for certification. Felony convictions require a case review to determine if the candidate is eligible for certification. Licenses that have been suspended are subjected to review before certification can be given. Certification lasts for 2 to 3 years, depending upon when in the year the entire testing process was completed. Employment and continuing education conditions apply for re-certification.

Description of EMT Levels

Each EMT level has specific training curricula and objectives. According to the National Registry of EMTs (NREMT) the skill levels for EMTs are:

First Responder/ EMR: This is the most basic level of EMT functioning. First responders assess and stabilize the situation until more advanced help arrives. First Responder training typically involves CPR, control of bleeding, fracture stabilization, how to administer oxygen and assist with labor and delivery.

EMT-Basic: EMT-Basic Functioning is similar to that of First Responders, but is more advanced. EMT-Basic personnel are trained in spinal immobilization use of defibrillators and how to assist patients with medications. The EMT personnel are pivotal components of the Basic Life Support ambulance. Individuals being trained for EMT-Basic or higher must be 18 years of age or older.

More advance EMT certification levels are: EMT Intermediate/ 85, Advanced EMT, EMT Intermediate/ 99, EMT Paramedic/ Paramedic, Paramedic and Advanced Paramedic. Detailed information on all the levels of EMT training can be obtained from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians’ website. (See references).

References; EMT License Requirements and Career Info: Licensure Requirements for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT);; How to Become an EMT: Career Roadmap;

National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians; First Responder;

National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians; EMT-Basic / EMT;

National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians; Apply for National Certification; 

National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians; The Legal Differences Between Certification and Licensure;

Seven Mountains EMS Council; First Responder;

The NREMT Certification Eligibility, Discipline and Appeals Policy;

United States Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.).Emergency Medical Technician-Basic: National Standard Curriculum.

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