Becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT) is an exciting career choice that allows you to be on the front lines of emergencies. First responders are the lifeblood of any community. As an emergency medical technician, you will be trained in saving lives and being at the front lines of medical and traumatic emergencies. Fortunately, training to become an emergency medical technician is not long and is worth the challenge.
What Is an Emergency Medical Technician?
An emergency medical technician is a trained medical provider that provides basic life support services and advanced life support services to people in pre-hospital emergency situations. As the name suggests, pre-hospital includes settings that aren’t within a hospital, such as the scene of an accident or emergency, the ambulance transportation to the hospital, and the transfer from the gurney to the hospital bed.
Emergency situations where an EMT might provide emergency care include:
- Car crashes
- Outdoor accidents
- Work accidents
- Professional sporting events
- Within hospital settings
- Psychiatric hospitals
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Assisted living communities
EMTs are responsible for responding to medical or traumatic emergencies throughout their city and play a vital role in public safety. There are three levels of emergency training, including:
Basic Emergency Medical Technician (EMT-B)
An EMT-B is also known as a basic emergency medical technician. Of all three types of emergency medical responder training, this takes the least amount of school training and courses and therefore the shortest amount of time. To become an EMT-B, the average amount of training is 160 hours consisting of classroom training and hands-on medical skills training. However, EMT-Bs are limited in their scope of practice.
The scope of practice will vary from state to state. This is the policy that states what type of emergency medical care can be provided to a patient by a certain healthcare provider. For basic emergency medical technicians, their scope of practice can include basic intervention measures such as:
- Administering oxygen through nasal cannula or bag valve mask
- CPAP & BIPAP ventilation
- Checking blood glucose levels
- Suctioning the airway
- Inserting nasopharyngeal tubes
- Using an automated external defibrillator (AED)
- Applying a splint device
- Applying a tourniquet
Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT)
An advanced emergency medical technician has slightly more training than a basic EMT. However, they are now being phased out in lieu of paramedics. Each state will vary on whether it prefers to utilize AEMTs in place of basic EMTs and paramedics, or vice versa.
Some colleges with EMT programs will offer more advanced training for an AEMT. Training requirements include anywhere between 240 to 256 hours of classroom instruction, hands-on training, and even ride-alongs. Advanced EMT’s can conduct more emergency medical care than a basic EMT can, according to their individual state’s scope of practice. Emergency care includes:
- Using a supraglottic airway device for ventilation
- Beginning IV’s
- Administering Naloxone
- Administering Glucagon
- Aiding in epinephrine auto-injector administration
- Using activated charcoal suspension
In addition to these skills, AEMTs can also perform the skills of an EMT-B.
A paramedic is a highly trained emergency medicine healthcare provider. They work hand-in-hand with EMT-B’s and AEMTs to provide life-saving care to patients in a wide range of settings. Paramedics can work in an in-hospital setting, or with a local fire department. Paramedic training consists of anywhere between 1,200 to 1,800 hours of paramedic school, hands-on training, and previous working experience as an EMT-B. Paramedic requirements will vary depending on the specific paramedic training program you attend. Some programs might require 6 months of EMT-B or AEMT experience, while others might require more or less time.
Although it takes significantly more training to become a paramedic, these medical providers have the highest scope of practice. They can provide care for patients including:
- CO2 determination by capnography
- Emergency immunizations
- Intraosseous infusions
- Applying skin decontamination lotion
- Needle thoracostomy
- Applying pneumatic anti-shock garments
- Surgical Cricothyrotomy
In addition to these skills, paramedics can also perform the skills of an AEMT and EMT-B.
Who Can Become an Emergency Medical Technician?
There are few limitations for people to become emergency medical technicians. However, depending on the state, the agency you want to work with, and your local county, you will be required to pass a background check to determine if you are eligible to provide care to patients. These background checks usually require you not have any felonies or offenses harming another person.
In addition, to drive an ambulance, most emergency transportation companies, fire departments, and the department of transportation in your county will require your record be clean of any serious moving offenses, DUI’s, and prior accidents.
To be an EMT, you must pass a physical exam which requires heavy lifting. In real-life settings, you will be required to move patients that weigh 200 pounds and more. You must be able to physically move them from their home, hospital, or other setting to a gurney, to the ambulance, and to the hospital bed. Different emergency transportation and non-emergency transportation companies will require different lifting requirements.
How Long Does It Take to Become an Emergency Medical Technician?
EMT training school to become a basic emergency medical technician is relatively short, lasting around 3 months or one semester. This depends on whether you attend an accelerated program, combine EMT school online with other in-person courses, and the level of training you wish to achieve.
It’s best to ask your local EMT vocational school or college about the specific length of time to earn your EMT basic certification. Your counselor will inform you if there are any pre-requisite courses required, can attend full-time or part-time classes, or if there are any accelerated programs being offered.
Are Certifications Necessary to Become an EMT?
EMT-B’s must be certified by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, or NREMT, their state, and their local county. Certification include:
- NREMT certification, which is obtained after passing the NREMT exam after you have finished your EMT school program.
- State certification
- Local county certification through the Department of Transportation or other similar authority
- CPR/AED basic life support certification
- DMV ambulance drivers license
What Do the Courses Cover?
EMT certification classes are robust. They cover topics ranging from:
- Patient care during medical emergencies, trauma emergencies, and psychiatric emergencies
- Bedside manners and communication with family
- Ethics in treatment
- Proper lifting techniques
- Basic life support (CPR/AED)
- Proper ambulance driving techniques
- Basic medication administration
- Proper documentation techniques to ensure patient privacy
These are just some of the many topics covered in EMT and paramedic school. In addition, you will also need to perform hands-on training during your schooling, such as how to properly insert a nasal cannula, perform CPR, suction a person, splint them, and prepare them for transportation among others.
What Are The EMT Exams?
Your school will require you to pass various academic and physical exams during your training based on the subject you are currently being taught. Most courses will require a “B” average or better to pass you. Passing your exams is important, as you need to show proof you have completed EMT trade school to qualify to take the NREMT exam.
This is a computer adaptive exam that tests your knowledge of emergency medical care using scenario-based multiple-choice questions. You will need to pass the exam with a 95% confidence score or higher to obtain your NREMT license, needed to apply for your state license.
How Much Does EMT Training Cost?
The average cost of an EMT program at a local college is around $1,000, including the cost of tuition, books, school supplies, and medical supplies such as a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. The cost can be greater if you attend an accelerated EMT program, in which schooling is less than one semester (3 months) of college. Fortunately, many community colleges and vocational schools offer financial aid for your EMT course. For veterans, you may also use the GI Bill for your EMT training program. For additional information, speak to your school counselor or financial aid office.
The average salary of an EMT in 2021 is around $36,930 a year, or $17.76 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This job field is also projected to grow at a rate of 11% from now until 2030, which is far greater than most other job fields.
Is Being An EMT Worth It?
Becoming an emergency medical technician is well worth the training, schooling, and long hours. This is a career that guarantees you will be doing something new every day, helping patients in various capacities, and truly making a difference in the lives of people. Whether you choose to attend paramedic school or obtain an EMT basic certification, both of these are great ways to start your career in emergency medicine and decide whether you truly want to devote the rest of your career in the medical field.