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How to Become an EMT: Career Roadmap

Majors Overview January 30, 2013

Injured and ill patients outside of hospitals and medical facilities rely on emergency medical technicians to provide them care. EMTs’ responsibilities include evaluating an individual’s health and providing adequate medical care until the injured person can be admitted for treatment in a hospital. An aspiring EMT will need to complete a certificate program and pass a state exam apart from obtaining state licensure.

Common Requirements

Degree Level

No degree is needed, a specific amount of training hours via an approved certificate program are essential to comply with licensing requirements


Emergency Medical Technician Basic Level – 100 hours, EMT-Intermediate/Advanced Level – 1,000 hours

Licensure and Certification

Emergency Medical Technicians must pass a certification examination and possess a state issued license

Key Skills

Compassion, interpersonal skills, and strong communication skills. Listening and problem-solving skills are necessary along with the ability to handle stress

Additional Requirements

Certification in CPR is required and EMTs must be eighteen years of age or older. Clean driving and criminal record. Physical strength is needed.

Stage One: Completing an Emergency Medical Technician Basic Certification Program

Certificate programs are offered by hospitals and fire academies among healthcare institutions and community colleges. The duration of these programs are usually one hundred hours, and it is a basic form of training given to emergency services personnel. A high school diploma or equivalent qualification is required by students seeking admission to such programs. The applicant should not be less than eighteen years of age. The requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation EMT-Basic National Standard Curriculum must be met by every initial training program. Coursework includes subjects such as respiratory assistance, cardiac emergencies and trauma response. An aspiring EMT will benefit by volunteering to work at a local hospital. Volunteering at a local hospital will help potential emergency medical technician adjust to working in the medical field and it helps students practice communicating and working with patients. In addition, volunteer experience could help an emergency medical technician stand out to potential employers.

Stage Two: Passing the Emergency Medical Technician Basic Training Exam

Once all required EMT-Basic training courses have been completed, an exam must be passed by graduates in order to obtain certification. This exam comprises of two parts; first part is a written test, and the other is an analysis of skills. The written exam focuses on EMT procedures while the skills assessment allows the examiners to assure themselves the ability of the candidate to perform EMT responsibilities. The National Registry of Emergency Medical coordinates with state-certified organizations to administer this final exam.

Stage Three: Obtaining Emergency Medical Technician State Licensure

EMTs are required in all states to obtain licensure after they receive certification. The licensing requirements differ from state to state. EMTs must complete continued education courses every few years in order to renew their license. Thus, continued education keeps the EMT in a consistently well-trained state, and they continue to be proficient by staying abreast of advancement in their field. Continued education areas include assessing patient conditions, types of illness and injuries, prepping patients and child specialties.

Stage Four: Obtaining Work Experience

EMTs must be dedicated to the job and be able to handle stress. Gaining work experience in the field will prove beneficial to the EMT as well as potential patients. The opportunity to work with police officers, fire fighters and paramedics helps EMTs gain the ability to work in dangerous environments and situations such as vehicular accidents and fires. EMTs must be able to think on their feet and respond quickly to each unique emergency with its own required emergency procedures. Promotions and professional credibility will prove rewarding as EMTs gain on the job experience.

Stage Five: Career Advancement

EMTs who want to stay abreast of modern medical techniques may try to undergo additional certification and training courses. For instance, an EMT-Basic may want to further his/her career to become an EMT-Paramedic or EMT-Intermediate. To reach each of these levels, an EMT will need to perform additional study and pass relevant NREMT exams. For instance, advancing to the EMT-Intermediate level is estimated that candidates need 1,000 hours of training. Completing continued or advanced education courses could allow EMTs to become physician assistants, instructors or supervisors.

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