Path to Becoming an EMT

While there are a variety of different healthcare facilities that employ EMTs, they are most often affiliated with a hospital emergency room. Emergency medical technicians usually work as part of an ambulance crew or alongside firefighters. Advanced technicians may also be hired by businesses who have been tasked with the responsibility of providing safety and security services for their employees. Additional work opportunities for EMTs include life flight helicopter crews and medical branches of the military.

Regardless of where an EMT works, they will almost always be required to complete a formal training program, certification, and licensing. Acute and critical care responsibilities are serious and require competent individuals who can respond quickly in stressful situations. Approximately 46 states currently recognize certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) as the standard for EMT competence assessment. Four states have their own certification process that does not include NREMT certification.

The NREMT currently offers four different levels of EMT certification. Those levels include Emergency Medical Responder, Emergency Medical Technician, Advanced Emergency Medical Technician, and Paramedic. Each level of certification requires completion of a progressively more advanced training program that has been state-approved. All EMTs, regardless of certification status, must have current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

There are a variety of emergency medical technician training programs that are offered by vocational schools, colleges, and universities across the country. Some of these programs last for two years and are designed to provide a basic level of EMT training while others last for four years and are intended to result in advanced EMT certification and licensing. Like most vocational careers, many of the necessary skills are acquired through direct, hands-on field experience.

The most common career advancement pathway for EMTs is to begin at the basic certification level and gradually work up to paramedic status over the course of two to five years. This approach allows an EMT to gain a lot of real-world experience and better prepares them to take the more challenging certification exams. The NREMT has found that individuals who take this path generally do better on the exams.

Individuals who think they may be up to the challenge of becoming an EMT are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the licensing requirements in their state. Not all states have adopted the same approach to licensing and it is important to understand local requirements before beginning the training process. It is also a good idea to contact a local emergency services department to see if you can spend some time observing EMTs as they respond to medical emergencies. This process will give you a better idea of whether or not it is really something you want to do.