Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.
What they do
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings. People’s lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care provided by these workers. EMTs and paramedics respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.
A 911 operator sends EMTs and paramedics to the scene of an emergency, where they often work with police and firefighters.
EMTs and paramedics typically do the following:
- Respond to 911 calls for emergency medical assistance, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or bandaging a wound
- Assess a patient’s condition and determine a course of treatment
- Provide first-aid treatment or life support care to sick or injured patients
- Transport patients safely in an ambulance
- Transfer patients to the emergency department of a hospital or other healthcare facility
- Report their observations and treatment to physicians, nurses, or other healthcare facility staff
- Document medical care given to patients
- Inventory, replace, and clean supplies and equipment after use
When transporting a patient in an ambulance, one EMT or paramedic may drive the ambulance while another monitors the patient’s vital signs and gives additional care. Some paramedics work as part of a helicopter’s or an airplane’s flight crew to transport critically ill or injured patients to a hospital.
EMTs and paramedics work both indoors and outdoors, in all types of weather. Their work is physically strenuous and can be stressful, sometimes involving life-or-death situations.
Volunteer EMTs and paramedics share many of the same duties as paid EMTs and paramedics. They volunteer for fire departments, providers of emergency medical services, or hospitals. They may respond to only a few calls per month.
EMTs and paramedics have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. They are required to do considerable kneeling, bending, and lifting while caring for and moving patients. They may be exposed to contagious diseases and viruses, such as hepatitis B and HIV. Sometimes they can be injured by combative patients. These risks can be reduced by following proper safety procedures, such as waiting for police to clear an area in violent situations or wearing gloves while working with a patient.
Most paid EMTs and paramedics work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week. Because EMTs and paramedics must be available to work in emergencies, they may work overnight and on weekends. Some EMTs and paramedics work shifts in 12- or 24-hour increments.
How to become an EMT or Paramedic
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics typically complete a postsecondary educational program. All states require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed; requirements vary by state.
Both a high school diploma or equivalent and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification typically are required for entry into postsecondary educational programs in emergency medical technology. Most of these programs are nondegree award programs that can be completed in less than 1 year; others last up to 2 years. Paramedics, however, may need an associate degree.
Programs in emergency medical technology are offered by technical institutes, community colleges, universities, and facilities that specialize in emergency care training. Some states have EMR positions that do not require national certification. These positions typically require state certification.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs offers a list of accredited programs for EMTs and paramedics, by state.
Programs at the EMT level include instruction in assessing patients’ conditions, dealing with trauma and cardiac emergencies, clearing obstructed airways, using field equipment, and handling emergencies. Formal courses include about 150 hours of specialized instruction, and some instruction may take place in a hospital or ambulance setting.
Programs at the Advanced EMT level typically require about 400 hours of instruction. At this level, candidates learn EMT-level skills as well as more advanced ones, such as using complex airway devices, intravenous fluids, and some medications.
Paramedics have the most advanced level of education. To enter specific paramedical training programs, they must already be EMT certified. Community colleges and universities may offer these programs, which require about 1,200 hours of instruction and may lead to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Paramedics’ broader scope of practice may include stitching wounds or administering intravenous medications.
High school students interested in becoming EMTs or paramedics should take courses in anatomy and physiology and consider becoming certified in CPR.
The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certifies EMTs and paramedics at the national level. All levels of NREMT certification require completing a certified education program and passing the national exam. The national exam has both written and practical parts. Some states have first-level state certifications that do not require national certification.
All states require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed; requirements vary by state.
The median annual wage for EMTs and paramedics was $35,400 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $59,860.
Employment of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics is projected to grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Emergencies, such as car crashes, natural disasters, and acts of violence, will continue to require the skills of EMTs and paramedics. The need for volunteer EMTs and paramedics in rural areas and smaller metropolitan areas will also continue.
Similar Job Titles
Advanced EMT; Emergency Medical Technician (EMT); Emergency Medical Technician, Basic (EMT, B); Emergency Medical Technician/Driver (EMT/DRIVER); EMT Intermediate (Emergency Medical Technician, Intermediate); EMT, Paramedic (Emergency Medical Technician, Paramedic); EMT/Dispatcher (Emergency Medical Technician/Dispatcher); First Responder; Flight Paramedic; Multi Care Technician (Multi Care Tech); Paramedic
Municipal Fire Fighting and Prevention Supervisors, Municipal Firefighters, Fire Inspector, Police Patrol Officer, Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Academy of Emergency Medicine - AAEM was established in 1993 to promote fair and equitable practice environments necessary to allow emergency physicians to deliver the highest quality of patient care. They have a phenomenal assortment of educational offerings.
- American Heart Association - This organization is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke.
- National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians - NAEMT is the largest professional association for EMS practitioners in the United States. NAEMT education programs are developed by collaborative teams of clinicians, EMS educators and medical directors.
- National Fire Protection Association - NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. Advance your career or explore your interests in this field via NFPA training and certification courses and events.
Magazines and Publications
Ambulance sirens are a daily sound backdrop to city life; TV dramas and real-life news programs alike feature high-speed trips to rescue victims and speed them to life-saving medical care. Inside the ambulance, the on-site care providers are emergency medical technicians —known as EMTs— and paramedics. These professionals respond to 911 emergency calls, evaluate a patient’s needs, and perform needed medical services, such as administering CPR, stabilizing a trauma victim, or dressing a wound. Some paramedics serve on rescue crews based on helicopters or airplanes. Most paramedics and EMTs work for ambulance services, local government, and hospitals. Their work requires frequent kneeling, bending, and lifting to care for and move patients. EMTs and paramedics may be exposed to contagious diseases and dangerous situations, and may need to treat combative individuals who don’t want treatment. Their work schedules vary: volunteers are scheduled as needed, while most paid staff work full time in 12- or 24-hour shifts, including overnights and weekends. A formal educational program and licensure are required for this field, though states vary in what tasks they allow EMTs and paramedics to perform. Some states may require paramedics to have an associate degree, for example, to qualify to administer medications and use complex equipment, such as EKG monitors. In case of emergency—it’s reassuring to know that EMTs and paramedics are ready to respond at a moment’s notice.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org