How to Become an EMT in 2024

January 26, 2024 | Admin

If you’re considering going into the medical field but don’t want to be confined to a hospital or doctor’s office, then you should look into becoming an emergency medical technician. Emergency medical technicians, also known as EMTs, are typically the first responding medical person to arrive at the scene. It is a fast-paced environment that allows you to work in the medical field while constantly working in different settings. 

With so much information about how to become an EMT, it may be difficult for you to know where to begin. That’s why we’re here. We’ll cover everything you need to know for becoming an EMT to help you decide if this is the right career path for you to take. 

What is an EMT? Roles and Duties of an EMT Explained

An EMT is the first responder to arrive on the scene who renders aid to sick or injured individuals in emergency medical situations. They may also be referred to as EMT-Basics. 

There are different types of emergency medical responders  who each have different roles. EMTs are often called paramedics because they work in similar settings, but there is quite a difference between the two positions.

An EMS provider or EMT is responsible for the following roles:

  • Being the first to arrive at the scene of an emergency
  • Assessing the patient to determine the appropriate treatment for the condition
  • Performing the determined treatment for the patient
  • Preparing the patient for transportation via ambulance
  • Transporting the patient via ambulance 
  • Notifying the hospital staff of the patient’s condition and treatment performed
  • Providing documentation to the patient for the treatment that was performed
  • Sanitizing and replacing medical equipment or supplies that were used during treatment

An EMT will respond to dispatched 911 calls that require immediate medical attention. This may include a car accident with injuries, a residential emergency such as a fall or a potential heart attack, or an injury that has occurred during a sporting event. 

An EMT must arrive on the scene of an emergency with the understanding that life-saving action may need to be taken. 

Education Requirements for Becoming an EMT

The misconception often that overshadows the idea of becoming an EMT is that the position requires the same years of medical school that a doctor or a nursing position requires, simply because it is a job in the medical field. 

The good news is that the education requirements to become an EMT are minimal. You will need a high school diploma or GED, as well as CPR certification. 

If you don’t have your CPR certification, don’t worry. You can become CPR-certified by searching the Red Cross for CPR certification programs near you. Classes are typically less than $100, and your certification will be valid for two years. 

As long as you have a high school diploma or equivalent and your CPR certification, you are eligible to enroll in an EMT program. 

Physical Requirements for Becoming an EMT

Becoming an EMT is more than just an educational achievement. While you will have to take cognitive tests to complete the required educational training, an entire physical component should also be considered when becoming an EMT.

Generally, an EMT will need to be in good physical shape to complete the following duties:

  • Running to help a sick or injured person
  • Lifting heavy objects, including a gurney or stretcher 
  • Bending and kneeling to help an injured person 
  • Strength to perform various life-saving techniques, including the Heimlich maneuver or CPR
  • Endurance to work in all types of weather conditions

Ensure that you consider the physical demands as much as the educational demands required when becoming an EMT. 

Other Requirements That Should Be Considered When Becoming an EMT

While the physical and educational requirements are the most important factors you must possess when becoming an EMT, you should consider other considerations if you are interested in entering this field. 

What sets a good EMT apart from a great EMT can be as simple as displaying care and compassion when treating patients on the scene. 

Because EMTs are often the first responders to arrive on the scene, they have the opportunity to neutralize a situation that may be very chaotic. A great EMT can do this by simply listening and calmly speaking to the victim. An EMT who possesses this quality, along with the physical and educational requirements of the job, often excels in this profession. 

Some other qualifications that can be helpful for EMTs include critical thinking, problem-solving, and attention to detail. These qualifications will help you as an Emergency Medical Technician decide the best course of treatment for the patient. You will then need to report the treatment you gave the patient to the corresponding doctor or nurse receiving the patient. 

Steps to Becoming an EMT

You will need to be a high school graduate with a diploma or GED to enroll in an EMT program. This will be your first step to becoming an EMT. High school graduates with a diploma or GED are eligible to enroll in EMT-certified educational programs. 

Each state has different requirements to become a certified EMT. The program in which you are enrolling should have those requirements in place when you enter the program. This will give you a better understanding of how long the training process will take and what your certification will cover once you have successfully finished the program.

Once you have enrolled in the EMT program, you will need to successfully complete the program to become a licensed and certified EMT. Each state will have different requirements, but they are generally very similar programs. 

What Does an EMT Training Program Look Like?

There are two types of EMT programs: Basic EMT and Advanced EMT.

EMT Basic Training

The EMT basic training program is around 150 hours and consists of the following training:

  • Basic instruction for assessing a patient’s condition, whether sickness or injury
  • Learning how to perform specialized care or life-saving techniques in an emergency situation
  • Identifying and learning how to use different medical equipment 
  • Preparing and stabilizing a patient for transportation 

You will typically have to take approximately 150 hours of training to become a basic EMT. The beginning of the training will start in a classroom setting and will likely move to a hospital or ambulance by the middle or end of the program. This will help you understand the environment in which you will be working, giving you a better idea of what a day on the job might feel like. 

Advanced EMT Training

Advanced EMT training requires additional training hours, typically upward of around 400 hours, and includes the same training as an EMT-basic. The main difference between Basic EMT training and Advanced EMT training is the specialized areas of study, which include the following:

  • Prepping and starting a patient on IV fluids
  • Using medical airway devices 
  • Administering various medications for a patient 

How Soon Can I Become an EMT?

It typically takes between 16 and 20 weeks to become an EMT. Although this is relatively quick and only a few months, there is an even faster way to become an EMT if you are looking to become an EMT as quickly as possible.

With an Accelerated EMT Program, you can become EMT-certified in as little as three weeks. Most Accelerated EMT Programs are offered in three, five, or ten-week options. Keep in mind that you will have longer days in the classroom or onsite when training, so you should only choose the Accelerated EMT Program if you are in a situation where you need to be EMT-certified as quickly as possible. 

It is also important to remember that the Accelerated EMT Progam is only to become basic EMT-certified. It is not to become an advanced EMT or Paramedic. 

What is the Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic?

To become a paramedic, you will need to need to be a licensed EMT. This means already going through the basic EMT training program and receiving your EMT certification. Once you are a licensed EMT, you are eligible to become a paramedic. 

Becoming a paramedic includes the following requirements:

  • 1,200 hours of training within a classroom and medical setting
  • Obtaining an Associate’s or bachelor’s degree in paramedicine
  • Stitching open wounds 
  • Administering IV fluids and/or medications

How to Prepare to Become an EMT While in High School

If you are a high school student interested in becoming an EMT, then there are steps you can go ahead and put into place before you graduate, which will help you prepare to become an EMT. 

One of the best ways you can prepare to become an EMT while in high school is to take classes related to the field. These classes will include information directly related to the EMT training you will be receiving when you enter the EMT program.  

The best high school classes you will likely get to choose from will include anatomy, biology, and health science. These classes will give you an advantage when you begin the EMT program, as you will likely already be familiar with many of the areas included in the training. 

Another way that you can prepare to become an EMT while in high school is to obtain your CPR certification. CPR certification is valid for two years once you have successfully completed the certification course. This means you can obtain your CPR certification. 

At the same time, you are a Senior in high school. Your CPR certification will remain valid once you enter the basic EMT training program after graduating high school and receiving your diploma. 

My High School Child Wants to Become an EMT: How Can I Help?

The best way for you to help your high schooler prepare to become an EMT is to ensure they take courses that will help them throughout the training of the EMT program. 

While certain high school classes aren’t required to enroll in a basic EMT program, they will help your high schooler become more equipped for the program in which they are enrolling. This is because many of the hours of basic EMT training will cover a large variety of material that is found in typical high school health and science classes.

You should also schedule your high schooler to take a CPR certification course to obtain their CPR certification. Unlike high school classes that you can encourage your child to take, CPR certification is required when becoming an EMT. 

CPR certification lasts for two years. You can schedule a CPR certification course for your high schooler to take in his or her senior year of high school, knowing that their certification will remain valid throughout the duration of their EMT training.

It is also imperative that your high schooler understands that they will be disqualified from becoming an EMT if they have a criminal history. Because EMTs work with medical equipment and have access to various medications, there are policies and procedures in place to protect both patients and other healthcare workers from someone who may abuse the access they have to these types of supplies. 

Many young adults who consider becoming an EMT often think of the overshadowing aspect of helping injured or sick patients. Make sure that you talk to your high schooler about the risk they take in contracting infectious diseases when treating sick patients. 

Some infectious diseases or viruses that an EMT may become exposed to include the following:

  • Hepatitis B
  • COVID-19
  • Influenza
  • HIV

It’s also important to remind young adults that an emergency situation may include aggressive patients who possess a weapon. Not only should your high schooler understand that this is a likely risk they will take on the job, but they should also understand just how important it is to follow the proper safety procedures to keep themselves safe. 

What Are the Average Starting and Finishing Salaries for EMTs?

Before we dive into the average starting and finishing salaries for EMTs, it’s important to understand the variety of factors that go into calculating these numbers.

First, the cost of living varies in each state, and depending on the state in which you live, the cost of living can vary greatly within your own state. This means that what may be a low salary for one state may actually be a high salary for another. 

For this reason, we are going to give you the average starting and finishing salaries for EMTs. These are just averages and not precise numbers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average starting salary on the lowest end of EMT salaries is around $25,000/year. The average finishing salary for the highest end of EMT salaries is around $63,000/year. This puts the median starting salary at EMTs at around $36,000/year. 

It’s important to understand that a median salary is a salary found in the middle of both higher and lower salaries. Just because an EMT has an average median starting salary of $36,000/year does not mean that you will start out making exactly $36,000/year. 

Many factors go into the exact salary you will earn your first year on the job. Just remember that your starting salary will likely be in the vicinity of $36,000/year. 

Remember that this average median salary relates to basic EMTs in the public sector. There are a variety of EMT careers outside of the public sector that can make more money. 

Let’s explore some of those career paths you can take!

Career Options for EMTs

This may be the best part about becoming an EMT. There are many career options that you can choose that have virtually nothing to do with an ambulance or emergency transportation service. That’s because not all EMTs are confined to working in an ambulance or emergency transportation service. 

In fact, there are many career options and career paths you can choose when becoming an EMT and obtaining your EMT certification. 

Being EMT-certified gives you the option to choose the following career options:

  • Firefighter
  • Cruise ship medic
  • Emergency Room Technician (ERT)
  • Physician’s Assistant
  • Lab technician
  • Blood donation technician
  • Event/Concert EMT
  • Amusement park EMT
  • Sporting event EMT
  • Paramedic
  • Flight paramedic
  • CPR instructor

So if you’re concerned that becoming an EMT or being EMT-certified means you will be confined to an ambulance or only responding to car accidents, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Being EMT-certified allows you to choose the best career path for you, your personality, and your qualifications. 

How Can I Grow My Career by Being EMT-Certified?

When you become an EMT, you’re not limited to just one career. You don’t have to stay in the same place if you don’t want to. You have the choice to stay in the fast-paced environment of emergency response, or you can choose to grow your career in various other medical environments. 

You are at an advantage as an EMT because you already possess the required certification to perform emergency medical services. Employers often prefer candidates who have already received the required EMT basic training, certification, and accreditation that the job requires. 

You will need to check the requirements for the position you are interested in; however, many positions in the medical field will prefer the certification and experience you possess by being an EMT. This can give you an advantage over other candidates who are just entering the field. 

You can grow your career in the medical field by searching through the various jobs offered in the field. This may include becoming a physician’s assistant, veterinary technician, surgical assistant, or emergency room technician (ERT), just to name a few. 

When you have become EMT-certified, you have various career path options you can take that others who are not EMT-certified may not have. 

Will There Always Be a Demand for EMTs?

It is important to consider job security when you choose a field to go into. The last thing you will want to face when finding a career you love is being laid off due to a lack of work or demand for the position.

Fortunately, EMT employment is not predicted to slow anytime soon. In fact, it’s projected to grow approximately 6% over the next 10 years. 

Think about it. EMTs are Emergency Medical Technicians, and they are trained to specifically respond to emergency situations. Most emergency situations are unplanned or accidental. Car accidents, heart attacks, and injured athletes are typically unpredictable. Because of this, there will always be a demand for individuals who are trained to respond to these precise situations. 

Remember that you don’t have to stay in the emergency-response field if you become an EMT. You can take your EMT certification and experience and apply for other positions in the medical field. 

More Medical Facilities Means More EMTs

Have you ever noticed that your local hospital that has just been built is already expanding? With growing hospitals comes the growing demand for EMTs. More hospitals require more EMTs to transport patients to their facility. If a hospital is full or can’t hold patients, there is nowhere for EMTs to transport patients. Therefore, they don’t get transported, and transportation is one of the main roles of an EMT. 

But this isn’t just limited to hospitals. EMTs can transport patients to urgent care facilities, specialized medical sites, or other hospitals. 

If you are noticing that your community is growing both in population and industry, then the demand for EMTs will also grow. More population will result in an increase in medical situations or emergencies, resulting in the demand for EMTs to respond and treat the sick or injured. 

How to Become a Volunteer EMT

Those who want to serve their community but already have a full-time job can apply to become a volunteer EMT. 

A volunteer EMT typically will not get paid, but other benefits are often offered to the volunteer EMTs. Some organizations may offer the volunteer EMT payment for calls they respond to, but this is not standard among all jurisdictions.

Volunteer EMTs respond to the same emergency calls that paid EMTs respond to. There is essentially no difference between a volunteer EMT and a paid EMT other than the pay. 

A volunteer EMT must be EMT-certified and will typically follow the same shift schedule as paid EMTs follow. 

Volunteer EMTs are required to possess the same EMT certification that paid EMTs have. This means that volunteer EMTs will be CPR certified and have the necessary training to perform various life-saving procedures. Volunteer EMTs are only required to have basic EMT certification to be eligible to volunteer as an EMT, but they can also have advanced EMT or paramedic certification as well. 

What Type of Hours Does an EMT Work?

The hours per shift that an EMT will be required to work will depend on the jurisdiction in which the EMT is working. 

Jurisdictions typically try to keep the EMTs’ hours around 40 per week, but it is not uncommon for an EMT to work overtime in any given week since emergencies are unpredictable. 

The shifts assigned to EMTs can vary between 12-hour shifts or 24-hour shifts. Again, this depends on the jurisdiction in which you are working. 

If you are working 12-hour shifts, you will work more days during the week than if you are working 24-hour shifts. But don’t worry. Firehouses are often more equipped (and more fun) than your own home! 

Many firehouses have living rooms, bedrooms, full kitchens, recreational areas, weight rooms, and full bathrooms. This helps those 24-hour shifts go by quickly when there aren’t many emergency calls to respond to. 

Are You Ready to Become an EMT?

If you’re ready to become an EMT, then you should enroll in one of the best EMT programs that are offered in 2021. Some of these programs have different incentives, such as no student debt. 

No matter which program you choose, you know that you will finish the program becoming a certified EMT. 

Keep in mind that becoming an EMT means you will often find yourself in emotional or stressful situations, so try to mentally prepare yourself for the stress you may experience while on the job. 

Even though there will be stressful days, remember that you became an EMT to help people in situations who may feel helpless. 


Becoming an EMT is a rewarding, fast-paced job that requires a variety of physical, mental, and emotional preparedness. Fortunately, adequate training will help you prepare for what to expect when you arrive on your first emergency call. 

Always remember to remain calm while attending to the patient and providing the best care possible. This will help you become a truly successful EMT. 

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