EMTs & Paramedics Careers

by TBS Staff

Updated May 23, 2023 • 3 min read

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Essential Career Information

2018 Median Pay $34,320 per year / $16.50 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2018 262,100
2018, wage of lowest 10 percent $22,760
Employment Change, 2018-28 +18,700
2018, wage of the highest 10 percent $58,640
Job Outlook, 2018-28 7% (Faster than average)
Typical Entry-Level Education Postsecondary nondegree award

Alternate Job Titles

What Are EMTs and Paramedics?

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics are among the first responders to medical emergencies, performing lifesaving services and transporting patients to medical care facilities. Emergency medical responders (EMRs) may take the first course of action and perform procedures, such as CPR, while EMTs are in transit to the emergency site. EMT jobs often require workers to coordinate with firefighters and law enforcement officers during an emergency.

Experienced EMTs with certification may qualify for paramedic and advanced EMT jobs, which require additional skills, such as the ability to administer IV fluids and decipher EKG results.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an EMT and a paramedic?

EMTs perform basic medical care, like providing CPR and oxygen, while paramedics deliver more advanced care, such as inserting IVs and administering medication. Due to their higher level of responsibility, paramedics must complete more education and training than EMTs.

How much do EMTs and paramedics make?

EMTs and paramedics earn an annual average salary of $34,320. The highest earners are employed full time through state, local, and private hospitals.

Do paramedics get paid more than EMTs?

Since paramedics have advanced qualifications, they generally earn a higher wage than EMTs; however, earnings vary by state and certification.

Do EMTs drive ambulances?

Yes, EMTs drive ambulances and provide critical care. Typically, depending on how many EMTs share a shift, the more experienced workers treat patients while newer team members drive the ambulance.

What Do EMTs and Paramedics Do?

EMTs and paramedics serve a crucial role in every community as certified emergency care providers. These professionals are primarily employed by specialized medical facilities and ambulance services, with some individuals working in government, state, local, or private hospitals. Students aspiring to work in emergency medical services may pursue training as an EMR, EMT, advanced EMT, or paramedic, in advanced order.

EMRs perform basic life-saving medical services, such as CPR, under minimal supervision of EMTs and paramedics while waiting for additional first responders to arrive at an emergency site. EMTs assess injuries and illnesses, provide life-support care, and transport patients to medical facilities. Advanced EMTs share some of the same duties as paramedics, who can provide the widest scope of treatments among first responders, such as inserting IVs and breathing tubes.

EMT vs. Paramedic

The initial training process for EMTs and paramedics is similar, though each position requires its own certification and skill set. EMTs must complete a basic training program in core life-support treatment and equipment. Students may go on to pursue additional EMT training to earn the advanced EMT credential. Aspiring EMTs must also pass an exam through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) or the state board, if required.

While optional for EMTs, most paramedics need an associate degree in addition to professional training. Unlike EMTs, paramedics can administer medication, use advanced equipment, and employ invasive treatment methods. Some states require professional experience, which many paramedics obtain by working as EMTs before advancing their career.

How to Become an EMT or Paramedic

Certificate Programs

Many trade schools and community colleges offer EMT certification programs, typically comprising 120-150 credits of courses on topics like CPR, patient assessments, crisis management, and field equipment operations. Candidates can complete an additional 300 credits of coursework toward advanced EMT certification, and they learn to use IVs, EKGs, and complex respiratory equipment. EMT and paramedic certification programs can last between six months and two years.

Paramedic certification programs require roughly 1,000 hours and may take up to two years to complete. These programs are ideal for students with EMT experience and/or certification. Coursework explores topics like advanced trauma treatments, cardiovascular disease recognition, and advanced airway management. Both EMT and paramedic certification programs require at least one clinical course or practicum experience.

Certification programs prepare students for the NREMT or state credentialing exam, which qualifies graduates for employment with an ambulance services provider, hospital, or medical care facility. In addition to earning certification, paramedics and EMTs can pursue an associate degree to advance their career. Prospective students should ensure that their program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

The Medical and Healthcare Degrees Source: Online, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's & Doctorate

Associate Degree Programs

While education requirements vary by state, all states require paramedics and EMTs to complete a recognized EMT/paramedic training program, such as an associate degree, before examination. Most associate degrees leading to licensure offer a dual EMT-paramedic program, as opposed to respective training in each occupational area.

Most associate programs require 60-64 credits and span a two-year period, though some programs may offer accelerated completion options. Many associate degrees require applicants to hold basic EMT certification for admission. Coursework covers topics such as cardiology, advanced practices, advanced trauma management, and EMS operations. Students must also complete a clinical experience and corresponding coursework. Graduates qualify to sit for the NREMT or respective state exam.

The Medical and Healthcare Degrees Source: Online, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's & Doctorate

Professional Licensure

EMTs and paramedics must hold certification through a multi-step process that includes training and education, a national or state exam, and a background check. Certification training programs combine coursework on patient assessment, medical emergencies, and trauma management with hands-on clinical practice.

The NREMT awards certification to EMRs, EMTs, advanced EMTs, and paramedics. Students who complete a state-approved EMT training program qualify to apply for initial EMT certification. Advanced EMT and paramedic certification requires applicants to hold current EMT or higher certification at the state level through NREMT. Applicants for all types of certification must have completed a state-approved training course within the last two years.

The NREMT exam has cognitive and psychomotor sections and takes approximately two hours to complete. Test fees for EMR, EMT, AEMT, and paramedic certification cost $75, $80, $115, and $125, respectively. Professionals must renew their certification every two years, which requires a fee.

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