How to Become an EMT or Paramedic

How to Become an Emergency Medical Technician EMT or Paramedic

All Paramedics and EMTs are required to complete a postsecondary educational program. Specific licensure requirements may vary by state but all states require EMTs and Paramedics to be licensed.

EMTs and paramedics must complete courses in Anatomy and Physiology, Cardiology, Medications and common medical procedures. Courses include classroom studies, skills training and clinical or field internships.

Course work for EMTs generally require between 120 and 150 hours to complete. Paramedic courses are more in depth and take considerably longer, usually requiring a coursework commitment of between 1,200 hours and 1,800 hours.

There are four specializations recognized by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians:

  • Emergency medical responders (EMRs): Requires completion of an accredited training program to obtain licensure as an emergency medical responder. EMRs provide immediate lifesaving care to patients in critical condition, initiating on-scene interventions to preserve life. EMRs are often volunteer firemen, law enforcement personnel, volunteers in a medical reserve corp or industry-specific response team members.
  • Emergency medical technicians (EMTs): Requires completion of an accredited course. These healthcare technicians provide basic, noninvasive interventions on-scene at emergencies to help preserve lives and reduce harm. EMTs provide a large portion of out-of-hospital care.
  • Advanced emergency medical technicians (AEMTs): Requires successful completion of an accredited advanced emergency medical technician course in order to obtain licensure. Provide all levels of care open to EMRs and EMTs, but in addition may conduct limited advanced medical and pharmacological procedures on scene to save lives and promote recovery.
  • Paramedics: These are the most skilled of the emergency responders. Paramedics are trained to do invasive and pharmacological treatments. Licensure as a paramedic requires successful completion of a nationally accredited paramedic program at the associate degree or certificate level. Training includes classroom work and clinical practicum experiences.

1. Complete the Basic EMT Course

EMT Basic Training (EMT-B) takes from six months to two years to complete. You can take these programs at technical schools, or community colleges and include 120-150 hours of coursework.

During your time in the course, you learn how to assess patients and handle emergency situations. It is heavy in hands-on training and teaches you use of equipment and how to work in the field.

Some programs make you get CPR certified before taking classes, while other include CPR training in the program.

2. Earn the Required Certification

Depending on your state, you will have to either pass a state exam or a national licensing exam. To be eligible for the exam you must first complete an accredited EMT or Paramedic course and pass a background check.

The test is given through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). EMTs or Paramedics take a computer-based exam and a practical skills examination to become certified in their state. Once certified, you are required to re-certify every two years.

3. Complete Advanced EMT Training

This course requires 300 hours of course work where you will cover the EMT Basic topics along with:

  • Instruction on using medication
  • Complex airway devices
  • Administering IVs
  • Using EKGs

4. Complete Optional 2-Year Degree Program

If you want to become a Paramedic, you should consider this path. The education is more rigorous and includes completing an associate's degree from a community college or technical school. Some programs require that you work as an EMT for 6 months prior to going to school.

Coursework covers the following:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Advanced life support
  • Clinical training
  • Field Work