Paramedic / Emergency Medical Technician - How to Become a Paramedic

Paramedic / Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

Jump to:

Paramedic / Emegency Medical Technician (EMT) Job Description


Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are the ones who respond to emergency situations, from evaluating and treating a person suffering an apparent heart attack to the victims of a multi-vehicle pile-up on the highway. Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) provide emergency medical care for sick and injured at the scene. These health care workers are usually found in ambulances, although they may sometimes provide care for air-lift patients as well.




Paramedics and EMTs usually work in teams, with one serving as the vehicle operator and the other providing direct patient care when en-route to a medical facility.

EMTs are licensed to perform the following interventions:

  • Administer CPR

  • Administer oxygen

  • Treat diabetic patients by administering glucose

  • Provide interventions in allergic reactions or asthma attacks

  • Extricate patients and prepare them for safe transport

Paramedics are licensed to perform the functions of an EMT, but in addition may include more advanced skills:

  • Administer medications

  • Start intravenous lines

  • Provide and monitor airway interventions for patients

  • Resuscitate patients

  • Provide on-scene care for trauma patients





Team Player

Must be able to work on a team and coordinate care with your teammates. Must work in an effort with others to create the best outcomes.


Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.

Physically Fit

Must be able to work for long hours, lift heavy loads, and be quick on your feet, as you will encounter a number of physically demanding situations. 


Must be ready for any situation you encounter. You will come across a number of terrible situations where you will have to use your training and knowledge to produce the best outcomes.

Critical Thinking

Use logic and reasoning to determine solutions and better approaches to problems.

Active Listening

Must listen to your co-workers and be able to take instruction as you will work in high-demanding situations and must respond quickly to orders or events.


Working Conditions


Paramedics and EMTs generally work full time. Their work is usually done in shifts that may include nights, weekends and holidays. Some facilities have paramedics and EMTs working rotating 24-hour shifts.

There are employment opportunities for paramedics and EMTs in both urban and rural settings, with more rural EMT units being staffed by volunteers. Private ambulance services, fire departments, hospital or other rescue services are potential sources of employment.

Career opportunities are also available in other venues, depending on the system being utilized and the area it covers. Paramedics and EMTs may also find employment opportunities in areas such as wilderness emergency medical services, special operations, special events, management, handling and clean-up of hazardous materials, industrial safety instructors and inspectors, quality management and other related areas.

Paramedics and EMTs work as part of a health care team, in conjunction with nurses and physicians. They also work with firefighters and police officers. Because the nature of their work places them in the first responder position, paramedics and EMTs tend to experience higher than average work-related injuries and illnesses. As a response to this, may be required to participate in ongoing training, depending on the employer’s requirements.



How to Become an EMT / 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 Associates 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



Salary Outlook