How to Become an

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

The complete career guide to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT): salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $35,430
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 24.2%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Fast Paced Career
    Career Attribute

An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), also known as a paramedic, provides medical care to patients in emergency situations. EMTs drive and ride in ambulances and respond to emergency calls, transporting patients to hospitals and providing life-sustaining medical care prior to facility arrival.

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What is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in EMT roles:

  • Receive and respond to emergency 911 calls for health- or injury-related issues
  • Transport patients to nearby emergency medical facilities
  • Provide first aid and/or life-sustaining care to patients during transport, which may include administration of pharmaceuticals, wound care, and/or use of IVs and other medical equipment

A Day in the Life

A typical day in the life of an EMT varies depending on how many emergency calls are received. Paramedics are assigned an area of coverage, and they wait in their ambulances for 911 calls to come in that require response. On slow shifts, EMTs must find ways to occupy their time. They always work with a partner, and much like police officers and their partners, usually form strong relationships with the people they work with day after day.

When a call comes in, paramedics rush to respond to the situation. The response required can vary greatly—sometimes, the patient needs minor first aid care, and other times, the patient may be near death. For this reason, EMTs must always be focused and on-point. In many cases, the responding paramedics may be the difference between life and death for a patient.

For many EMTs, the adrenaline rush of responding to life-or-death situations combined with the potential to save lives is a huge draw of the career. However, paramedics must put their own lives on the line in certain situations—they may be exposed to individuals with contagious diseases or severe mental illnesses on ambulance runs. For a paramedic, no two days are alike, and individuals in the role enjoy the varied nature of their day-to-day responsibilities.

Typical Work Schedule

Often, paramedics work 12-hour shifts, three days per week. This allows many EMTs to enjoy more days off per week than days worked. However, paramedics may also be required to be on call on off days.

Projected Job Growth

Because of the high number of aging Baby Boomers that will need medical care, it’s expected that there will be significant job growth for this line of work in coming years.

Career Progression

Few EMTs work for more than a decade as paramedics—the stresses of the job and irregular hours start to take a toll as time passes. Generally, EMTs move from working in the field to working in administrative positions for hospitals or other medical facilities to enjoy more stable hours and workloads.

Because of the experience gained working as EMTs, these individuals are generally able to find top-level healthcare administrative positions with ease. Many paramedics also move on to earn nursing or medical degrees.

Typical Employers

EMTs can work for either private or government employers, depending on how the local area is serviced. In some areas, ambulance services are managed by private companies, and in others, ambulance services may be provided by hospitals, government agencies, or fire departments.

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How To Become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

Often, paramedics begin their careers driving ambulances but not providing medical care. To qualify to drive an ambulance, you’ll need to take a training course, pass a background check, and hold a valid driver’s license. However, not all ambulance services hire individuals to simply drive ambulances—many want paramedics that can both drive the ambulance and provide medical care.

To become an EMT, you’ll need to have a high school diploma and complete up to two years of postsecondary education. In some cases, the courses taken to become a paramedic may result in an associate’s degree; in others, the courses are simply preparation for qualifying to take the certification exam required to work as an EMT. Individuals must also pass a background check and may not qualify for certification if criminal activity is reported.

Certification to work as an EMT is provided by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) and requires candidates to pass an exam with written and practical components. While all states require NREMT certification, each state has its own regulations on certification prerequisites. The number of hours of coursework required and degree/certificate requirements vary by state, so individuals will need to determine requirements for individual states prior to pursuing coursework.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)'s can make an average annual salary of $35,430, or $17 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $25,490 or $12 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #610 Nationally for All Careers

Highest Education Among Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)s

  • 0.5%   Doctorate
  • 1.6%   Masters
  • 14.9%   Bachelors
  • 21.4%   Associates
  • 46.9%   College
  • 13.9%   High School
  • 0.8%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 58,400 jobs for a total of 299,600 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 24.2% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #31 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)s

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Ambulance services 116,800 49,200 49%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 69,400 4,000 4%
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 29,500 2,100 2%

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