How to Become an EMT or Paramedic
Many people want a career where they can provide for others and care for their community. The field of emergency medical services (EMS) offers a few ways to do that without requiring over a decade of medical school courses and exams.
This guide explains how to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic so you can decide which career is best for you. You’re about to discover how to apply your skills in the best ways possible while beginning a fulfilling career.
Although they may sound similar, EMTs and paramedics serve different roles.
Emergency medical technicians complete their training and ride ambulances to treat people in crises. They’ll help someone experiencing a severe allergic reaction, administer oxygen to car crash survivors, and provide CPR.
Paramedics are the next level up from being an EMT. In this role, you would understand anatomy and physiology more in-depth and learn about emergency medical procedures. Paramedics also administer medication, interpret medical equipment readings, and even help pregnant patients give birth.
The two roles have varying forms of responsibility and require slightly different educations. Consider how long you want to study and what you’d love to do in the field to determine the next step forward.
If you’re wondering how to become a paramedic or an EMT, you’ll need to finish your education before doing anything career-related.
There are many reasons why people don’t get their high school diploma, and they’re all valid. It’s time to take control of your education by preparing your GED study skills and completing the required courses online. You’ll finish at your own pace and succeed because you have an exciting career in mind.
After hanging your GED proudly on a featured wall in your home, start looking for CPR classes. The EMT career path requires this certification before any other training starts. You’ll also need these skills as a paramedic, so look for community classes provided by organizations like the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.
If the idea of additional classes gets you down, remember the bright future ahead of you. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that EMT open positions will grow significantly by 2029, so you’ll never struggle to find a job after putting in so much hard work.
Everyone wants to make a living from their career. Your job should be rewarding and pay the bills, so determine what you want for your financial future and choose between figuring out how to become an EMT or a paramedic.
Your annual pay will result from your training and where you live. A newly certified EMT in Texas might make $17 an hour, but if you continue through paramedic training, you could make $22 per hour or more in the same state. Compare starting wages to figure out where you can make the income you want and live in the city of your dreams.
You might picture two different EMT and paramedic skills programs, but they start with the same classes. Anyone pursuing a career as a paramedic should sign up for a state-approved education program in Emergency Medical Technology. You’ll learn skills like how to start an intravenous line, respond to emergencies, and assist airway management.
After graduating from the program, you can apply for starting EMT positions where you live. If you’d like to become a paramedic, you’ll also have to take a Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)-accredited paramedic program after selecting one near your location and work it into your schedule. They can last up to a year and require over 1,000 hours of experience.
Once you’ve passed your EMT program and any additional paramedic programs, you can start getting hands-on experience. Sometimes this experience counts towards the program you want to finish, but other times you need a certificate to begin working in the field.
Browse volunteer opportunities with local hospitals to sign up for the required hours you need for your program or resume. You’ll get plenty of experience with daily shifts and better understand which skills you most enjoy using.
As you learn how to become a paramedic or an EMT, you should also expect to pass additional exams. EMTs need to ace the National Registry for Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) cognitive examination and a psychomotor exam in addition to finishing their program.
Paramedics must graduate from EMT training, get their NREMT certifications, and apply for the National Paramedic Certification through NREMT. This certification can take a year or two to complete, so don’t expect to start the next phase of your career within a week of starting. After graduation, you can apply for licensure through your state to begin your official paramedic work.
The paramedic and EMT career paths require numerous steps and plenty of time spent studying and training, but they end in the same place. When you have all the necessary certifications and hands-on experience, it’s time to apply for your dream job.
Consider whether you want to stay where you live long-term or if you’ll chase professional opportunities elsewhere before submitting job applications. You might find a great team in another state or work full-time with your current team by talking with your supervisor about how you’d like to continue working for them.
Become an EMT or Paramedic
Pursuing a career as a paramedic or EMT isn’t easy, but it’s possible if you have the drive and motivation. Research every step you’ll need to take along the way, like getting your GED, signing up for the proper certifications, and starting your experience in the field. With a bit of time and patience, you’ll begin a career that you love.
Ginger Abbot is a freelance writer and the Editor-in-Chief of Classrooms, an online learning magazine for students, graduates and educators.