EMT Schools and Programs

Written ByRWM Editors
Table of Contents

It's hard to overstate the importance of EMTs, otherwise known as emergency medical technicians. They are often among the first on the scene of an accident and other emergency situation where they provide medical aid and assistance. Specifically, what does an EMT do? Typically, the following:

  • Respond to emergency 911 calls for medical assistance.
  • Evaluate a person's condition upon arrival.
  • Provide first-aid or emergency care as needed.
  • Transport people in an ambulance to an emergency department.
  • Document the treatment administered and report any observations to medical staff at a hospital or healthcare facility.

You may be wondering what is the difference between a paramedic and an EMT. Both perform similar duties, but paramedicsexceed EMT education and training levels. That means they are able to give medications, monitor heart function and perform other more complex types of care. Usually, people must have an EMT certification before they can train to become a paramedic.

EMT Specializations

Depending on their EMT training, workers in the field can provide varying levels of care. Generally, emergency care providers fall into one of the following categories:

  • Emergency medical responders are often first to arrive during an emergency. They can provide basic medical care while waiting for additional providers to arrive.
  • EMTs are able to assist with respiratory, cardiac and trauma emergencies. They also transport patients to emergency care facilities. These workers are sometimes classified as EMT-Basic.
  • Advanced EMTs have a higher level of EMT certification. They may be classified as EMT-Intermediate and are able to administer IV fluids and some medicines.

How to Become an EMT

In most states, the path to becoming an EMT follows these steps.

  • Earn a high school diploma or GED
  • Earn a CPR certification. This is required for admittance to some EMT programs.
  • Enroll in an EMT school. You can often choose between basic and advanced EMT training.
  • Become certified. States may require EMTs to be certified by a professional organization before they are licensed.
  • Become licensed. All states require EMTs to be licensed. In some states, having a national certification qualifies someone for licensure. Other states have their own licensing exam.

Depending on the level of EMT training you pursue, you'll learn how to do the following prior to being licensed for work.

  • Assess a patient's condition
  • Respond to trauma and cardiac emergencies
  • Clear obstructed airways
  • Administer medications and intravenous fluids

EMT Diplomas and Degree Programs

If you're curious how long is EMT school, the answer depends on the type of program you select. Some may be completed in as little as a single semester while others may take two years. Here's a closer look at your options.

  • Basic EMT Training: Some schools offer basic EMT programs that can be completed in as little as nine weeks. Students typically receive at least 150 hours of specialized instruction, and they may gain hands-on experience by training in an ambulance or hospital.
  • Technical Diploma: A technical diploma may be earned in one year from many schools. These programs may meet EMT education requirements for more advanced positions. Advanced EMTs generally need 400 hours of instruction to learn more complex treatment skills.
  • Associate Degree: A two-year associate degree is typically pursued by those who plan to become paramedics after earning their EMT certification. Expect to receive around 1,200 hours of specialized instruction while earning your degree.

EMT schools

You'll find EMT programs at community colleges, technical schools and even online. However, don't enroll until you've confirmed the program meets your state's licensing requirements. Your program may need to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or meet other criteria. Before enrolling in an online program, check to see how it will teach hands-on skills.

EMT training costs can depend on the school. Public colleges often cost less than private institutions. Tuition and fees may run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars although many programs seem to fall in the range of $1,000-$2,000.

EMT Licensure and Certification

Certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) is considered a standard requirement to work in much of the country. While you can prepare for EMT certification online, you must complete a state-approved psychomotor exam in-person before being certified.

Many states will automatically license those who pass the NREMT certification process. Otherwise, there may be a state exam required. Most states require a background check and will not issue a license to those with a criminal history.

Career advancement for EMTs

The most obvious way for EMTs to advance their careers is by becoming paramedics. However, with additional training and experience, they may also branch out into other health care occupations, such as medical assistants and health information technicians.

Program Costs and Financial Aid

Source: Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of CollegeXpress, a division of Carnegie Dartlet. Copyright © 2023 by CollegeXpress.

Skills and Qualities for EMTs

EMTs have fast-paced, high-pressure jobs, and this line of work isn't for everyone. See if you have the skills and abilities needed to excel in this occupation.

  • Critical thinking: An EMT's most valuable skill might be his or her ability to quickly review a person's condition and select the best course of action.
  • Problem sensitivity: While reviewing their response options, EMTs need to be aware of how and when things could go wrong, an ability known as problem sensitivity.
  • Active listening: An emergency scene can be chaotic which makes active listening skills crucial to understanding a person's medical state and concerns.
  • Coordination: In a medical emergency, there isn't time to move slowly, and EMTs may have to juggle multiple tasks at once.
  • Trunk strength: EMT jobs are as much physical as they are mental. Workers may have to move patients, lift them into ambulances and push them into hospitals.

Career Outlook and Salary Information for EMTs

Below is a quick glimpse of how much emergency responders make across the nation. This information can be helpful if you're trying to determine whether the EMT school cost is worth the money you'll make. However, be aware that incomes can be different depending on where you live and what type of EMT certification you have.

Job opportunities can also vary across the country, but here's a look at government estimates for the occupation for the years to come.

Total Employment
Average Salary
Projected Job Growth
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics260,600$38,8307.1%
*2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Professional Resources for EMTs

Learn more about the EMT profession from these organizations that are committed to supporting the work of emergency responders.

Our Partner Listings