Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics are everyday heroes. They make a difference in people’s lives by offering lifesaving services in the face of emergencies. It takes someone with courage and determination to become an EMT or a paramedic. If you’re one of those people, you may wonder how you can get started as an EMT, whether it is easy to get an EMT job and if you can make a career as an EMT.
You can indeed enjoy a fruitful career as an EMT — and eventually a paramedic — but it takes a lot of work. Read on to learn about EMT certifications, paramedic certifications and everything else you need to know to begin your new career as an EMT.
What Does a Paramedic and EMT Do?
Paramedics and EMTs provide varying levels of emergency medical services. When people are running away from danger, you’ll find paramedics and EMTs running toward it. Their job is to save lives in the most critical situations. You may be familiar with both professions — they both wear recognizable uniforms, and they both respond to emergencies. They both work around ambulances, crime scenes and disasters. What are the differences between these two important and noble professions?
What’s the Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic?
EMTs and paramedics differ in three ways, including their training, responsibilities and salary. First, let’s consider how an EMT’s training and responsibilities compare to that of a paramedic.
What Is an EMT?
An EMT is an individual who has completed an EMT course. How long does it take to become an EMT? The course lasts around 160 hours and consists of hands-on training, lectures and internships. When students complete the course, they can put their knowledge and skills to work in real-life situations. Besides essential first-aid treatment, here are some of the skills people learn during their EMT course:
- Providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Giving patients oxygen
- Administering glucose to people with diabetes
- Providing treatments for allergic reactions and asthma attacks, including the use of auto-injectors such as the EpiPen.
What Is a Paramedic?
A paramedic is an advanced level of EMT with more training and responsibilities. Most paramedic programs will not accept a candidate until they’ve completed half a year of work as a certified EMT. The program could last around 1,200 hours, taking most individuals one year to three years to complete.
The college major for paramedics can vary. Most paramedic programs require you to complete college-level math, human biology and English before entry. Ask the program director what amount of college, if any, you’ll have to complete before participating in the program.
Paramedics perform the same tasks they learned during EMT training, with the addition of the following:
- Administer medication
- Start IVs
- Break the skin to provide airway treatment and shots
- Resuscitate patients experiencing heart attacks and trauma
- Lead a group of EMTs and other emergency health care workers
- Make critical lifesaving decisions
How to Become a Paramedic or EMT
You need to follow specific steps to become an EMT. If you have aspirations to be a paramedic someday, you’ll have to start with a foundation as an EMT first. Here are the first steps you should take:
1. Complete EMT Basic Education Requirements
What level of education do you need to become an EMT? You should have your high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) to enter the EMT field. Since you won’t need any college classes to become an EMT, you can start your journey right after high school.
2. Acquire CPR Certification
To become a certified EMT, you’ll need your CPR certification first. Some local organizations offer CPR classes throughout the year. Or, you can find a class online. The American Heart Association and the American Red Cross are good places to begin your search for a CPR certification course.
3. Begin an EMT Program
Once you meet the education and CPR certification requirements, you’re ready to begin an EMT course. You can find courses at emergency care training centers, trade schools and community colleges. Make sure it’s an accredited course on the Commission on Accreditation’s website to avoid any issues.
4. Pass a Cognitive Exam
After completing the EMT program, you’ll need to pass the cognitive exam offered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. You need to have knowledge in various areas to complete your role as an EMT. The cognitive exam will make sure you have that knowledge.
5. Pass a Psychomotor Exam
You can take your psychomotor exam at a state-run institution or local facility. This action-oriented exam will test your ability to handle various medical emergencies and situations. It puts the knowledge you displayed in the cognitive exam to the test with staged, real-world situations. When you pass the two exams, you’ll be ready to apply for a job as a certified EMT.
Other Considerations for Becoming an EMT or Paramedic
Being an EMT or a paramedic could put you in dangerous situations, including the events and substances you might encounter during your duties. Here are two aspects of the job you should consider:
- Bloodborne pathogens: You could encounter dangerous bloodborne pathogens as an EMT or paramedic. These can include Hepatitis A, B and C, HIV and malaria. You’ll need to take OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Training to safely handle situations involving blood.
- First responder training: As an EMT or paramedic, you could be one of the first to arrive at an emergency. While this makes you a first responder, it doesn’t make you a “certified” first responder. You must take Certified First Responder Training Online to achieve that designation.
Skills Needed for Success
Being an EMT or a paramedic can be difficult and push you to your limits. It’s also a rewarding profession since you’ll be making a true difference in people’s lives. You can even be the difference between life and death. Here are some of the essential skills you’ll need for success as an EMT or paramedic.
Emergency Care Skills Required
These are the emergency EMT skills you’ll provide at a moment’s notice:
- Bleeding control
- Spinal immobilization
- Oxygen administration
- AED usage
- Complex immobilization procedures
- Airway management
- Assist in the administration of certain medications
Additional Paramedic Skills
Here are more advanced skills you’ll display if you choose to become a paramedic:
- Advanced patient assessment
- Airway management
- Intravenous fluid therapy
- Trauma management
- Other lifesaving medical skills
Paramedic and EMT Salary and Job Growth Data
The average paramedic and EMT salary is $35,400 per year. EMTs may receive less than that amount, while paramedics earn more on account of their advanced learning and responsibilities. Since emergencies can strike at any moment, you’ll be on call 24 hours per day. That opens the door to overtime opportunities, which will increase your yearly salary.
You’ll also have the ability to advance your career as an EMT or paramedic. If you want a lifelong career in the medical field, being an EMT is a great place to start. After a few years, you can become a paramedic, increasing your wages and responsibilities. New doors will continue opening from there if you choose to keep advancing.
Contact Hazmat School for Details on First Responder Courses
Hazmat School is your source for online first responder training. We offer courses to prepare you to be a certified first responder as an EMT or paramedic. We also offer the necessary OSHA bloodborne pathogen course to prepare you for any emergency when your name is called for duty. We can help you meet your job requirements with the right certifications.