If you are interested in a career in medicine and healthcare, then there are many options available. For those who want to work directly with patients and support positive outcomes for those who have become ill or who have suffered a trauma, one of the possible options is to become an emergency medical technician (EMT). Before deciding to embark on a career as an EMT, it is essential that you find out everything you need to know about the role. Here is how to become an EMT and the potential salary for those working in this role.
What is an Emergency Medical Technician?
According to the Stanford Medicine EMT Program, an emergency medical technician is a person who is trained to deliver emergency medical care to those who are injured or critically ill prior to hospital admission. They may work alone to treat and transport patients, or alongside paramedics, physicians, nurses, or advanced life supporters.
What is the Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic?
People are often confused about the difference between the roles of a paramedic and EMT with the two titles often being interchanged. One reason for this is that in some countries, they are not separate roles. They are simply two different names for the same role. However, in the United States, there is a difference between a paramedic and an EMT. The UCLA Center for Prehospital Care explains the difference between the two roles relates to qualifications and experience. There is less training involved in becoming an EMT than a paramedic, and an EMT has a lesser qualification. Some people use the role of EMT as a stepping-stone to becoming a paramedic.
What is the Role of an EMT?
The role of an EMT is a varied one, and it is difficult to predict what tasks they will undertake from one day to the next. However, some of the typical duties of an EMT, according to Learn.org, include:
- Assessment- An EMT assesses a situation to decide on the best treatment or care for a patient.
- Emergency care- In critical situations, an EMT delivers emergency care, such as CPR.
- First aid- If a person has suffered an injury, an EMT will deliver first aid to treat the injury.
- Patient transportation- EMTs drive or travel with a patient to the hospital. This may involve monitoring the patient or delivering further care to the patient along the way.
- Administrative tasks- An EMT completes administrative tasks, such as logging details of the care delivered and updating records.
Reasons to Consider a Career as an EMT
When deciding whether a career as an EMT is for you or not, you must consider whether the role offers you the benefits you would want in your working life. The following are just some of the benefits of working as an emergency medical technician.
- Saving lives-There are few things more rewarding than saving the life of someone who is critically ill or severely injured. When working as an EMT, you are often the first person who will deliver the care needed to save a person’s life.
- Personal satisfaction- People who work as EMTs say they have a deep sense of personal satisfaction at the end of their working days and that they find the role very rewarding.
- Financial rewards- You can expect a reasonable salary when working as an EMT and there is the opportunity to progress to a higher salary.
- Varied job- No two days are ever the same when you are working as an emergency medical technician as each day you will work with different patients with varying health conditions or injuries.
- Career prospects- Qualifying as an emergency medical technician can widen your career prospects as you can progress in your career as an EMT or use the role as experience before pursuing another career.
- Patient contact- This is a fantastic career for those who want to work directly with patients to contribute to their health and well-being.
- Challenging- If you want a challenging career, then this is a good choice. You will need to face different challenges daily and make quick decisions about how to overcome them.
What Personality Traits and Skills Are Needed for the Role?
The role of an emergency medical technician is not one that will suit all people. It is essential that you have the right personal skills and personality traits to undertake the various demands of this job. Some of these are:
- Interpersonal and communication- Your ability to communicate with people is an essential part of these roles. This applies to both interacting with patients and communicating with colleagues.
- Teamwork- The role involves working alongside many other people. These can include a range of medical professionals, such as paramedics, nurses, and doctors. You may also work alongside members of the other emergency services, such as police and fire officers.
- Initiative- You must have the ability to work using your own initiative, rather than waiting for instructions all the time.
- Literacy and numeracy- A good standard of literacy and numeracy is essential, as administration and record-keeping are part of the role.
- ICT skills- You will use a computer and various pieces of technical equipment, so basic ICT skills are a necessity.
- Decision-making- Making decisions is a part of the daily routine of an emergency medical technician. You must have the ability to do this quickly as an inability to make a decision may impact on a patient’s recovery.
- Coping under pressure- The role of an EMT is often very stressful and there are many situations where you will feel under pressure. Therefore, it is important that you are able to cope in these situations.
- Willingness to learn- There are times when you will need to learn new things. Some of these situations include implementing new protocols or procedures, learning new techniques, or introducing new technologies into the workplace.
How to Become an EMT
If you want to pursue a career as an EMT, it is important that you undertake the appropriate qualifications and training first. According to Learn How to Become, the following are the steps you need to take to become an emergency medical technician:
Step 1 - Complete a Certificate or Diploma Course
Most EMTs begin by completing a certificate or diploma in emergency medical care. This qualification equips them with the knowledge and skills they need to deliver emergency medical care prior to the patient receiving hospital treatment. The certificate course takes one to two years to complete, while the diploma course takes at least two years.
Step 2 - Complete EMT Basic Training
To complete the EMT basic training, you will need to attend a technical institute or community college that offers a relevant program. There, you will complete between 120 and 150 hours of coursework in a period lasting anywhere from six months to 12 months, depending on the institution. In some cases, students are required to already have a certificate in CPR, but others include this training in the course. During the course, students will learn how to assess and handle emergency situations. They are also taught how to use field equipment. There are many hands-on components to the EMT basic training.
Step 3 - Pass a State or National Exam for Certification
All EMTs are required to take an exam at the end of their basic training to obtain a license to practice. Some courses offer state exams, while others offer a national exam. It is worth noting that if you only take the state exam, you are limited to working in that state or you will have to obtain a separate license if you move. The exam involves both psychomotor and cognitive sections, and it uses computer-adaptive technology so that the questions are tailored according to student response. This exam is administered through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Students are given three opportunities to take the exam. If they fail the first exam, they must wait 15 days until they can take the exam again. After three failed attempts, the student may need remedial training.
Qualifying to Drive Emergency Vehicles
If you intend to take a job as an EMT that involves driving an emergency vehicle, then you also need to complete an emergency driver training course. This is because driving an emergency vehicle requires additional skills to driving a regular vehicle under normal circumstances. There are several options available for EMTs and paramedics, and some of these are listed by Learn How to Become. Some examples include:
- Certified Healthcare Emergency Professional: International Board of Certification of Safety Managers
- EMT Intermediate: National Registry of EMTs
- EMT Basic: National Registry of EMTs
Optional Advanced Training for EMTs
If you want to become a senior level emergency medical technician or a paramedic, then you may wish to undertake further training/ The two most common routes are:
Advanced EMT Training
You will need to complete a course that typically involves 300 hours of coursework. Not only does this course cover all the basic EMT topics, but it also covers additional topics. These include using medication, IVs, complex airway devices, and EKGs. Opting to complete the advanced training can give you the edge as a newly qualified EMT when applying for jobs in a competitive market. Once you have completed the advanced EMT training, you will need to obtain a license, just as you do when you have completed basic training.
Two Year Degree Course
For those who want to progress onto a career as a paramedic following gaining experience as an EMT, you might consider completing a two-year degree. To start on this program, some courses require potential students to have worked as an EMT for six months before beginning the course. Some of the topics that are covered in depth include
How Long Does It Take to Become an EMT?
The length of time it takes to qualify and train as an EMT can vary. To complete a certificate or diploma will take around two years. The basic training can take anywhere between six months and two years. So, it is possible to qualify as an emergency medical technician in as little as six months after completing the certificate or diploma in emergency medical care. If you want to become an advanced emergency medical technician, then you will have to complete 300 hours of coursework, which takes longer. To become a fully qualified paramedic takes a further two years of study.
Is it Possible to Train Online to Become an EMT?
There are some aspects of training that you can complete online to become an EMT. However, you cannot complete the full qualification solely by taking online courses. This is because you need hands-on training on treatments and using equipment that you can only receive in face-to-face instruction. There are some programs available that allow you to study for the theoretical aspects of the course online so that you can complete some elements of your training around your other commitments. Once qualified, there are online courses that you can take as part of your continuous professional development.
What is the Salary of an EMT?
The salary of an EMT can vary depending on many factors. These include location, experience, and qualifications. According to Salary.com, the salary range for qualified emergency medical technicians is between $32,350 and $40,130. This means that the national average salary of a qualified emergency medical technician in the United States is $35,840. The salary of an EMT usually rises in relation to their experience, so most start on a lower salary and earn more as they gain experience in the role.
In addition to the basic salary, some EMT contracts include additional benefits, such as a healthcare package or pensions contributions. If an EMT goes on to qualify as a paramedic, then they can significantly increase their earnings. The average earnings of paramedics in the United States is around $54,690. The highest earning states for EMTs and paramedics are Washington, District of Colombia, Hawaii, Illinois, and Alaska.
Is It Worth Training to Become an EMT?
Before deciding whether to embark on training to become an emergency medical technician, it is important to consider whether it is worth your while. According to Prospective Doctor, there are several reasons why it is worth putting in the effort to train as an emergency medical technician. First, it is a very rewarding career which can involve saving people’s lives and making a positive contribution to their health. Second, although you will not become rich as an emergency medical technician, this role has a reasonable salary with the opportunity to progress and increase earnings. Finally, working as an emergency medical technician can give you good experience for other careers in the medical and healthcare fields.
Are There Plenty of Job Opportunities to Become an EMT?
It is important to know that there are job opportunities available once you have qualified in this profession. Fortunately, most EMTs do not struggle to find work and there is a growing demand for people working in these roles. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics says that there is an estimated growth in demand of 23 percent between 2012 and 2022. Compared to most other occupations, this is a significantly greater increase. There are several reasons for this increase in demand. First, there is a steady rise in specialist medical facilities that need EMTs for patient transport and care. Second, the elderly population is rising thanks to advancements in technology and healthcare. This means that there is a larger population of people suffering from age-related conditions and accidents. The demand for emergency medical technicians has increased to a greater extent in some states. The state with the largest growth in demand is Virginia with an estimated growth rate of 47.5 percent. Other states with significant growth in demand include Kentucky, Utah, Connecticut, Georgia, and Florida.
Are There Opportunities for Career Progression?
There are many ways that you can progress in your career if you choose to become an EMT. You can become an advanced level emergency medical technician, or take additional training to become a qualified paramedic and then an advanced paramedic in a senior position. Some people also spend some time working as a qualified EMT to gain experience before beginning medical training to become a physician.
What is the Work Environment of an EMT?
While many professions have just one work environment, an EMT can work in a variety of settings depending on the situation. Some of these include:
- Homes- People who have become critically or have suffered an injury in their home may need first aid or emergency care delivered by an emergency medical technician.
- Station- Most emergency medical technicians are based at a station. They will spend time there maintaining their vehicles and supplies in between call outs. This is also the base they will use to complete any administrative tasks.
- Ambulances- Emergency medical technicians may drive an ambulance and deliver care within the vehicle.
- Hospitals- An emergency medical technician will spend some time in the hospital. This is usually during the handover phase when they are delivering a patient to the hospital and updating the physicians and nurses about the patient’s medical status, observations, and needs.
- On location- Emergency medical technicians can work in various locations depending on where their patient becomes ill or is injured. For example, if a person experiences a cardiac arrest on the street or is involved in a road traffic collision, then the emergency medical technician will deliver care in an outdoor environment.
What is the Working Pattern of an Emergency Medical Technician?
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the working routine of an emergency medical technician is varied and often irregular. Most people who work in this role work full-time, although there are some part-time positions available. Most EMTs and paramedics work shift patterns, with shift often lasting as long as 12 to 14 hours. Due to the long shifts, some EMTs only work a few days a week, while others work shorter shifts over more days. An EMT may work unsociable hours, such as nights, weekends, and holidays.
Where Can You Work as a Qualified EMT?
If you obtain a state license when you qualify as an EMT, then you can only work as an EMT in that state. A national license allows you to work in any state in the United States. However, some EMT may wish to move abroad and work internationally, If this is something that you want to do, then it is essential that you check the qualification and certification requirements before making the move. Prepare yourself for the possibility that you may need to undergo further training after you move.
EMS1 offers some advice regarding choosing a location to work as an EMT. Their advice suggests that one of the easiest places to find employment is the Middle East or other areas with conflict. They are less likely to need additional certification and you are more likely to begin working straight away. The countries that produce oil often have American companies with contracts in the country, so they welcome professionals from the United States. In terms of salary, the pay is commensurate with risk.
Countries that are harder in which to gain employment are those in Western countries, such as in Europe, Australia, and Canada. These countries often need you to undertake additional training and for you to obtain different licensing or certification than you already have.
A Career as an Emergency Medical Technician - The Final Verdict
Working as an emergency medical technician is a rewarding and varied role that offers a reasonable salary. There are many educational establishments across the United States that offer programs for those who wish to qualify for this position. Once qualified, there are good work opportunities and the option to progress to a higher level or into a different career.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn