How to Become an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician)

How to Become an EMT – Overview

The duration to become an EMT can vary, with EMT-Basic training typically taking about 6 months and becoming a paramedic requiring an additional 1 to 2 years of education beyond EMT basic training.

EMT training aims to teach life support techniques for first-responder situations. These include tourniquet application, CPR, wound treatment, etc.

Paramedics undergo significantly more advanced training than EMTs, including invasive procedures and pharmacology, and must complete a program that is typically one to two years in length.

This article will briefly examine the requirements and paths to becoming a certified emergency medical technician (EMT) in the US.

What Does an EMT Do

An EMT works in various situations, including providing urgent medical treatment for the sick and injured in medical emergencies. They are also responsible for transporting patients to medical facilities.

Emergency medical technicians respond to emergency calls and medical emergencies. They can perform basic medical tasks and transport patients to the hospital as first responders.

As an EMT, you must work under pressure to make life-saving decisions in high-stress situations.

EMTs work together with other medical professionals, such as:

#1. Police

#2. Paramedics

#3. Firefighters

The level of responsibility an EMT has depends on their education and training. Some first responders only provide basic care, while EMTs are trained to perform more complicated medical procedures in the field and on their way to the medical facility.

In short, as an EMT, you should be prepared to:

#1. Provide basic medical care to patients in the field, including stopping external bleeding, administering CPR and applying neck braces.

#2. I work in ambulance services, fire and police departments, and hospitals.

#3. EMT-Basic training programs require approximately 120 to 150 hours, but paramedic training, which is the next level after EMT, often requires 1,200 to 1,800 hours of training.

#4. Take the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians) exam.

What are the Average Salary and Career Outlook for an EMT?

As of the latest BLS data, the median annual wage for EMTs and paramedics was approximately $36,680, but this figure can vary based on geographic location, employer, experience, and level of certification.

The top 10% of EMTs earn the highest salary, which is around US$ 62,150 per year.

The job outlook for EMTs and paramedics is projected to grow 11% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations, reflecting updates in BLS projections.

The BLS reports suggest that as the population ages, the demand for first responders to age-related health emergencies will increase.

How to Become an EMT?

To become an EMT, you will first need to finish high school and earn your diploma or a GED. You should earn CPR certification before enrolling in a post-secondary emergency medical technology program. EMT-Basic training programs can last from a few months to a year, typically not resulting in a degree, whereas paramedic programs, which may last 1 to 2 years, can lead to an associate degree.

Here’s a stepwise breakdown of how to become an EMT:

Step 1 – Complete Basic EMT Training

As an EMT, you will initially need to earn a CPR certification. You can undergo CPR training through various organizations, including the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.

Then, you must complete a post-secondary emergency medical technology program through a university, technical college, or community college.

These programs usually last for 1 to 2 years and teach students to assess, care for and transport patients safely during medical emergencies.

A 2-year associate degree in emergency medical services is typically pursued by those aiming to become paramedics, not EMTs, and covers advanced life support techniques.

Step 2 – Pass the National/State Exam for Board Certification

You will need state certification to practice as an EMT. Some states require EMT aspirants to take state-specific certification exams.

However, the majority of states in the US accept the NREMT exam results. To take this exam, you must first complete a state-approved training course within the past 24 months of applying.

The NREMT exam involves a cognitive test and a psychomotor portion. If you fail the NREMT cognitive exam, you must wait 15 days to retest, but specific retake policies, including the number of attempts, can vary and should be verified with the NREMT.

You can take the psychomotor exam through an approved training site or a state emergency services office.

Step 3 – Complete Advanced EMT Training (Optional)

Some EMTs also get additional training and certification for better career prospects. These advanced courses will help you to prepare for the Advanced EMT exam from the NREMT.

Advanced training courses usually require investing 150 to 200 hours into fieldwork. Some courses also require you to do internship rotations in an emergency room and an emergency services agency.

Step 4 – Complete a 2-year Degree Program (Optional)

Various universities and community and technical colleges offer associate degree certification in emergency care training. Associate programs usually cover advanced life-support techniques, physiology and anatomy.


To become an EMT, it is advisable to complete CPR certification and take a six-month training course before taking the NREMT examination.

Make sure to take the NREMT examination quickly after completing your training. Read the state-specific guidelines for EMT certification in the state in which you wish to practice.

See Also

IVF Grants for First Responders

Difference Between Medical Assistant and Physician Assistant

How to Become an Emergency Physician

Current Version
June 23, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 21, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.

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