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Helping a stranger on what may be the worst day of their life is a regular occurrence for emergency medical technicians. EMTs handled more than 36 million events nationwide in 2009, according to the National Association of State EMS Officials, or NASEMSO. An EMT's quick response to accidents, cardiac arrest, serious illnesses, natural disasters and other critical situations can mean the difference between life and death.
EMTs, who often work with firefighters and police, follow established protocols to make medical assessments at the scene, provide immediate emergency care under the oversight and direction of a physician, and work with a team to monitor and transport patients to a medical facility.
Where EMTs are Employed
EMTs work primarily in emergency medical services, known as EMS, which are affiliated with fire departments, hospitals, government organizations and private enterprises. The greatest number of EMTs are affiliated with firefighting services, according to NASEMSO. As for other employers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) reports that the largest group of EMTs work for ambulance services, followed by local governments and hospitals.
Education for EMTs and Paramedics
A high school diploma is typically required to enter a training program for EMTs or paramedics. These professionals must complete both formal training and certification.
Although the Department of Transportation has established national EMS standards, individual states are ultimately responsible for mandating what education is required. Most EMS training is available from community colleges and local training programs, although some four-year colleges have EMT programs. Online EMT training is available, but clinical requirements must be met on-site.
Different Levels of EMT Training
Required education and credentialing becomes increasingly more complex in the progression from basic to advanced levels. Here are NASEMSO's three major EMT classifications:
Basic training can include medical terminology, joint immobilization, patient assessment, bleeding control/shock management, clearing respiratory airways, cardiac arrest, childbirth and trauma. Classes also cover how to use basic equipment such as stretchers, backboards, splints and oxygen systems.
Intermediate coursework can include administering IVs and basic medication, interpreting EKGs and using more advanced equipment. Paramedic coursework could span more advanced medical techniques and equipment as well as administering medications for a wider variety of conditions.
EMT-Paramedic students usually complete anywhere from 750 to 2,000 hours of coursework, field training and hospital training; many earn an associate degree, according to the bls.gov.
EMT Certification and Continuing Education
EMT certification is obligatory in all states, and many states require certification by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. To receive NREMT certification, an applicant must be 18 years of age, hold a current CPR certification, pay an application fee, and successfully complete requirements such as these:
Per NASEMSO, some states ask for a criminal background check, and most states mandate that practicing EMTs enroll in continuing education.
EMT Employment Opportunities and Salaries
Bls.gov projects average growth for EMTs between 2008 and 2018, with heavy competition for local government jobs that tend to pay more and offer better benefits. More EMTs will be required as baby boomers age and demand more and better emergency services. In addition, some unpaid EMT volunteers in smaller communities might stop volunteering because of the high commitment in terms of training and time.
EMTs with more education and national certifications are expected to have an advantage in the job market. An EMT career can also be a stepping stone to other highly trained health care professions such as nurse or physician assistant. With a bachelor's degree or higher, you could advance to EMS management careers.
The bls.gov sees favorable job prospects for EMTs, with 2010 mean annual wages of $33,300, and state governments paying the highest wages at $49,960. An extra reward of an EMT career could be the satisfaction of knowing you may be responsible for saving someone's life.
Additional Resources for Individuals Pursuing EMT Schools:
Campus and Online EMT and Paramedic Schools