EMT and Paramedic

Career Information

Paramedics taking patient on stretcher from ambulance to hospital
••• Paul Burns / Getty Images

When a person suddenly becomes ill or is injured in an accident, he or she must receive medical treatment immediately. An EMT (short for Emergency Medical Technician) or paramedic is trained to administer this on-site emergency care. Upon arriving on the scene, he or she assesses the patient's injuries or illness, provides emergency treatment and then the EMT or paramedic transports the patient to a medical facility for further treatment. The duties of EMTs and paramedics often overlap, but paramedics are trained to deliver more advanced care than EMTs are.

Employment Facts

There were approximately 239,000 EMTs and paramedics in 2012. Almost half work for ambulance services. Governments also employ many. Jobs are typically full time and may also include overtime. Because emergencies happen around the clock, EMTs' and paramedics' schedules can include nights, weekends and holidays. Some work 12 or 24-hour shifts with long stretches of time off in between.

This job is not without some health risks but following the proper procedures help mitigate them. For example, one can be exposed to contagious diseases or may be injured by mentally ill or violent patients.

Educational Requirements

One must have a high school diploma before training to become an EMT or paramedic. There are three levels of training for those who want to work in this field: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and Paramedic. At the EMT-Basic level, coursework consists of emergency skills and patient assessment. Students being trained at the EMT-Intermediate level learn how to use advanced airway devices and administer intravenous fluids and some medications. Paramedics receive the most advanced training which may result in an associate degree.

The coursework at this level includes anatomy, physiology and advanced medical skills.

Other Requirements

To work as an EMT or paramedic, one must be licensed. Requirements vary by state, but most states require EMTs and paramedics to pass the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians) Exam. Generally, licenses must be renewed every two to three years. Some states have their own certification exams which EMTs and paramedics must pass to practice. To learn about the licensing requirements in your state, please see the ​Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop.

In addition to formal training and a license, one also needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation. Strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills allow an EMT or paramedic to evaluate various solutions to problems to choose the one that has the best chance of resulting in a positive outcome. Excellent listening and speaking skills let the EMT or paramedic receive information from and convey it to the patient and others on the scene. He or she must also be compassionate.

Since this job requires a lot of lifting and bending, one must be physically fit.

Advancement Opportunities

A paramedic may eventually become a supervisor, operations manager, administrative director or executive director of emergency services. Some EMTs and paramedics become instructors, dispatchers or physician assistants.

Job Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment for EMTs and paramedics will grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2022.


EMTs and paramedics, in 2013, earned a median annual salary of $31,270 and median hourly wages of $15.04.

Use the Cost of Living Calculator at Salary.com to find out how much an EMT or paramedic currently earns in your city.

A Day in an EMT and Paramedic's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for EMT and paramedic jobs found on Indeed.com:

  • Evaluate the nature and acuity of illness or injury.
  • Establish patient care priorities.
  • Provide medical care and transportation for patients.
  • Verify that assigned ambulance is mechanically sound and properly equipped at the start of a shift.
  • Foster and maintain professional relationships with other providers, staff, and patients.
  • Communicate with dispatchers via two-way radio.
  • Navigate to incidents using maps and mobile data terminals.
  • Complete Patient Care Transport Reports completely and thoroughly.
  • Maintain familiarity with emergency and pre-hospital medical care by constantly keeping up to date with the latest practices.

    Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, EMTs, and Paramedics, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm (visited March 2, 2015).
    Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/29-2041.00 (visited March 2, 2015).