Select Page

When considering medical careers, a common choice among students is to become an EMT. With the average EMT salary at a comfortable living rate and increasing each year, it seems a viable option for those who like helping others. We’ll examine what EMTs do on the job, the average EMT salary, and what types of training and education are required to become an EMT.

What Does an EMT Do?

woman having blood pressure monitor

Image via

An Emergency Medical Technician (abbreviated EMT) responds to emergency calls for medical attention. An EMT can be dispatched by a 911 operator to the scene of a medical emergency, along with firefighters and police (if necessary). EMTs need to react quickly in situations where a patient’s life might be at risk. An EMT performs medical services on the spot as well as during transportation of a patient to medical facilities.

EMTs can be employed by ambulance companies, government agencies, and hospitals. Most work full-time with about a third of EMTs working more than a standard 40 hours per week. EMTs should be available at all times, including weekends, holidays, and during the night. Some EMTs work 12 hours a day, and others work 24 hours in a row with a day or two off in between.

EMT Job Titles

people sitting on chairs

Image via

An EMT’s level of certification dictates his or her specific job responsibilities as well as EMT salary. Certification is specific to the state in which an EMT works; however, the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) has 4 designated levels of certification.

  • Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), also known as Emergency Care Attendant or Certified First Responder: provides basic medical care using minimal equipment
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), also known as EMT-Basic: assesses the condition of patients in order to help in cardiac, trauma, and respiratory emergencies and works on the scene of an emergency or in an ambulance
  • Advanced EMT, also known as EMT-Intermediate: performs the same duties as an EMT-Basic as well as the administration of medications and fluids
  • Paramedic: performs EMT duties, but also has more extensive training that allows him or her to monitor electrocardiograms (EKGs), give medications intravenously, and use more complex medical equipment

EMT Responsibilities

Man wearing green formal suit

Image via

  • Respond to emergency 911 calls for medical assistance
  • Assess the condition of a patient in order to determine proper treatment
  • Perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Provide first aid
  • Supply life support
  • Safely transport patients to a healthcare facility in an ambulance
  • Possibly drive an ambulance while another EMT performs medical care on a patient
  • Transfer patients to the Emergency Room (ER) of a hospital
  • Relay patient’s condition to the hospital staff as well as inform the staff of any treatment administered prior to arrival
  • Decontaminate an ambulance after transporting a patient with a contagious disease
  • Report contagions to the proper authorities
  • Maintain and restock an inventory of medical supplies
  • Clean and sanitize medical equipment after use

Risks of Being an EMT

EMTs work in both indoor and outdoor environments. The work involves a lot of physical, emotional, and mental stress. These conditions can affect the health of an EMT.

  • Injuries due to excessive bending, lifting, and kneeling
  • Illnesses due to exposure to contagious diseases
  • Injuries sustained by dealing with violent patients

EMT Salary and Job Outlook

Medical Technician on ambulance

Image via

EMT salary varies depending on education, certification, and years worth of experience. The average EMT salary is around $35,000 per year. The lowest EMT salary is around $22,000 annually, and the highest EMT salary is around $56,000 annually.

Compared to other medical professions, an average EMT or Paramedic will make more than the average Medical Assistant (around $32,000) but less than other professions like Physical Therapists (around $57,000) or Registered Nurses (around $72,000). The highest-paying states in the US for EMTs and Paramedics are Washington (around $65,000), the District of Columbia (around $58,000), Alaska (around $54,000), Hawaii (around $50,000), and Connecticut (around $46,000).

The outlook for average EMT salary is good with pay rates steadily rising each year. In 2010, the average EMT salary was around $33,000, in 2012 around $34,000, in 2014 around $35,000, and just below $36,000 per year in 2016. This amounts to an average increase in EMT salary of around $1,000 every 2 years, and trends suggest this will continue.

How to Become an EMT

Medical Technician on laboratory room

Image via

An EMT should complete high school and a post-secondary educational program for emergency medical technology. Such programs are available at many colleges, universities, and technical schools. Non-degree programs can be completed in 1-2 years. Since paramedics are the most advanced of the EMTs, their education takes longer, and they may be required to have an Associate’s degree. EMTs also typically have to receive certification in CPR, and all states require EMTs to be licensed.

During post-secondary training, students will receive around 150 hours of classroom and hospital/ambulance training. They will learn how to use equipment, handle emergency situations, assess patient condition, and care for trauma and cardiac emergencies. To become an Advanced EMT, they will need around 400 hours of instruction. Training to become a paramedic requires around 1,200 hours and prior EMT certification.

To become certified by the NREMT, EMTs must pass a national exam that consists of both practical and written elements. However, some states have their own certifications and do not require national certification. All states require EMTs to be licensed, and those who have received NREMT certification usually qualify for licensure without passing an additional exam. To apply, EMTs must be 18 years old and pass a criminal background check, depending on state requirements.


Man pushing hospital bed

Image via

Students can become EMTs in a relatively short amount of time compared to other medical professions. In 1-2 years, a student can be out in the job field and serving the public with life-saving medical emergency response. With an average EMT salary of around $35,000 annually and trends suggesting that the EMT salary will steadily increase each year, it seems to be a solid career choice for those passionate about caring for people and saving lives.

Pin It on Pinterest