EMTs and paramedics are the first responders to the accidents and illnesses that threaten lives every day.  They crew the ambulances that are dispatched by the emergency operators who answer and coordinate 911 emergency calls; the prompt response and expert abilities of EMTs and paramedics often mean the difference between life and death.

In most communities, EMTs are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  They arrive by ambulance or helicopter, and are responsible for transporting the injured or sick to the healthcare facilities that may save their lives.  In many cases, they must stabilize the patient in transit, and must work quickly in cramped confines to stop bleeding or administer critical drugs and procedures.

EMTs and paramedics are grouped into different categories depending on their training and abilities:  the EMT-Basic distinction means the EMT has the emergency medical skills needed to care for and deliver patients, under the supervision of more qualified emergency medical personnel.  EMT-Intermediate means that the EMT has completed additional training, and may be qualified for more responsibilities without supervision (laws on what each is technically allowed to do vary by state).  Paramedics are the most advanced first-responders, and are generally qualified to administer drugs orally and intravenously, monitor EKGs, etc.

Emergency Medical Technology Career Outlook


An aging population demanding quick, effective medical care and specialized healthcare facilities means that EMTs are in high demand.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 210,700 EMTs in 2008.  By 2018, the BLS predicts that there will be 229,700 EMTs.  That’s an occupational growth rate of about 9%, and an additional 19,000 jobs.

Projected Growth Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Occupational Information Net (O*NET), a project of the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, expects that there will be a total of 62,000 positions available to licensed and qualified EMTs and paramedics from 2008 to 2018; that figure includes the 19,000 new positions the BLS predicts AND job openings due to retirement, early termination, etc.

Emergency Medical Technician Earnings

EMT and paramedic earnings vary by location, training, and experience.   The BLS reports that in 2008, EMTs and paramedics made median hourly wages of $14.10.  The middle 50% of the field made between $11.13 and $18.21, while the bottom 10% made less than $9.08 and the top 10% made more than $23.77.

EMTs and paramedics made median hourly wages of $14.10 in 2008. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

EMTs and paramedics are frequently called upon to work overtime, depending on the circumstances and need for medical services.  Some EMTs and paramedics work part-time.  Others – about 27% – belonged to unions.

Emergency Medical Technology Educational Benefits

EMTs and paramedics are licensed and regulated by the states in which they work.  All EMTs are required to complete some form of training program, ranging from weeks or months for EMT-Basic certification to 2 years for an associate’s level paramedic certification.  All EMTs and paramedics are also required to complete a battery of licensing exams.

According to The Occupational Information Network, a government occupational information resource, 19% of EMTs and paramedics have a high school diploma or less, with no formal post-secondary education.  Two-thirds of EMTs and paramedics (66%) have some college, including the completion of diploma and associate’s degree awarding EMT and paramedic programs. The remaining 15% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Source: Occupational Information Network

EMT and Paramedic Training Programs Online

Degrees Possible: Diploma and Associate’s-Level Programs

There a growing number of EMT and paramedic training programs online, at the diploma and associate’s degree level.  These programs do not qualify EMTs for work in all states, so check with your admissions counselor and local EMT providers.  Where allowed, the best of these programs will provide a rigorous education comparable to the EMT and paramedic training programs offered at a local school or college, but in a more flexible format better suited to working students.

As with any serious educational decision, do your research when picking an online EMT and paramedic program:  is the school accredited?  Do credits transfer?  What is the school’s job placement rate?  What are people saying about this school in general and this program specifically?  You’ll be able to find the answers to many of these questions on the University Bound Network of Web sites; but don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions of your admissions counselor.

Emergency Medical Technology Skills and Abilities

Above all, EMTs and paramedics must be dependable.  Because of the importance of what they do, they can’t be asleep at the wheel, literally or figuratively.  They must keep a cool head in high pressure circumstances, and complete the sometimes complex procedures that keep their charges alive.

Many EMTs must drive ambulances, so a driver’s license and extensive driving experience may be expected.

EMTs and paramedics work as part of an emergency response team, so communication and active listening skills are important, especially for those in supervisorial positions.

Emergency Medical Technology Qualification and Advancement

Completion of an accredited EMT/Paramedic training program, and of your state’s licensing requirements, will qualify candidates for entry-level positions as EMTs AND PARAMEDICS.

A combination of experience and education will advance EMTs from EMT-Basic to EMT-Intermediate to Paramedic certifications; each subsequent distinction with more responsibilities and benefits.

Additional Information

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) maintains a Web site at http://www.naemt.org.