How to Become an Emergency Medical Technician

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be an increase in available emergency medical technician (EMT) positions, an almost 20% increase in available positions by 2016. EMTs possess varying levels of education, though all must be licensed by their state, you should be able to find many different EMT opportunities in your state, and this article includes some tips to make you stand out as an applicant.

Education and Licenses

Since EMTs ensure with public safety and their profession is highly demanding, you will need to get licensed to operate as an EMT in all of the 50 states. Licensure requirements can vary from state to state, so start by reading local EMT job postings to see what their minimal requirements are, and visit your state government website to find out about the requirements for your state. If you aren't sure how to find this information, contact your local public library and ask a reference librarian to help you find this information.

You do need to be a high school graduate or have an equivalent educational certificate, like a GED to meet the basic qualifications for EMT training. Nationally, though it can vary from state to state, there are five levels of EMT: First Responder, EMT Basic,  2 levels of EMT Intermediate, and Paramedic. Your state may use different terms, and you may find when you read job postings that there are more openings for paramedics than there are for first responders, based on the labor market of that city.

According to the College Navigator from the National Center for Education Statistics, there are over 600 post-secondary programs for EMTs. Most of the programs are for EMT Paramedic, the highest level of certification, and are two years in length. You will need to apply to the program and meet their minimum requirements to gain entrance to the program. If you are applying to more than one college, and outside of the state where you wish to live and work, check to make sure that that state's licensing board will recognize degrees from the institution that has accepted you.


Most EMTs work for private emergency service suppliers. Others work for municipalities like city governments, and these EMTs often work alongside firefighters. There are more paid EMT positions in cities and more volunteer positions in rural areas, but one of the areas that the BLS predicts an increase is in replacing volunteers with paid professional EMTs.

You can also find yourself working for a private company: oil rigs, for example, may hire an on staff EMT to deal with onsite emergencies and to accompany injured workers to the hospital. You may also be able to find work teaching people first aid or CPR, depending on the need for those programs in your area.


Since EMTs bend and carry very heavy loads--a gurney and people of many different sizes--many EMTs experience back or joint pain, so it is a good idea to physically train to become an EMT prior to applying. Being an EMT can also be extremely mentally stressful, so volunteer experience in a health care setting, which will give you some idea of how a hospital works and how to deal with people in distress, plus some personal training in how to deal with your own stress would be helpful.