How Can I Become an EMT or Paramedic in 2021

If you’ve ever watched M.A.S.H, Crash Landing, or Ambulance Girl, the heroics of paramedics would make you want the job. However, you can’t become anything by mere wishful thinking. To become an EMT or Paramedic, you’ll need to take training courses in EMT schools and really understand the job requirements.

EMT and Paramedics are the ones that come to the rescue when there’s an emergency situation. They are simply lifesavers. Hence their training focuses on life support techniques in first-response situations such as CPR. They are so important to every nation.

Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, Pennsylvania reported that in 2018, the EMS system in Pennsylvania comprised of 1,258 agencies and they responded to 2,101,641 calls for service, the overwhelming majority of which constituted emergency responses to incidents. You can easily translate these calls to lives saved.

So, in this post, we will show you how to become an EMT or Paramedic and save lives. You’ll learn about the schools and training you should get, as well as how much an EMT education will cost you. Stay with us while we unravel every relevant information you need to know about becoming an EMS or Paramedic.

What is EMT?

EMT simply means Emergency Medical Technician. This technician is an emergency responder who has received training to provide emergency medical care to people who are critically ill and injured in emergency situations.

Formerly, people referred to EMTs as Ambulance Drivers or Attendants because their job majorly consisted of transporting patients. Now, EMTs, Paramedics, and Ambulance Technician is the term for these emergency responders. And not only is their job the transportation of patients to the hospital but to treat patients, and assist paramedics, nurses, physicians, and other advanced Life Support Provider.

These professionals receive training in practical emergency medical knowledge and skills which they deploy within a speedy time frame. Hence, EMTs and Paramedics are knowledgeable about patient treatment guidelines that follow national and local medical policies.

What is the Difference Between EMT and Paramedic?

There’s this hot EMT vs Paramedic argument that springs up in small circles in places of the world with active Emergency Medical Services (EMS). People are wondering if EMTs and Paramedics are the same. Do they do the same thing? Do they get the same salary?

The answer to all these questions hinges on the definition of both terms – which we will discuss briefly.

But first, yes, there exists some form of difference between EMTs and Paramedics.

Both EMTs and Paramedics possess the knowledge and skills required to transport patients to medical centres and provide them with emergency care. But EMTs and Paramedics differ greatly based on the amount of education they receive and what they are allowed to do for patients (scope of practice).

While EMTs will have to complete a training course in schools for EMTs – usually about 120-150 hours in length, Paramedics take courses that take between 1,200 to 1,800 hours to complete.

Furthermore, EMTs receive training on many skills including CPR, giving patients oxygen, administering glucose for diabetics, and helping others with treatments for asthma attacks or allergic reactions. However, they can’t provide treatments to patients that require breaking the skin – using needles – unless in exceptional cases like in the case of auto-injectors for allergic reactions.

On the other hand, Paramedics receive education on topics such as anatomy and physiology, cardiology, medications, and medical procedures. Also, they build on their EMT education and learn more skills such as administering medications, starting intravenous lines, and providing advanced airway management for patients. They even learn to resuscitate and support patients with significant problems like heart attacks and traumas.

Hence, Paramedics are advanced providers of medical care.

But in this post, we use EMT and Paramedics interchangeably with the hope that you’ll love to advance your EMT education.

What are the Various Levels of EMT?

To better understand the difference between EMTs and Paramedics, you need to know the various levels of EMT. This is basically your academic progression as an EMT.

So, here are the different stages you’ll go through if you are passionate about an EMT career.

Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)

This is the first stage of your career as a Paramedic. You become an EMR after completing your State-approved EMR course and passing the cognitive and psychomotor examinations. Here, you are equipped with the skills and knowledge you need to provide immediate, first-responder services to patients. You can provide basic life-saving care with little external help while waiting for other responders.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

This is the common path. To get to this point in your career, you must meet certain requirements in addition to those that are mandatory for EMRs before they move into day-to-day work. Your job responsibilities will basically be to provide emergency medical care, stabilize patients, provide transportation, and use the tools and devices provided on an ambulance to care for patients on their way to hospitals.

Advanced EMT

You get to this point after completing additional education and certification requirements. At this point, you have all it takes to provide typical EMT services. In addition, you will possess the medical know-how needed to offer a few advanced services while the patients are on transit to a hospital. You will often go out on calls that are higher than the EMRs or EMTs’ scope of practice.


This is the height of the EMT career. Hence, you will need to complete a two-year degree to qualify as a paramedic. Then after passing relevant certification exams, you will be able to provide extensive critical care to emergency patients with your basic and advanced skills. Also, paramedic comes with pecks like higher salaries and more responsibilities.

Firefighters are closely related to EMTs and Paramedics, also see What you can do With a Fire Science Degree? It’s Schools & Career

What do EMTs do?

The core job responsibilities of Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics are to respond to emergency calls, perform medical services, and transport patients to medical facilities.

However, on a daily job schedule, the Emergency Medical Technician or Paramedic performs the following responsibilities:

  • Examine and evaluate patients to determine the kind of care they need
  • Utilize appropriate techniques and equipment to provide patients with emergency care
  • Record patients’ information, condition, and treatment
  • Adhere to patient rights by maintaining patient confidentiality in providing them with emergency care
  • Transport patients following laid-down policies and procedures
  • Maintain a safe, clean, and well-stocked environment for patients
  • Operate and drive the ambulance following applicable safety policies and laws
  • Provide basic life support and gather patient data

When we hear EMT or Paramedic, our minds take us to an Ambulance. It’s what the movies depict and the medium that transports these life-saving professionals to our aid.

Definitely, Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians work on an ambulance crew, but that’s not all. The job environment of paramedics also extends to hospitals and sites where established medical care is not easily available, such as cruise ships or remote job sites.

No matter where they work, EMTs and Paramedics will always work in teams, with the Paramedic heading the team. They will also find jobs in Local government facilities and private medical firms.

What is the Salary and Job Outlook of Paramedics?

Becoming an EMT does not require prior work experience or on-the-job training. Yet, you will earn a salary after meeting the relevant educational and job requirements and discharging your duties.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMTs and Paramedics earn an average of $34,320 per year or $16.50 per hour. In 2018, there were a total of 262,100 employment for Paramedics and EMTs and the job is estimated to grow by 7% from 2018 to 2028.

One of the major reasons for this growth will be the growth in the middle-aged and older population. Hence, there will be more incidences of age-related health emergencies like stroke and heart attacks that will require the services of paramedics.

Meanwhile, BLS further breaks down the salary of paramedics based on the industry they work in.

Therefore, we have the following annual earning estimate for Paramedics:

  • Hospitals; State, Local, and Private Firms – $36,650
  • Local Government (Excluding Education and Hospitals) – $36,450
  • Ambulance Services – $31,590

Furthermore, paramedics in some states earn bigger salaries than their counterparts in other states.

The top 5 paying states in the USA for paramedics and EMTs are:

  • Washington – $67,600
  • District of Columbia – $57,270
  • Hawaii – $54,370
  • Maryland – $49,490
  • Alaska – $47,780

You can also check out these 3 Month Certificate Programs That Will Pay You well

How Can I Become an EMT or Paramedic?

We will explain two tracks to becoming an EMT or Paramedic. The reason for these tracks is that while both Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics will start out with the same training, Paramedics will advance their training.

How to Become an Emergency Medical Technician

EMTs do not need to earn a bachelor’s or associate degree to start out their career but they must do the following:

  • Get a High School Diploma or its equivalent. A high school diploma or GED is necessary for you to start up your career in providing emergency medical services.
  • Acquire CPR Certification. You will have to get a certification in CPR to work as an EMT because it is a necessary requirement for the job. You can get CPR training from the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.
  • Take an EMT Program. You need to take a certificate or diploma program that is state-approved as part of your requirement to become a certified EMT. This EMT basic training (EMT-B) takes anywhere from 6-12 months to complete the 120-150 hours of coursework. Several schools in the USA offer such programs, however, ensure to check that the program has accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs(CAAHEP).
  • Pass the Cognitive Exam. The National Registry Emergency Medical Technician (NREMT) Cognitive Exam is a must for EMT aspirants. The computer-based exam comprises 60-110 questions which you must complete in two hours and score between 70 and 120 to pass. However, you must have NREMT standard level of competency to pass the exam. Passing this exam earns you your certification. Note, however, that you must recertify every two years.
  • Pass the Psychomotor Exam. The psychomotor exam tests your ability to successfully perform a number of emergency skills such as conducting patient assessments, managing cardiac arrests, immobilizing spines, caring for long bone fractures, controlling bleeding, etc. You can get these tests from your state’s EMS office or local training institutions. It is a necessary exam for becoming an EMT.

Are you wondering whether you can go to college with a GED? See the Best Answers

How to Become a Paramedic

In addition to holding a high school diploma or its equivalent, a CPR certificate, completing EMT basic training, and passing the NREMT exam, paramedics must pass through the following process:

  • Complete Advanced EMT Training. Advanced EMT training requires you to complete 300 hours of coursework. here, you’ll receive advanced EMT instruction on using medication, complex airway devices, IVs, and EKGs.
  • Get a Two-Year Degree Program. Becoming a paramedic is all about advancing in your EMT career, hence you will be needing a two-year degree. Community colleges or technical schools offer two-year associate’s degree programs for Paramedics that are quite affordable. This program will cover coursework in anatomy and physiology, as well as advanced life support. You will practice these courses through clinical training in hospitals and ambulances.

What Schools Should I Attend to Become an EMT or Paramedic?

Like we explained earlier, community colleges or technical schools are one of your best options for an EMT training course or Associate’s degree.

However, you must be sure you’re getting your EMT training course from a recognized school. The best way to ensure this is to enrol in a program that is CAAHEP accredited.

Meanwhile, there are two options available for you to get your EMT or Paramedic education from.

These are:

  • Traditional Community Colleges
  • Online Schools

You will notice that we did not mention traditional four-year colleges and universities. It is not because they do not offer training programs for EMTs and Paramedics, but because theirs are not as affordable and specialized as those of Community Colleges.

So, we will thus progress to show you some of the best schools where you can get good EMT and Paramedic training courses that are affordable from the two categories.

What are the Best Community Colleges for EMT and paramedics?

The best community colleges offer programs that cover all levels of Emergency Medical Services. Hence, these schools will have training courses for EMTs as well as advanced courses for Paramedics.

Of course, these schools are all accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs(CAAHEP) so you don’t have to worry about the quality you’re getting.

Here are the best traditional community colleges to get good EMS training programs and degrees.

Broward College’s biggest strength is its strong focus on practical teaching. Hence, this college ensures that EMT and paramedic students get updated knowledge on the latest healthcare industry trends. This way, they meet EMT job requirements easily. This Florida Community School offers a Diploma in Emergency Medical Technician, Certificate in Paramedic, and an Associate in Emergency Medical Services.

Fox Valley Technical College is another awesome school for EMTs and Paramedics to get training courses. It offers three programs for students aspiring to enter the Emergency Medical Services industry: A diploma in Emergency Medical Technician, Certificate in Emergency Medical Technician – Advanced, and Diploma in Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic.

What are the Best Online Schools for EMTs and Paramedic?

You don’t get any less quality for studying for a Paramedic Associate degree online at your own convenience. However, there is almost no readily available online EMT training program online. This is because EMT training courses require hands-on training which online programs don’t avail you.

For this reason, you’ll mostly find hybrid online schools offering EMS programs. Nonetheless, online schools are ideal for Paramedic associate’s degrees and the good news is that the really good ones are accredited.

Here are the best online schools to get your A.A.S in Paramedics.

Lenoir Community college offers one of the best online Associate’s programs for paramedics in the USA. This North Carolina Associate Degree in EMS costs $76/credit for in-state and $268/credit out-of-state for the 71 credit course. It is a hybrid program that provides advanced knowledge and skills to Paramedics.

Hutchinson Community College is another perfect online school for Paramedics. This Kansas college offers an AAS in Emergency Service and Paramedics. The program costs $89/credit for in-state students and $120/credit for out-of-state to complete the 69 credit course in 18 months.

How Much Does it Cost to Become an EMT or Paramedic?

Remember that all you need to become an EMT is a high school diploma and a 6-12 month EMT program for certification. This and the cost of CPR certification is the bulk of the cost you’ll incur to become an EMT.

So, how much are we talking about?

CPR courses will take you from five to six hours to complete and it costs anywhere from $70 to $90.

EMT training courses, on the other hand, have a total ranging from $1,000 to $2,000. Going by the first three schools on our list, the Broward College EMT program costs $2000 for In-State students and $5,000 for Out-of-State students. Fox Valley Technical College charges a program cost of $732.00 plus textbooks $285.70, amounting to $1,017.7. Meanwhile, Palm Beach takes $1,173.00 from residents for its EMT training program.

Taking tuition for In-state students as the focus, the above sample costs support our estimated EMT training cost of $1,000 to $2,000.

So, adding the cost of a CPR certificate, the cost of becoming an EMT ranges from $1,070 to $2,090.

On the other hand, an Associate’s degree in Paramedics will cost anywhere from $5,016 to $7,495, going by Davidson County Community College’s cost for In-State students and Iowa Western Community College respectively.

Adding to the cost of CPR certification, the paramedic education costs between $5,086 and $7,585.

Physical Therapist is also related to EMTs, so see how much it will cost t become one by learning How to Become a Physical Therapist

What Skills and Qualities Must EMT or Paramedic Possess?

Although it could be a very fulfilling and interesting job for you, EMTs and Paramedics must possess the following skills to keep it so.

  • Physical Endurance to be able to lift significant amounts of weight, spend long amounts of time kneeling or twisting their bodies to reach wounded individuals.
  • Problem Solving skills to be able to think on their feet and to best provide emergency care to a patient.
  • Communication skills to contain interacting with many different types of people throughout each day and be effective at it, especially in stressful situations.

In addition to these, to meet the EMT or Paramedics job requirements, you should possess the following qualities:

  • Patience because you will experience significant periods of hurrying up and waiting.
  • Curiosity to be able to keep learning in the field.
  • Maturity to deal with patients or bystanders who have lost their sense of reason and are dealing with issues of shock.
  • Sense of Humor to be able to laugh in the face of the hectic daily work schedule you face, just like the paramedics in the 1972 movie, M.A.S.H.

FAQs On How Can I Become an EMT or Paramedic | Schools, Training, Cost

To become a certified EMT, you need to complete an EMT Basic training which can take anywhere from 6 months to one year for EMTs and 6 months to 2 years for paramedics, considering that they will get an Associate’s degree in Paramedics. Hence, it will take anywhere from six months to two years to become an EMT.

It costs between $1,000 to $2,000 to become an EMT, the bulk of the cost pertaining to the cost of getting an EMT Basic training. For paramedics, however, an associate degree will cost between $5,000 to $7,000, especially when you choose the online option.

You don’t need a degree or prior working experience to become an EMT, so becoming an EMT is not hard. You only need to get a CPR certificate and pass the cognitive and psychomotor exams, which could be easy if you put your mind to understanding your EMT basic training.

It is not required that you have a degree to become an EMT, but if you do, its no problem. You will just have to put your degree aside and take the EMT Basic training and pass relevant exams to gain a license to practice.

You can get online schools offering EMT programs but you cannot complete EMT certification 100% online. If you decide to enroll in an EMT online program, you’ll visit the school’s campus for portions of the practical training, while taking the coursework online. Some four-year universities and community colleges provide this kind of Hybrid EMT training for EMTs and Paramedics.

The fastest way to become an EMT is to get a high school diploma or its equivalent. get CPR certification, enroll for an EMT Basic training, pass the NREMT exam to get certified, and pass the psychomotor exam.

Basic EMT skills can serve you for a job as a firefighter, police, and military service member. Hospitals sometimes hire individuals with EMT-Basic training as emergency room technicians. Furthermore, EMT-Bs can go on to become paramedics, dispatchers, or managers of emergency response teams.

Unlike EMT, it could be tough to become a paramedic. First, you will be an EMT before you become a Paramedic. Then you must take an associate degree that takes you on advanced coursework in anatomy and physiology, as well as advanced life support. It would not be easy to grasp these courses one time. You may have to struggle with them for a while.

Paramedics actually have advanced EMT knowledge, so they can fit in as Physician assistants, Registered Nurse, Medical Equipment Repairer, Medical assistants, and even Surgical Technologists.

During your EMT basic training, you are not yet certified to practice as an EMT, so you will not receive any salary during the training. But once you get your EMT license and get hired somewhere, you will start receiving a salary. However, Paramedics can work as EMTs while they are in paramedic school and make money while they are in school. But you’ll be able to manage your time well to pull this off.

According to BLS, EMTs and Paramedics earn an average annual salary of $34,320. However, this pay differs based on the industry you’re working in and the state where you practice. EMTs in Hospitals, State, Local, and Private Firms earn $36,650, while EMTs in Washington earn as high as $67,600.


Before you decide to become an EMT, first note that EMTs differ from Paramedics based on their job requirements and level of education. Also, Paramedics earn higher. So, bear in mind that while you don’t need a degree to become an EMT, you will need to someday acquire an Associate Degree in Paramedics to become one and save lives better.

We believe that this article will guide you all the way to becoming an EMT and Paramedics – right from selecting the right school for your EMT training cost, to the qualities you must possess to remain on the job.


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