The article below details the EMT job description, what it requires, what the main duties are, what qualifications and training are needed, what skills are essential, and more. We also cover the typical working hours, as well as job prospects and career outlook.
An EMT, which stands for Emergency Medical Technician, is a first-responder to emergencies. An EMT provides basic, non-invasive medical care in situations such as car accidents, violent crimes, and other medical emergencies. After attempting to stabilize the patient with the help of other first-responders (such as paramedics, police officers, and fire department personnel), an EMT will transport patients to the hospital.
Job Overview: What Does an EMT Do?
An EMT is dispatched through 9-1-1 to emergency situations. They typically work with other EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters to help people who are injured or ill. Because emergencies happen at all times of the day, an EMT may be working at any point during the day or night, on holidays and weekends, and depending on their own schedule.
The work environment is fast-paced and stressful. The median pay for an EMT is $32,670.
EMT Job Duties
- Travel to emergency scenes and transport patients to the hospital.
- Assess the needs of the situation and call for additional backup, if necessary.
- Create a safe environment for traffic and/or bystanders, if necessary.
- Establish which patient(s) are in critical condition and in need of care first.
- Provide basic first aid and emergency medical care as necessary.
- Place patients safely on stretchers and secure in ambulance.
- Provide medical care en route to the hospital.
- Communicate effectively regarding the patient’s injuries and medical needs with the medical facility.
EMT Job Essential Skills
Stress Toleration. Because an EMT is exposed to violent crimes, car accidents, and other disturbing scenes over and over, individuals will need to respond well in stressful situations and be able to maintain their own long-term mental health.
Quick-thinking. EMTs have to make complex decisions in a short amount of time, and often under a great deal of pressure. Decisions in life-or-death situations will need to be made confidently and correctly.
Detail-oriented. When assessing a patient, an EMT needs to notice small signs of serious illness or injury, keep accurate records, and administer medication in the correct dosage.
Communication Skills. An EMT will be in communication with dispatchers, hospitals, coworkers, and distraught patients and bystanders. Communication skills are needed to receive and pass along the correct medical information, as well as help others remain calm.
Becoming an EMT
To become an EMT, an individual must have a high school diploma or GED, and complete training specific to the job. After the training is completed, one must pass a written and practical test to become a certified EMT. See below for more specifics regarding qualifications, training, and necessary work experience included in the EMT job description.
Qualifications and Training
Because being an EMT is considered an entry-level job, the only education that is required is a high school diploma or a GED. After that, an individual is required to complete EMT training. There are three levels of training:
Level 1/EMT Basic
This level must be completed before a person can work as an EMT and before advancing to other levels. At this level, a person will learn basic first aid such as setting broken bones, stopping bleeding, and dealing with cardiac and respiratory emergencies. Clinical labs and field work will be included.
After the 120 to 180 hours of training are completed, an aspiring EMT must pass a written and practical state certified test. He or she will then be certified as an EMT-B. This entire process usually takes approximately 6 months.
Level 2/EMT Intermediate
At this level, aspiring EMTs will have to complete the above training, plus 30 to 350 extra training hours. At this level, individuals will learn to use more advanced medical equipment and administer intravenous fluids and medications.
A paramedic is the highest level of EMT. Typically, 2-year paramedic degree programs can be found at community colleges. Training and testing are more rigorous, including 1,200 to 1,800 training hours.
After completing the necessary education and training, an individual must pass the state’s licensing exam. Each state has its own qualifications and certification for becoming an EMT or paramedic.
There is no work experience required to begin training for a job as an EMT. The required training will provide the work experience necessary to start the job. However, it would be beneficial to already have experience with emergency-type situations.
One of the most highly sought-after qualifications in a person who wants to become an EMT is the ability to remain calm and make good decisions under a great deal of stress.
Most EMTs work full-time, and many work over 40 hours per week. A 51-hour work week is not atypical. For a person looking for a 9-5 job, working as an EMT might not be the best fit.
Because emergencies can occur at any time, EMTs are expected to be available at all times and work overnight shifts, on weekends, and on holidays. Shifts are typically 12 to 24 hours long. Employees usually work set shifts on certain days, working a certain number of shifts per week.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
Even lower level EMTs make a decent wage, around $32,000 per year, or more with more experience. Paramedics can make up to $70,000+ per year. From a financial point of view, it’s a great choice of profession.
It should be noted that because of the repeated exposure to traumatic events, it is not uncommon for an EMT to burn out of their job. Because of the long hours, balancing work and personal life can be a great challenge as well. An aspiring EMT must make sure this is a job they feel they can handle both personally and emotionally.
The job outlook for EMTs is quite good. There will always be a need for emergency services, and as the baby boomer generation gets older, the need continues to grow. Because there are three levels of EMTs, there is always the opportunity to advance from a basic EMT to an intermediate EMT, and eventually to a paramedic.
After that, individuals wishing to advance further can look into becoming managers, administrative directors, or teachers. Many also use this job as a stepping stone to higher-paying medical professions like nurses, physician assistants, and doctors.
Becoming an EMT is not for the faint-hearted, but the rewards also abound. Being able to help people in emergency situations, having lots of opportunities to advance, and getting paid well may just outweigh the stress and difficulties involved in the EMT job description.