With an expected growth rate of 15% from 2016 to 2026, the emergency medical technician (EMT) field will continue to add jobs for the foreseeable future. Because of this and because the work often looks exciting, many people consider a career in the field of emergency medicine. Before making a decision to become an EMT, it is important to have a good understanding of what the position entails.
Ambulance. (User:WolfBlur/Creative Commons/CC0 1.0)
Skills and Responsibilities of EMTs
The services that an EMT provides is dependent upon the position. Essentially, EMTs provide urgent and acute medical care outside of the hospital setting. Thus, you will find EMTs on ambulances providing emergency and non-emergency medical care.
Not all EMTs work on ambulances. In fact, many work for local government agencies or directly for hospitals. No matter the type of employment, people’s lives rely on the quick reaction and competent care that EMTs provide.
On television, the life of an EMT is often fast-paced and exciting, with EMTs rushing around town on ambulances providing life-saving assistance. While that may be the reality for many EMTs depending on their shift and the population they serve, the truth is that the life of the average EMT is more mundane.
EMTs have their share of paperwork to fill out after each call or incident. For example, an EMT will fill out a report for the healthcare provider and facility to transfer over the patient’s care. They also assess patients that may not be victims of a legitimate medical emergency. In fact, sometimes EMTs arrive at a situation and find that their medical services are not in need. EMTs are also responsible for restocking and inventorying supplies after an emergency call and at various other times.
All of that is not to say that an EMT spends time pushing papers and completing other requirements not directly related to saving a life. EMTs do save thousands of lives each year, often by providing CPR or stopping severe bleeding. But not every emergency is so thrilling. Sometimes a call may be as simple as helping a dizzy person sit down or explaining to a person that they will be okay.
Giving psychological care might be just as thrilling to some EMTs as the acute medical care is to others. That side of the profession is rarely shown on television, but those interested in an (EMS) career should be aware of it. Regardless of the situation, each EMT gives full attention to the case at hand and attends to all people with respect.
Education and Physical Requirements of EMTs
As with other professions, EMTs must complete a course of study to prepare them for their career. To begin such a program, the prospective EMT must have a high school diploma or equivalent and CPR certification. A total of 120 to 150 hours of instruction is the typical requirement to become an entry-level EMT, with more hours required of those who want to become an advanced EMT or a paramedic. A paramedic can do everything that an EMT does, but the paramedic has more advanced tasks, such as the administration of intravenous medications.
A career as an EMT is best suited for those who enjoy working with others and have excellent problem-solving and listening skills. EMTs must often be detectives of sorts, having to figure out what is wrong with a patient after sorting through information that may not be as complete as one might like.
A compassionate demeanor to help calm patients down and good physical strength and fitness is required to be most effective. EMTs often need to lift patients and stoop in awkward positions to perform care. The course of study for an EMT helps students develop and maintain such skills.
Median Annual Wage for EMTs
In 2017, the median annual wage for an EMT was nearly $33,380.00 A career as an EMT will not likely bring on great wealth; however, serving as an EMT is an upstanding entry-level position for the medical field. Working in EMS settings helps many people determine whether a career in medicine is right for them. It is not uncommon for an EMT to further their education in the medical field.
Resources for EMTs
Bureau of Labor Statistics: EMTs and Paramedics – Review this summary of the occupational outlook for EMTs and paramedics to get an idea of what EMTs and paramedics do as well as the median pay.
Education Experience of an EMT – Familiarize yourself with the training requirements you need to pursue a career as an EMT.
The Pre-Med Guide to Becoming an EMT – Read this short guide to help you understand the benefits of becoming an EMT as a pre-med student.
Top 10 Reasons to Become a Paramedic – Examine the top reasons for becoming an EMS worker.
5 Reasons You Should Not Become an EMT – Read an article written from the standpoint of an EMT to help you determine if you are on the road to a rewarding EMS career or on a short trip to burnout.
What’s the Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic? – In this article, UCLA presents the difference between an EMT and a paramedic.
Written by Sarah Gehrke, MSN, RN and last updated Apr 17, 2018
Last reviewed by Amanda Spier, RN, BSN on Apr 17, 2018