Emergency Medical Technician

Job Duties

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provide medical care to patients at the scene of an emergency. This may include many types of emergencies, such as automobile accidents, heart attacks, drownings, childbirth, and gunshot wounds. They are usually dispatched to an accident scene by a 911 operator, and usually work closely with police officers and firefighters. Once on the scene, they assess the patient’s condition and the extent of injury, as well as the patient’s medical history. The patient is then treated at the scene or, in the case of more serious conditions, is transported to a hospital for treatment.

EMTs often use equipment such as backboards to immobilize patients before transport to a hospital. One EMT drives the ambulance while another administers care to the patient. Some EMTs work on the crew of medical helicopters that transport critically ill or injured patients to trauma centers. Once the ambulance or helicopter has reached the medical facility, EMTs assist with the transfer of the patient to the emergency department, report their observations, and sometimes provide additional support or treatment.

Job Skills

Emergency medical technicians need to possess a high degree of emotional stability in order to handle the stress of the job. They need to be able to lift heavy loads. They must have good manual dexterity, agility, and physical coordination. In addition, they should have color vision and good eyesight, although corrective lenses are acceptable.


In 2002, emergency medical technicians earned a median annual salary of $24,030. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $15,530, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $41,980. The following shows the median annual earnings in the industries employing the highest numbers of emergency medical technicians:

  • Local government — $27,440
  • General medical and surgical hospitals — $24,760
  • Other ambulatory health care services — $22,180

Training and Education

In order to become an EMT, applicants must have completed formal training and certification. Most States require registration with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). Training is offered at 4 progressive levels: EMT-Basic (EMT-1); EMT-Intermediate (EMT-2 and EMT-3); and EMT-Paramedic (EMT-4). Training at the EMT-Basic level includes coursework in emergency skills and patient assessment, along with training time in an emergency room or ambulance. In order to graduate, students must pass a written and a practical test. EMT-Intermediate training includes the option of being trained in EMT-Shock Trauma or EMT-Cardiac. Training at this level requires 35 to 55 hours of additional instruction beyond EMT-Basic and a specified amount of clinical experience. EMT-Paramedic is the most advanced level of EMT training, in which trainees learn advanced skills. The program lasts 2 years, includes extensive coursework and field experience, and results in an associate degree in applied science. EMT-Paramedics can advance to become supervisor, operations manager, administrative director, or executive director of emergency services.


In 2002, emergency medical technicians held about 179,000 jobs. Most worked in metropolitan areas.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of emergency medical technicians is expected to increase faster than the average. This will result from population growth and urbanization, as well as from an aging baby boom generation that will be much more likely to require the services of EMTs. Opportunities will be best in private ambulance services, as well as for those who have advanced certifications, such as EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic.

For more information on becoming a emergency medical technician, please see our directory of schools offering EMT Training