Paramedic and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Careers

Most medical jobs require you to stay inside of a hospital all day, but some roles offer you the chance to go out and directly help patients in the field.

The two most common jobs where you spend time directly helping patients are a paramedic and emergency medical technician (EMT). With both careers, you spend most of your time out in the field directly responding to emergency calls.

Paramedics and EMTs do not have a traditional office space. If they are not directly helping a patient, they are most frequently riding in an ambulance waiting for an emergency call.

Working as a paramedic or EMT is a rewarding job because you help patients directly and actively save lives. In many cases, whether a patient makes it to the hospital or not depends on how quickly you respond and whether you administer aid in time. While this is rewarding, it is stressful as well. To succeed as an EMT or a paramedic, you need nerves of steel. More information about how to become either an EMT or paramedic is covered below.

What is the difference between a paramedic and an EMT?

Paramedics and EMTs have similar jobs, but the two careers must not be used interchangeably, as some differences exist amongst them. EMT’s, who are sometimes referred to as EMT-Basics in the industry, refers to someone who provides immediate aid for a patient at the scene of an accident. Once the patient is treated and able to be moved, the EMT helps the patient into the ambulance and takes them to the hospital.

While driving to the hospital, the EMT remains in the back to evaluate the patient’s health. If necessary, EMTs perform emergency treatment if the patient’s condition worsens before reaching the hospital.

The exact procedures an EMT performs depends on their rank and training. A basic EMT only performs aid for trauma, cardiac services and helps treat any emergency respiratory issues. Advanced EMTs are allowed to administer medication and perform other medical acts.

Paramedics have more medical training than the average EMT. Due to their additional certification, paramedics provide more treatment on the way to the hospital than an EMT. Some additional tasks performed by paramedics include administering both oral and intravenous medicine and using most medical equipment on the ambulance, such as electrocardiograms. The exact services either an EMT or paramedic can perform change slightly depending on the state.

What are the duties of paramedics and EMTs?

Both paramedics and EMTs focused on providing immediate medical assistance with limited medical equipment. Paramedics and EMTs are sometimes referred to as first responders because they are the first ones to administer medical assistance, working to stabilize patients before the patients receive long term medical care. Paramedics and EMTs must be able to quickly assess a patient under stressful conditions.

How a paramedic or EMT responds to the scene during the first few minutes is critical, and often influences whether the patient makes it to the hospital at all. While many EMT and paramedic tasks require making split-second decisions and responding to emergencies, some administrative tasks are required as well. EMTs and paramedics must provide details about what happened at the accident and what aid is administered before the patients receive long term care at the hospital.

Paramedics and EMTs are responsible for physically driving the ambulance. Most EMTs or paramedics work with a partner, but some hospitals may send groups of three. EMTs or paramedics primarily respond to emergencies, but some situations occur where they transport patients from one medical facility to another.

Where can I work as a paramedic or an EMT?

While most paramedics and EMTs work out of a hospital, some are employed by government services. Some states employ several paramedics and EMTs to work with fire departments. Many paramedics and EMTs work with private ambulance services.

It is uncommon for paramedics or EMTs to work part-time, with most workers putting in a minimum of 40 hours a week. Most shifts last for 12 hours, but some EMTs and paramedics work in 24-hour shifts. Paramedics and EMTs have busy schedules, commonly working overnight and over the weekends. It is important to note, not all of the shift time is spent working.

On slower days, EMTs and paramedics may only treat a few patients throughout the day. This depends on the number of other paramedics and EMTs working in the area and the general number of accidents each day.

The annual salary varies greatly depending on hours worked and where the paramedic or EMT is employed. According to data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary is around $33,000 per year, as of writing. On the higher end, EMTs and paramedics earn closer to $50,000 each year.

What education is required to become a paramedic or an EMT?

EMT and paramedics share many of the same education requirements. Both need to pass a post-secondary educational program, which requires having at minimum the equivalent of a high school diploma. Most of these programs take less than a year to complete, but some of the advanced programs last two years.

It is important to note, the majority of programs only provide certification, not degrees. Paramedics typically need an associate degree in emergency medical technology, which is available through most universities and community colleges across the United States.

Both paramedics and EMTs must be certified through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). Some states may require additional certification as well. States commonly perform background checks before the examination. Students with criminal histories may not be eligible to take the certification exams.

What is the job outlook for paramedics and EMTs?

Like other health science careers, paramedics and EMTs are highly sought after. With how common accidents and emergencies are, there is no reason to suspect EMTs or paramedics will ever lose their demand. In addition, paramedics and EMTs must be on hand at all times throughout the day, further increasing the need for new employees.