Being an EMT or paramedic isn't for everybody. It's a high-stress, physically demanding job that often involves working long hours.
But for the right person, it's also exciting and rewarding. You get to save lives! Plus, the job outlook is great.
So how do you become one?
This article will walk you through what these professions are really about and let you know how you can launch an EMT or paramedic career.
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to medical emergencies.
They’re the ones you see in an ambulance racing to the site of a traffic accident or an emergency situation at someone’s home. They administer emergency medical care and transport the patient to a hospital if needed.
EMTs and paramedics might be employed by a private ambulance service, a hospital, local government, or the police or fire department.
Most work from an ambulance, but not all — there are also EMTs and paramedics involved in air and sea rescue or employed on-site at a specific location, like a resort.
Paramedic and EMT job responsibilities are very similar. Both respond to medical emergencies, provide patient care, and transport patients.
The difference is that paramedics are authorized to provide more advanced emergency care.
For example, both can do basic first aid, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), put an oxygen mask on a patient, or use an EpiPen to stop an allergic reaction.
But paramedics can also start intravenous (IV) lines and perform manual defibrillation, among other skills that aren’t covered by EMT certification. They can also administer more medications than an EMT can.
EMTs and paramedics are often employed by the same ambulance service, with the EMT working under the supervision of the paramedic.
EMTs and paramedics respond to calls for emergency assistance. At the scene of the emergency, they assess the patient’s condition and make quick decisions about how to help.
Patient care might be provided on-site or in the emergency vehicle on the way to a medical facility.
When the EMT or paramedic arrives at the hospital, they transfer the patient to a new care provider. This usually involves both verbal and written reports about the patient’s condition and the care already provided.
Most emergency medical services personnel are in it for the action, but paramedic and EMT job responsibilities include more than saving lives. They also take care of more mundane tasks, like restocking the ambulance and cleaning the medical equipment.
Being an EMT or paramedic requires knowledge of some medical procedures and techniques, which you’ll learn in your training course.
You have to know your stuff well — when you respond to an emergency, there’s no time to look up the information you forgot.
You also need to be somewhat physically fit to move quickly and lift patients.
In addition to the required medical knowledge, a paramedic or emergency medical technician needs a variety of soft skills, including:
Missing a detail like the correct dosage of a medication could be a deadly mistake in an emergency situation. This is a job for a detail-oriented person.
Emergency calls are stressful, but paramedics and EMTs have to remain calm and in control of the situation. In fact, you may be required to help panicking patients and loved ones.
You’ll need to rely on your interpersonal skills to understand your patient’s situation, communicate with them about treatment, and work closely with fellow emergency services personnel.
When you respond to a medical emergency, you need to quickly evaluate the situation and determine the best course of action. Problem-solving skills are key to the job.
All states require both EMTs and paramedics to be licensed, but the requirements vary.
To start training for either job, you’ll typically need a high school diploma or GED and a CPR certification. It’s possible to get certified without a driver’s license, but you’ll need one to be hired for most jobs.
Getting an EMT certification usually requires around 150 hours of specialized instruction, some of which may occur in a hospital or ambulance setting.
To get certified, you usually have to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam or your state’s equivalent.
Becoming a paramedic requires more training than becoming an EMT, but it pays off with a higher salary.
Prospective paramedics have to be EMT-certified before starting paramedic training. Then they complete around 1,200 hours of additional instruction and take another NREMT or state exam for licensure.
In some cases, paramedic training programs lead to a degree.
Employment for EMTs and paramedics is projected to grow 6% from 2019–2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
As an aspiring EMT or paramedic, it’s important to have a resume that showcases both your hard and soft skills. You can list them in the “skills” section of your resume or mention them in your resume summary.
Use numbers whenever possible. For example, mention the number of calls you responded to at your last job.
Not every paramedic or EMT job is the same. Read the job description carefully and use keywords from the job listing in your resume and cover letter.
Remember that emergency medical workers require outstanding attention to detail. Prove that you have that skill by carefully proofreading your application materials.
There will always be accidents, disasters, and medical emergencies, so there will always be a demand for skilled professionals who can come to the rescue.
Would you want a job that saves lives?