EMT Training - Become an Emergency Medical Technician

EMT Program

 EMT Program – EMT Training

Anyone interested in beginning a career as an Emergency Medical Technician will need to enter an EMT program. There are many different Emergency Medical Technician programs you can enroll in, including accelerated programs which can be completed in only a few weeks. I completed my EMT program by attending Community College, but EMT courses can also be completed through technical institutes, online/hybrid courses and other special programs.



EMT Definition


The term EMT stands for Emergency Medical Technician. An EMT definition can include many things but in general, it is a medical professional who is trained and certified to provide basic life support (BLS), which includes Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), before and during transport to a facility.


For example, the Emergency Medical Technician is capable of providing immediate medical care to a patient after a car accident, while transporting the patient to a hospital in order to provide them with a higher level of care. There are different levels of EMT training which are discussed below.


EMT Courses


Any EMT program consists of both classroom curriculum and laboratory skills requirements that students must become proficient in. This means even online EMT courses require students to attend classes on-campus at some point for basic emergency skills training.


EMT training requires hands on practice to become familiar with basic life support (BLS) skills. An EMT requirement is to be familiar with emergency medical equipment before needing to use it during a medical crisis to assist patients.


EMT school includes hands on EMT training with emergency medical equipment like bag valve masks, portable suction equipment, nasal cannulas, and cervical collars.


EMT Training CPR Student With Manikin


If you’re considering a career as an Emergency Medical Technician, you can feel confident that the schooling will prepare you with the skills and knowledge you need to confidently work as an EMT.


There are three different levels of EMT certification and they each have their own EMT training program with specific requirements.


Some states have expanded the Emergency Medical Technician scope of practice with an added Critical Care Paramedic Program which trains paramedics and is often used by flight ambulances.


– Advanced (AEMT)
– Paramedic (EMTP)


These certification levels can be confusing so they will be discussed more in detail with an explanation of the best place to start EMT training in order to become an Emergency Medical Technician.


Below you will find an overview of the requirements for each EMT Program along with information about them. (EMT pay information can be found on our EMT Salary page.)

Quick Tip:
 Are you just beginning a career and don’t know where to start? Begin by looking into Basic EMT Training to become an EMT B. This allows you to get certified and work on ambulances or any other jobs an EMT B is qualified for.


EMT Requirements


Emergency Medical Technicians provide an important role in health care services by creating a critical link between the health care system and emergency scenes.


They are often a patient’s first step into the emergency medical services (EMS) system, and must be able to assess patients on scene and began providing emergent care in the field. Patients experiencing a medical crisis look to these first responders for assistance during challenging pre-hospital situations.


Patients are often in need of critical and emergency care and the Emergency Medical Technician on scene must have the knowledge and skills to determine the most effective pre-hospital care.


Whether a patient is stable or in need of emergency care, the Emergency Medical Technician will assess, treat and safely transport patients to the next level of care in the EMS system.


These professionals should be able to communicate well to other members of the healthcare team and need to give a verbal report whenever transporting or transferring a patient within the EMS system.


One thing that makes working as an EMT challenging and exciting is that interventions for life threatening emergencies must be done with the limited and basic equipment found on the ambulance.


How do you learn the basic life support (BLS) skills and knowledge base needed to perform well as an Emergency Medical Technician?


It may sound intimidating, but the EMT curriculum is easy to learn and the laboratory skills for an EMT B are limited in scope, which means you can be learn them and become proficient in a short time.


National Registry Paramedic Cartoon Patient Care

Certification is done on a state by state basis, but EMT standards are governed at the National level. There is detailed information about certification on our EMT Certification page.


The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) is a great resource for anyone looking for state EMT requirements.


Requirements for EMT Program


Many of these EMT requirements don’t need to be completed until after you are enrolled in the EMT course and attend about 8 weeks of an EMT B course. 


They will need to be done before students can begin ambulance ride-alongs or hospital clinical experiences. The list can be intimidating for anyone with financial limitations – don’t get discouraged!


• Candidate must be 18 years of age or older.


• Candidate must have a valid drivers license.


• Applicant must have a current Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Card, the CPR Certification must be for Basic Life Support (BLS) for a healthcare provider. It can be from a healthcare provider in your state. I got my CPR-BLS “Healthcare Provider” card at my local Red Cross Office on a Saturday afternoon.


• A FBI and DOJ Background Check will be done at some point in the certification process. (This probably won’t be done until after you complete your EMT program and apply for certification.) The background check may vary by state. For example, California EMT certification uses Live Scan fingerprinting for the background check which costs the student about $65 total. (Fees to process information: DOJ charges $32, FBI charges $20, Live Scan charges between $10-$20).


• Applicant should have a High school diploma or GED in most states.


• Candidate needs to be physically fit and should be able to lift around 125 pounds – FYI this means lifting patients on backboards, stretchers, etc. and using the correct technique improves your ability to lift and the amount of weight you can lift. For example you will be able lift a heavier patient by lifting with your legs and the stretcher locks so you can lift in stages.


Don’t be discouraged if you are short, a female, or not a muscular person! If you can kneel, reach, crouch, bend, etc. and you are willing to practice lifting technique – you can easily become a great EMT.


I was frequently partnered with another female on the ambulance and we were both under 5’6” tall and each weighed less than 150 pounds. We were always able to transport our patients safely and you can too.


• Applicant should be able to write patient care reports and read and interpret all required documentation. (You will learn about medical terminology and physiology in your EMT program.)


• At some point before being exposed to real life patients, the student will need to show proof that certain vaccinations are up to date.


This can usually be done by showing written proof of childhood vaccinations. I was able to use a very small blue book from my childhood. My mom wrote the vaccine names on the left side and there was an official looking stamp on the right side from the doctor. However, I was missing my last MMR vaccine injection in the book so that vaccine was incomplete.


What do you do if you have no paperwork or aren’t sure about your vaccine status? They also accept titers (you get blood drawn and it’s tested to see if your still immune to the diseases). If you are still immune you just bring this paperwork as proof and your done.


EMT Programs Vaccine SyringeIf your immunity has expired (like mine did) you will need to get vaccinated. Also, if you don’t have health insurance you can pay one time fees, or there are a couple of options discussed below for getting temporary insurance to help you meet these EMT program requirements.


What vaccinations must be up to date?


→ Td/Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis)
MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)
→ Varicella (Chicken Pox) – Or A documented history of Chicken pox.
→ Hepatitis B and Influenza (new each year)


Some EMT schools may allow a student to decline the Hep B and Influenza vaccines.


Now we get to a requirement many sites don’t mention. Most EMT programs require proof of Health Insurance after enrollment, before you can have contact with patients. This is because you are exposed to dangerous situations and risks of disease during the ambulance and hospital clinical experiences.


If you have health insurance this is no big deal, but for anyone who is uninsured this can seem like a huge obstacle. However, there are some great options to get low-cost health insurance (which will help you meet the vaccination requirements above too) and stay on the path to becoming an EMT.


EMT Program Ambulance color background

First, an EMT program may offer their students low-cost solutions to get temporary health insurance while enrolled in their courses.


Second, attending EMT school at a community college is a great way to get your EMT training with the support provided by a college campus.


This is how I was able to become and Emergency Medical Technician even though I was struggling financially. It’s a bit slower paced, but it’s a good option for anyone who has less money and more time.


Many community colleges offer Student Health Insurance at heavily discounted rates or can help students apply for the most affordable health insurance available to them.


Another option is to apply for financial aid at the community college and put that money towards your temporary health insurance costs. You should still be able to work full-time if you attend EMT school at a community college which makes this a good option.


Once you decide on a college, a financial aid councilor will be able to walk you through the process of applying for state and federal financial aid. Another option for financial assistance is grants or scholarships, which is discussed more below.


All of the community college benefits are also available at state schools and Universities, except at a higher cost. However, if you are currently attending college check and see if your school offers an Emergency Medical Technician class. If so, this is a great way to get your EMT-B career started.



EMT Training (EMT-B)


How long does it take to become an EMT?  EMT training varies by state and locality. How Long is EMT School Figure with ClockThis means that every state has different EMT program courses which are all based on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) curriculum.


The NHTSA does require that every EMT program presents a 110 hour EMT training program that contains specific required information. However, this leaves a lot flexibility for states.


For example, California schools require every approved EMT program to include at least 170 hours of training which is much longer than the national requirements.


These EMT training hours will include 146 Academic and Skill hours and 24 hours of Clinical Training (The EMT program will usually require 12 hours of Hospital Clinical Experience and 12 hours of Ambulance Ride Along Experience).


Now that you know how long the EMT training curriculum is, let’s ask the question how long is EMT school? EMT-B school can vary in length depending on the type of EMT program you choose.


There are few different types of Emergency Medical Technician Basic courses available:


Public EMT Schools

This category of Emergency Medical Technician school can include community colleges, state schools, and public University programs and has many benefits for anyone interested in a career in emergency services.


One advantage is that public schools are non-profit organizations and any class units you take at these schools will qualify for transfer to other public schools. This means you can apply your Emergency Medical Service (EMS) credits towards an Associates or Bachelor’s Degree later on.


Another big advantage of these EMT schools is that you pay per unit rather getting charged a set rate for the EMT program as a whole.


The program I went through to get my EMT training was at Orange Coast Community College (OCC) in California so I will use that as my example. OCC offers their EMT-B program under the Emergency Medical Services heading.


EMT School Classroom
It’s easy to tell this is the correct class schedule for an Emergency Medical Technician Basic (EMT-B) because the class description states:


“completion of the EMS course qualifies the student to sit for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians’ certifying examination, and therefore obtain EMS certification in any California County.”

A EMT training program that qualifies you to sit for the NREMT exam is what you’re looking for to become certified as an Emergency Medical Technician in your state.


The required classes for the OCC program total 12 units and are listed as:


– Emergency Medical Services EMS which is a 10 unit class
– Emergency Medical Services lab EMS which is a 1 unit class
– EMS Clinical Internship EMS which is a 1 unit class


There are also a couple recommended classes to help students succeed, but these are not required. They are:


– Medical Terminology which is a 3 unit class
– Anatomy-Physiology which is a 4 unit class
– Interpersonal Communication which is a 3 unit class


(I think the Medical Terminology class is a great class to take, but the Anatomy Physiology class gets more in-depth than is needed for a Basic Emergency Medical Technician: EMT-B.)


Each unit at a community college in California costs $46 (this varies by state) which is a total cost of $552 for the 12 required units or $1012 if you choose to take all three of the recommended classes. These units make up the majority of your EMT education cost.


This is good news because a great thing about public schools is they offer Financial Aid for anyone who qualifies.


In California the cost of each unit can be removed for anyone who qualifies for the BOG Fee Waiver which is income based and takes family size into consideration. The Fee Waiver requires you maintain good grades to stay eligible, but it removes the majority of costs related to EMT school.


Financial aid benefits are different for each state, but you can apply for both federal (FAFSA) and state financial aid.


Once you decide which school you’d like to go to you can go to their financial aid office and talk to a financial aid councilor who will walk you through which programs to apply for.


There is no penalty for applying for aid, so if finances are a struggle I recommend going to the Federal student aid site (FAFSA) and filling out an application if you’re enrolling in an EMT school.


There are also grants and scholarships available as other sources of financial aid, or even a student loan is possible, but those need to be paid back unlike the other sources of financial aid.


I recommend finding financial aid resources through whichever college you decide to attend because there are many financial aid scams online. For example, FAFSA is free to fill out, so anyone charging money to do it is a scam.


A disadvantage of a public EMT program is they tend to take an entire semester to finish and are only offered with each Spring, Fall and Summer semester.


For example, the Spring semester will be a 16 week EMT training program that begins in January and ends in May. If you want a quicker EMT program the Summer semester is usually 10 weeks long going from May to August.


I highly recommend getting your EMT education at a public institution if you need financial help and can qualify for one of the many financial aid opportunities available. This is also a good option if you’re not in a rush and plan to use the units towards an Associates or Bachelors degree later.


I wasn’t planning on it, but my Emergency Medical Services class units were helpful later when I went back to school and joined a Registered Nursing Program.


Private EMT Schools


Private institution schools include many of the for-profit EMT training programs available. This includes the accelerated, online hybrid, and boot camp EMT training programs along with Emergency Medical Technician courses that are set for a normal length and pace.


A for-profit EMT program will usually cost more than a public school EMT program, but often the price includes things like a blood pressure cuff, uniform, or other needed medical equipment.


These Emergency Medical Technician courses also tend to come with added convenience and support to help guide the student, who is also a customer. A private school EMT-B course also tends to offer more flexibility in scheduling than a public institution.


For example, a private course in New York can cost around $1250 for the complete EMT program which can vary from around 3-6 months in length depending on which days and hours you want to attend classes.


Often private schools will offer many scheduling options including twice a week, daytime, evenings or even weekend classes.


These regular, non accelerated programs are not high intensity and usually don’t require all day classes so they are good for anyone who wants to get their EMT license at a slow pace with time to practice basic skills.


They are also great options for anyone who will be working full-time while getting their EMT education and want more class options than public courses provide.


Another benefit often included with the added cost of private EMT schools is they often offer help with preparing for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technician (NREMT) Exam.


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