As of November 23, 2022, the average EMT salary in the United States is $36,160, with a standard range of $32,300 to $41,010. Salary ranges can vary significantly depending on many factors, like:

  • The number of years spent in the field
  • Additional skills
  • Certifications
  • Education.

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are the first people on the scene when a medical emergency occurs. They care for sick and injured people who need quick reactions. You may wonder what it’s like to have such an exciting and fast-paced position, especially if you dream of becoming an EMT.

Know from the start that even though some routine tasks are similar, no two days are identical for an EMT. Keep reading to find out more about this thrilling career.

What EMTs do

EMTs working on ambulances serve in two roles: 911 and interfacility transport (IFT). The first is the more well-known field, whereas IFT is known for non-emergency transfers between healthcare facilities and homes for patients requiring medical monitoring on the way (vitals management, special positioning, oxygen, fluids).

EMTs who work in the 911 system are classified as either advanced life support (ALS) or basic life support (BLS). They respond to 911 calls, but how life-threatening they are and how much intervention is needed depends on the level of support provided by the ambulance. An ALS bus has an advanced care provider, like a paramedic, whereas two EMTs staff a BLS bus.

If you want to become an EMT, know that BLS ambulances are deployed to lower-acuity calls. In contrast, ALS ambulances are assigned to gunshot wounds, cardiac arrests, and similar high-acuity calls.

An EMT’s interaction with other health professional workers

Police and fire are often dispatched with EMS, and based on the staffing and timing of the dispatch/unit availability; they usually arrive on the scene first. Firefighters frequently conduct the first examination and provide life-saving interventions in urban areas before EMTs arrive to take over and transport the victim/s.

The EMT’s duty at the emergency department is to give a comprehensive report of the patient’s present condition and the circumstances of the incident and to assist with physically transporting the victim to the hospital bed.  

As an EMT, you’ll learn a lot from working with the hospital staff and keeping care together for the patient and vice versa.

Being in an EMT’s shoes

It is an emotionally and physically demanding job, to start with. However, it’s an equally beautiful one. Nowhere else will you have the same opportunities and obligations to meet people where they need you and help them in tangible ways. You never know what the day may bring, and you meet incredible people.

Depending on where you practice, your scope of practice will vary. You can, for example, serve the following purposes:

  • Provide basic physical assessments and take vitals
  • Administer aspirin, Narcan, epinephrine
  • Insert basic airway devices
  • Bandage wounds
  • Perform CPR.

This type of job frequently necessitates split-second decisions and the ability to remain calm under pressure. Developing critical thinking abilities will serve you well in any career path.

If you’re a compassionate yet calm and positive person, do EMT basic training and make the world a better place by giving life support and treatment to people in need.

How to become an EMT

First things first, you enroll in an EMT course. You can find one in many private companies, community colleges, or even some fire departments. The duration of the training varies: some organizations offer accelerated programs running for two weeks, while others take a few months.  

The cost varies based on where you take the course. Once you’ve finished it and passed the various tests (including a practical and a written component), you proceed with the state/national registry exams.

The practical component of an EMT course involves:

  • Immobilizing the spine of the trauma patient
  • Conducting assessments for medical and trauma patients
  • Inserting basic airway devices
  • Demonstrating proper CPR and ventilation
  • Other EMT-B scope techniques.

In some states, like New York, passing the practical scenarios at the state/national levels in the course is enough to meet the state/national requirements.

Paid vs. Volunteer

Remember that the types of calls you receive may vary depending on your position (paid versus volunteer). Depending on the dispatch system and protocols in your country or state, some paid jobs in the private sector only receive 911 calls, while others only make IFT calls.

Volunteer vs. paid fire department EMT jobs may also differ. Most college-run EMS services only respond to campus calls and shortly after arrival. Local EMS services assume on-site care responsibilities.

When working full-time, the time commitment differs. You can work with fire and police, for example. You can also work 12 hours or half-half, meaning three days on and four off, then four days on and three out.

Remember that your 911 calls won’t be “Night watch”-Esque very often. You won’t need to kick through windshields and dash through traffic. Generally, EMS employment involves situations that are medically generic, basic, and straightforward but frightening to the caller. However, they deserve the same compassion, care, and attention to detail as any other.

Extra info!

If you pursue such a career, prioritize your mental health because you will be exposed to various situations. Remember why you chose to work as an EMT in the first place.

It is fantastic and fulfilling work, offering you job stability. Did you know that the demand for EMTs is expected to rise by 11% from 2020 to 2030? Other benefits this career will offer you are:

  • Valuable skills to learn. Working as an emergency responder will demand you to think fast and critically to respond to various emergencies like gunshot wounds, heart attacks, and vehicle accidents.
  • Variety in work. As an EMT, one thing’s for sure: you will never be stuck in a rut. Boredom is off the table, and you deal with people in different situations every day, which can make your work stimulating.
  • Other career advancement opportunities. Once you gain experience, you can look for other career opportunities, like EMT-Advanced or EMT-Paramedic.