Training and Qualification for EMS Careers

What credentials are required to become an EMT/Paramedic?

Generally, a high school diploma is usually required to enter a formal emergency medical technician training program. Workers must complete a formal training and certification process.

How many levels of training are there to become certified?

Training is offered at progressive levels: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and EMT-Paramedic.

The EMT-Basic level coursework emphasizes emergency skills, such as managing respiratory, trauma, cardiac emergencies, and patient assessment. Formal courses are often combined with time in an emergency room or ambulance. The training provides instruction and practice in dealing with bleeding, fractures, airway obstruction, cardiac arrest, and emergency childbirth. Students learn how to use common emergency equipment, such as backboards, suction devices, splints, oxygen delivery systems, and stretchers. Graduates of approved EMT-Basic training programs must pass a written and practical examination administered by the state certifying agency or the NREMT.

The EMT-Intermediate level training requirements vary by state. The nationally defined levels (EMT-Intermediate 1985 and EMT-Intermediate 1999) typically require 30 to 350 hours of training based on scope of practice. Students learn advanced skills such the use of advanced airway devices, intravenous fluids, and some medications.

The most advanced level of training is EMT-Paramedic. At this level, students receive training in anatomy and physiology as well as advanced medical skills. Training is offered at Life Support Training Institute, community colleges and technical schools. This education prepares graduates to take the NREMT examination and become certified as a Paramedic. Extensive related coursework and clinical and field experience is required. Refresher courses and continuing education are available for EMTs and paramedics at all levels.


All 50 states require certification for each of the EMT levels. In most states and the District of Columbia registration with the NREMT is required at some or all levels of certification. Other states administer their own certification examination or provide the option of taking either the NREMT or state examination. To maintain certification, EMTs and paramedics must recertify, usually every 2 years. Generally, they must be working as an EMT or paramedic and meet a continuing education requirement.

Other Qualifications

EMTs and paramedics should be emotionally stable, have good dexterity, agility, and physical coordination, and be able to lift and carry heavy loads. They also need good eyesight (corrective lenses may be used) with accurate color vision.


Paramedics can become supervisors, operations managers, administrative directors, or executive directors of emergency services. Some EMTs and paramedics become instructors, dispatchers, or physician assistants; others move into sales or marketing of emergency medical equipment. A number of people become EMTs and paramedics to test their interest in health care before training as registered nurses, physicians, or other health workers.