What is an EMT? (And How to Become an EMT)

Answering all your questions about Emergency Medical Technicians.

What does EMT stand for?

Let’s start simple: EMT stands for Emergency Medical Technician.


There are 4 levels of providers in EMS (Emergency Medical Services):

  • Paramedic:

    • Formerly known as EMT-P

    • Highest level in EMS which means they have the most training

  • Advanced EMT (Advanced Emergency Medical Technician)

    • Also known as AEMT

    • This is a less common EMS level, but is often required as part of becoming a Paramedic

  • EMT (Emergency Medical Technician)

    • Formerly known as EMT-B

  • EMR (Emergency Medical Responder)

    • Formerly known as First Responder

    • This certification often functions as more of an add-on for specific careers, including law enforcement and security

What is an EMT?

An EMT is a healthcare professional that mainly focuses on providing life-saving skills at the scene of an emergency. Their knowledge is focused on providing care for immediate life-threats, such as a heart attack, poisoning, anaphylaxis, or traumatic injuries, like flail chest, hemorrhage (massive bleeding), or gunshot wounds, and then transporting the patient to more advanced care at a hospital or specialized treatment center.


You can find EMTs on ambulances, in clinics/hospitals/emergency departments, working for event services or casinos, just to name a few. Many firefighters are EMTs or even Paramedics, depending on the requirements of the agency.


Becoming an EMT can function as a career in itself or can be a stepping stone to a career in advanced healthcare by gaining patient experience. 


Our EMT students over the last 14 years have come from a variety of backgrounds:

  • Pre-med college students

  • Health sciences students

  • Those looking for a mid-life change in career

  • Those curious about medicine but not wanting to commit to a multi-year degree

  • Those staying in their existing career (such as pilot, lawyer, FBI, teacher) but wanting to enhance their medical knowledge

  • Those wanting to volunteer for their local community

  • Those planning on becoming a firefighter or Paramedic

This is why our students range in age from 16 to in their 70s! It’s never too late to learn skills that can save lives.

How much do EMTs make?

The average hourly wage across the USA for EMTs is around $18, which equates to $37,600 as an annual salary.


The highest paid EMTs make about $24/hour ($51k per year) and the lowest paid EMTs make around $14/hr ($29k per year). Many EMTs are also volunteers in their communities and aren’t paid a salary at all (though can sometimes get their training paid for or reduced by the organization they work for).


Some EMTs will go on to be Paramedics by taking extra training. Paramedics are generally paid more than EMTs, averaging $37k per year, but some full-time Paramedic positions go up to $100k per year.

How to become an EMT?

Becoming an EMT can be divided into three steps:


  1. Complete a full EMT initial course from a state-approved program

  2. Pass credentialing exams, including a psychomotor skills exam and the knowledge-based national certifying exam

  3. Apply to your state for an EMT certification or license to be able to work as an EMT


So let’s delve into those steps a little deeper!


You might be wondering how long is EMT training? An EMT initial course is around 100-200 hours depending on the state and program. EMT initial training covers the following general topic areas:


  • Anatomy & pathophysiology

  • Pharmacology

  • Patient interview & assessment

  • EMS operations


In conjunction with the knowledge needed to effectively care for patients, EMTs also learn several required skills. These skills were originally set out by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) and while most states adopted these same skills, some have slight variation in the skills and how they are tested.


The NREMT skills are:


  • BVM Ventilation of an Apneic Patient 

  • Oxygen Administration via Nonrebreather Mask

  • Bleeding & Shock Management

  • Trauma Assessment

  • Medical Assessment

  • Cardiac Arrest Management

  • Joint Immobilization

  • Long Bone Immobilization


These skills are formally tested during the psychomotor skills exam in a one-on-one setting with an examiner. Students must memorize the skill sheets and perform the skill at a level that is considered competent utilizing the appropriate equipment.

These skills are meant to be a foundational guide to performing work as an EMT, but every agency has their own protocols that they will train their EMTs in when they are hired.


At Allied Medical Training, we focus on ensuring all of our EMT students have the foundations of patient care and assessment so their skills can be easily used in any EMT job with any equipment. We also include the skills exam as part of our course at no additional cost.


EMT students also must get CPR certified at the highest level intended for healthcare providers, which is known as Basic Life Support. If you take our EMT course, we include that in the tuition fees!


Becoming an EMT requires a second exam beyond the psychomotor skills exam, and that is the NREMT cognitive exam. This is the final step in the process of becoming nationally certified (which most states require in order to apply for state licensure).


The cognitive exam consists of multiple-choice questions and is computer-based, taken either at a Pearson Vue Testing Center (nationwide) or remotely with a proctor. It focuses on all the foundational knowledge and skills an EMT should know.


After passing that exam, congrats! You’re now nationally certified as an EMT. From there, you should apply to your state with your NREMT certification. Many states have free online applications, but it varies from state to state.

How long does it take to get EMT certified?

So how long does that whole process take? Well, it really depends on the EMT initial program you choose! Some are semester-based, so your EMT course alone could take 3 months or more. Then you can’t take the NREMT exam until your program submits your approval directly to the NREMT.


With our EMT initial program, you could take as little as a month (if you have a lot of free time) or up to 9 months. We keep it flexible to fit any schedule!


Students first complete the online course component (100-150 hours, including reading the textbook), then attend Skill Week, 6 days of accelerated hands-on skills training, at our facility in Edina, MN.


After that, students must complete the final exam in the online course and once that’s done, we process NREMT approval! 


While we could go on and on about all the little details of our EMT course and getting certified, this is a good start to understanding what an EMT is and how to become an EMT!


If you want to get into all the details, just email us at [email protected] or check out our page about our EMT course here!


Ready to start your EMS journey? Register for the course here!

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Allied Medical Training, Knowledge Saves Lives, and the AMT icon are registered trademarks of Allied Medical Training, LLC.