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How To Become an EMT? (Step By Step Guide)

how to become an emt

We all know that feeling. We are watching ER or Rescue Me, and we think to ourselves, “wow, I could do that.” And then, we start googling around for information on how to become an EMT. Well, look no further! I will tell you everything you need to know about becoming an EMT. 

From the educational requirements to the pros and cons and the necessary skills, I will cover it all. So let’s learn how you can become a lifesaver, starting with…

What is an EMT?

An EMT is a medical professional who provides emergency medical services. It stands for Emergency Medical Technician. They are the first responders in an emergency situation and are responsible for stabilizing the patient and transporting them to a hospital for further treatment.

What does an EMT do?

They provide basic life support and first aid in emergency situations and are trained to assess the situation and provide care based on the protocols set forth by their agency. They are also responsible for patient transportation and communication with hospitals.

EMT salary and outlook

The median annual EMT salary is $33,380. The job outlook for this profession is expected to grow by 6% from 2023-2029. As the population continues to grow, the need for health care and emergency response will increase as well, so now might be an exciting time to get into the sector!

How to become an EMT

There are five basic requirements to become an Emergency Medical Technician as well as being over 18 years.


You must have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some agencies may require you to have completed some college coursework as well. If you want to be competitive, you could consider doing a college course in emergency medical services.

CPR Certificate

CPR Certificate

You must be certified in CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) by a professional organization such as the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association. This course involves both classroom and hands-on training. It will take around four hours to complete and costs around $40-$60. 

In this course, you will cover the following topics:

  • Anatomy and physiology of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • The chain of survival
  • CPR techniques for adults, children, and infants
  • The use of an AED (automated external defibrillator)

First Aid training

It is also recommended that you have a first aid certification. This will give you an extra edge when applying for jobs as it shows that you are prepared to deal with a variety of medical situations. The Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer first aid courses as well. These courses usually take around eight hours to complete and cost $50-$100. 

In this course, you will cover the following topics:

  • CPR and AED use
  • Basic first aid concepts
  • First aid for choking
  • First aid for bleeding
  • First aid for burns
  • First aid for fractures

EMT Certification

EMT Certification

You must pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam to become certified. The exam consists of two parts: a cognitive (knowledge) section and a skills section. The cognitive section is computer-based and has 70-120 questions. The skills section is a practical exam where you will be asked to demonstrate your skills in scenarios such as patient assessment, bleeding control, and CPR. 

The exam fees are as follows:

  • $70 approx. for the cognitive section
  • $80 approx. for the practical skills section 
  • So around $150 for both sections

To prepare for the exam, you can take an EMT course which will cover all the material you need to know. These courses usually take around three to six months to complete and cost $1000-$2000.

State Licensing Exam

After you have completed your education and training, you will need to take a state licensing exam. This is designed to evaluate your knowledge of the material covered in your education and training. The exam usually consists of a written and practical portion but varies state by state. Once you have passed the state exam, you will be officially licensed as an EMT!

Skills needed to Succeed

Okay, but how do you know you will be suitable and enjoy working in this role even if you pass all your certifications? Well, there are three key skills that you should possess and that will help you succeed:



In this role, the individual will need to be compassionate as they will be dealing with patients who are often times in a very vulnerable state. EMTs need to be able to empathize with their patients and provide them with the care and support they need.


Communication is vital in this type of work. They will need to be able to communicate effectively with their patients, their families, and your co-workers. This includes being able to listen attentively as well as conveying information clearly.

Critical thinking

As an EMT, there will often be times when you will be working in high-pressure situations where quick thinking is essential. They need to be able to assess a situation and make decisions quickly and efficiently.

Pros and Cons of Being an EMT

Pros and Cons of Being an EMT

With every career, there will be good days and bad days. Before you commit to one, however, it is important to know exactly what you are getting yourself into.


  • You get to help people in their time of need
  • You’ll work in a fast-paced and challenging environment
  • You can apply to be a firefighter after completing your EMT training


  • You may see a lot of death and suffering
  • There will often be long work hours
  • You will need to be on call 24/7

A Day in the Life of an EMT

EMTs have one of the most important jobs out there. They are responsible for responding to emergency medical calls and providing care to patients in need. But what exactly does their day-to-day look like? Let us take a look…

The day typically starts with a briefing from the previous shift. This is where they will go over any vital information from the previous shift and discuss any new procedures or protocols. After the briefing, the EMTs will head to their assigned ambulance and do a safety check to make sure everything is in working order.

Once they are finished with the safety check, they will wait for emergency calls to come in. When they do, the unit will have to respond as quickly as possible, assess the situation, and provide care to the best of their ability.

After the patient has been taken care of, they will head back to the station to rest and wait for the next call. At the end of the day, the EMTs will debrief and discuss any essential information from the day. They will also do a safety check on the ambulance and restock any supplies that were used during the day.

Typical Working Week for an EMT

Typical Working Week for an EMT

This position typically works long and irregular hours. They are on call 24/7 and often have to work weekends and holidays. This can be challenging for those with families or other obligations. The good news is that most EMTs only work around 40 hours per week. This leaves some time for a social life, although it is important to note that you may be called into work at any time.

Career Progression for an EMT

Once you are successfully employed in this role, you can use the experience and training you undertake to apply for a variety of other positions. Some of the most common career paths include:


Paramedics are advanced EMTs who have additional training in patient assessment and care. Find out more by checking out How to Become a Paramedic.


Firefighters often start out as EMTs and then complete further education to become certified firefighters. Interested? Then it’s worth taking a look at How to Become a Firefighter.


EMTs can use their experience to apply for nursing school and become registered nurses. Find out more in our Registered Nurse Job DescriptionER Nurse Job DescriptionICU Nurse Job Description, or How to Become a Pediatric Nurse.

Police Officer

EMTs can use their training to become police officers or other law enforcement officials. Need more info? Well, everything you need is in How to Become a Police Officer.

Advanced EMTs

This position requires additional training and experience in patient care. They can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and ambulance services.

Ambulance Care Company

Ambulance Care Company

If you want to step out of the action and into an office job with more regular hours, you could become an ambulance care company administrator.

EMT Instructor

If you enjoy teaching and helping others, you could use your experience to become an EMT instructor.

Need some great products to help you on your EMT journey?

Then check out these Mini EMT/First Responder Vertical Badge Card Set – 6 Cards, or this Emergency Medical Services EMS/EMT Challenge Coin, both available online in 2023.

Or, if you need a quality trauma pack, take a look at the Lightning X Jumbo Medic First Responder EMT Trauma Bag, the Lightning X Small First Responder EMT EMS Trauma Bag, or the First Aid Kit Emergency Response Trauma Bag.

How To Become an EMT – Final Thoughts

Working as an EMT is a fantastic way to help others in their time of need. It is a challenging and rewarding careear that comes with its fair share of ups and downs. If you are thinking about pursuing this career path, be sure to do your research, learn the best way to become an EMT, and make sure it is the right career choice for you. 

The very best of luck, and thank you for caring.

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