How to Land the Best EMT or Paramedic Jobs

Expert Stories



Are you interested in medicine and helping people during an emergency, but medical school isn’t the right fit? There is an entire industry of emergency medical services (EMS) jobs that you could consider, from an emergency medical technician (EMT) to a paramedic. Not only would these jobs give you an adrenaline rush, but you also get to help your community.

So, what steps do you need to take to get there, and how intense is the process?

4 Steps to Getting an EMT Job:

  1. Complete a State-Approved EMT Course
  2. CPR-BLS Certification
  3. Pass the National Registry Cognitive Exam
  4. Pass the State-Approved Psychomotor Exam

Want to go one step further? Here are the 8 steps to become a paramedic.

8 Steps to Getting a Paramedic Job:

  1. Complete a State-Approved EMT Course
  2. CPR-BLS Certification
  3. Pass the National Registry Cognitive Exam
  4. Pass the State-Approved Psychomotor Exam
  5. Obtain a National EMT Certification or Higher
  6. Complete a CAAHELP-accredited Paramedic Program
  7. Pass the National Registry Paramedic Cognitive Exam
  8. Pass the National Registry Psychomotor Exam

What Does a First Responder Do?

Basic duties of first responders, no matter your experience, include responding to emergency calls, providing life-saving interventions to critically ill and injured, and transporting patients to medical facilities. An easy distinction between EMTs and paramedics is that EMTs don’t provide care that involves breaking the skin (aside from delivering life-saving allergy medication). They can provide oxygen, glucose for diabetics, or nitroglycerin for high blood pressure, but only paramedics are allowed to intubate patients, provide IV fluid, etc.

Proper documentation is essential for EMTs and paramedics on the job. After a call, it is critical to document the actions of the team as well as the behavior and wishes of the patient. Taking careful inventory of ambulance supplies is also important to ensure there is never a time when equipment is needed but not available in an emergency.

Salary: Median salary for EMTs is $34,000, and $42,500 for paramedics.

Hours: Most work full-time, though due to the nature of the work, shifts around the clock are often available and need to be filled. First shift typically aligns with business hours, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Second shift runs from around 4 p.m. to midnight, and third shift is usually from midnight to 8 a.m. Those working third shift often receive higher pay. Some shifts may last 12-24 hours, but then you can have a few days off if you aren’t interested in working overtime.

Pros: Fairly quick and inexpensive education and training. The job market is steady across the country, and job skills are essentially the same in every state. Every day is different, which can be exciting.

Cons: EMTs and paramedics work long hours, and scheduling can include a grueling 24 hours of work at a time. The mental strain of medical emergencies can be difficult, as well as dealing with life or death judgment calls in the heat of the moment.

How to get a paramedic or EMT job.

What is the Difference Between Paramedics and EMTs?

The difference between a paramedic and EMT medic can be fairly confusing at first, as they are both first responders who provide emergency care, and both show up in an ambulance when you call 911 for help. Becoming an EMT first is the easiest and quickest way to get started, but from there you can opt to continue your education to reach the next level. You need to have the EMT education completed before pursuing paramedic training. Additionally, many programs require paramedics to have work experience as an EMT, but that’s not always the case. It’s good to see what your local paramedic programs expect.

All first responders focus on life support interventions. This includes administering CPR, applying tourniquets and treating severe wounds. They can also provide oxygen via face mask or nasal cannula and administer some medications such as epinephrine for an anaphylactic allergy.

Paramedics can provide more advanced services, such as starting an IV or intubating a patient for invasive respiratory procedures using airway devices. Because of this, paramedics require more education and training to ensure they are capable of providing critical support to the sick and injured. EMT certification usually requires 120-150 hours of training. Paramedic education programs typically last an additional 6-12 months and build on what was learned through EMT education.

Another key difference between an EMT and paramedic is the salary. While the median pay for EMTs is around $34,000 nationally, paramedics can expect to earn a salary closer to $42,500. After a few years of experience, many paramedics make up to $55,000 each year.

Steps to Landing These Types of Jobs

Both prospective EMTs and paramedics must be at least 18-years-old and have a high school diploma or GED. From there, most people start with EMT training, and later continue down the paramedic track. In addition to the education and certification requirements, there are some less obvious EMT skills needed for pre-hospital care jobs like these. For example, a valid driver’s license and no criminal history are important, especially if you are working in a civil service position for city or county government.

Additionally, good communication and interpersonal skills are key, as you will be interacting with different types of people every day. You also may be paired with a partner who communicates and problem solves differently than you,  so it’s important that you have the patience and understanding to work well together. All job opportunities require you to have education completed and be certified and/or licensed at the appropriate level, so before applying to any jobs, here are the main steps to complete, in detail:

4 Steps to Getting EMT Jobs
Working as an EMT while you are training to be a paramedic is a great way to satisfy that requirement and make sure it’s the right career path for you, while you finish the more rigorous program.

  1. Complete a State-Approved EMT Course
    Completion and passing of a state-approved EMT course is required. The course must meet or exceed the National Emergency Medical Services Education Standards for the EMT. To be eligible for a job, you must have completed this course within the past 2 years.
  1. CPR-BLS Certification
    EMT applicants must have obtained a CPR-BLS certification for “healthcare provider.” This is an advanced level of CPR training, and the certificate is valid for two years. The Red Cross has an equivalent certification called “CPR for the Professional Rescuer and Healthcare Providers.”
  1. Pass the National Registry Cognitive Exam
    The next step to completing the EMT requirements is to pass the National Registry Cognitive Exam. You can apply through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) and pay the application fee of $80. This written exam covers a full spectrum of EMS services, including airway, respiration and ventilation, resuscitation, trauma, medical, obstetrics/gynecology and EMS operations.
  1. Pass the State-Approved Psychomotor Exam
    The final step for EMT applicants is the successful completion of a state-approved Psychomotor Examination. You can register for the test through your state’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) office. Skills tested include an assessment of a trauma and medical patient, cardiac arrest management, bag-valve-mask ventilation, spinal immobilization, bone fracture and joint immobilization, traction splinting, bleeding control and mouth-to-mouth ventilation. Some states only accept examinations that were taken in their state. If you plan to relocate, be sure to verify that your certifications will be accepted in a different state.

Additional Steps to be a Paramedic
Paramedics require advanced training and certifications. In addition to the first four steps required for EMTs, paramedics must also complete the following:

  1. Obtain a National EMT Certification or Higher
    Paramedic applicants must have a current National EMT Certification or state license at the basic or advanced EMT level. You should also have accrued at least 150 education hours at the EMT-Basic level.
  1. Complete a CAAHELP-Accredited Paramedic Program
    To be eligible for a job as a paramedic, you must successfully complete a paramedic program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The National Registry Board of Directors has authorized CAAHEP to be the only National EMS Accreditation agency. This certification is valid for two years.
  1. Pass the National Registry Paramedic Cognitive Exam
    The next step is the successful completion of the National Registry Paramedic cognitive exam. You can apply through NREMT and pay a $125 application fee. This advanced exam will cover the complete spectrum of EMS care including airway, respiration and ventilation, cardiology, resuscitation, trauma, medical, obstetrics/gynecology and EMS operations.
  1. Pass the National Registry Psychomotor Exam
    The final requirement for paramedic trainees is the successful completion of the National Registry Psychomotor exam. Six advanced skills tested include patient assessment in trauma, dynamic cardiology, static cardiology, oral station Case A, oral station Case B and an integrated out-of-hospital scenario.

How to get a EMT or paramedic job

First Responder Professional Associations and Organizations

There are several professional organizations that every EMT and paramedic should join. By becoming a member of these associations, you can learn a great deal from other members and make long-lasting connections with industry leaders, hiring managers and future employers. Not only will this help you land your first job, but the network of colleagues you establish will help you advance your career and position you as an expert in your field.

National Association of Emergency Medication Technicians (NAEMT)
NAEMT has several levels of membership, including those for students and retirees, so there are great options for a diverse crowd. Active members enjoy discounts on education and training from a range of courses, refinancing on student loans, as well as discounts on apparel, gear and electronics. They also offer active members free newsletters and access to EMS resources, as well as deals on travel and entertainment.

International Association of EMTs & Paramedics (IAEP)
IAEP is an EMT/Paramedic union, with 10,000 members working to advocate for their workforce. They provide local autonomy but national representation and resources, including access to experienced EMS professionals, attorneys and contract negotiators. Joining IAEP can provide increased wages and improved working conditions, as well as the clout of multiple members advocating for a better work environment.

National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT)
NREMT serves as the organization responsible for the Nation’s Emergency Medical Services Certification. Their mission is protecting the public and advancing the EMS profession by providing a standard process to assess the knowledge and physical skills required across states and localities. Becoming certified through NREMT allows ease of securing job opportunities, as 46 states use their certification as a basis for licensure.

As a member of this community of experts, you can partner with companies and leading brands who appreciate your expertise and are eager to work with you. As a brand ambassador, you’ll learn about exciting new products to use on the job. You can also gain access to discounts and exclusive content while sharing your expert recommendations and knowledge with your colleagues.

Where to Find EMT and Paramedic Jobs

For the most part, the licensing for first responders is done nationally, which allows you to easily work in different states. Some testing may be state-specific, so be sure to verify the requirements of the state(s) where you would like to work.

To start looking for available jobs locally, check your city or county’s ambulance service, or your local fire departments that hire firefighter EMTs and paramedics. Children’s camps often need a nurse or EMT to work part-time or seasonally, and they provide a good opportunity to get some on-the-ground experience after becoming certified.

Alternatively, there are a few places that collect first responder jobs nationally, so they are good sites to check if you’re open to various locations.

  • The NREMT job board allows you to search for a position by type, experience or location. You can create an account and store your resume and qualifications, making the application process easier and more streamlined.
  • EMSWORLD hosts a curation of job opportunities nationwide. You can also search through their company directly to find specific businesses.
  • The National Association of EMS Officials (NASEMSO) features a national job board. Their members are state officials, so most jobs are geared toward higher positions at the state level. These opportunities can give you an idea of the potential for this career path if you are interested in administrative or management side of the industry.
  • The National Association of EMS Educators also has a wide variety of jobs that involve EMS skills and training from around the country. These employment positions are even broader than typical job boards and include jobs such as fire science faculty, 911 dispatch supervisor and public safety specialists.

EMT and Paramedic Gear

EMTs and paramedics use a broad range of tools and equipment. When your job is to save lives and provide aid in an emergency, it’s important to have the right gear. First responders realize they could be called to action at any time and keep many items with them at home or in their car, such as:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, face shields
  • Portable oxygen equipment, oxygen masks
  • Laryngoscopes
  • Cardboard splints
  • IV pressure infusers by BD
  • SSCOR Airway suction units
  • First aid surgical set (shears, tweezers, alcohol wipes, pen light)
  • Blood pressure cuff, such as MABIS CALIBER or LINE2design, two of the highest rated for 2019
  • Stethoscope
  • Innovo Pulse oximeter
  • Decontamination wipes such as Firewipes

Landing a Job as an EMT or Paramedic

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for EMTs and paramedics is quite good, projected to grow by 23% from 2012 to 2022 — which is much faster than many occupations. The states experiencing the most growth include Virginia, Kentucky, Utah, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida and a handful of others. With this in mind, it’s a great time to explore these career options. In addition to the necessary certificates, licensing and hard work required, it’s important to remember these jobs also demand compassion. You are often interacting with people on what may be the worst day of their lives, so maintaining your physical strength and stamina — and a positive, caring attitude — are all critical job skills.

The training for these roles is often less expensive and less time-consuming than a bachelor’s degree or other advanced degrees. The highest level of education required (before starting EMT certification) is a high school diploma. You can do a search for “EMT classes near me” to see what your options are in terms of timing, cost and access to programs and certification near you.

You can also talk to the EMTs and paramedics at your local fire department. Some may even let you shadow them to get a sense of the experience. You can also register with ExpertVoice to join a community with thousands of other first responders and emergency response professionals. You’ll have the opportunity to work with the leading brands that carry and manufacture the type of equipment you will use on a daily basis. You can learn from brands about the latest gear and become an expert on the ground for others in your industry. Sign up today!

If an EMT or Paramedic career isn’t what you’re looking for right now, check out these other first responder career paths that may be a better fit for you:

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