An emergency medical technician (EMT) provides pre-hospital emergency care. Colleges and universities, community colleges, technical or trade schools, hospitals and emergency medical services (EMS) academies provide EMT training programs. Before you apply to any one of these institutions, look up your state's EMT certification requirements.
National EMT Certification Standards
Each state has its own EMT certification requirements but they have to at least fulfill the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) basic requirements. Earning your certification generally means completing a training program and on-site training hours followed by a written and practical exam. Most states accept the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam to qualify for certification but still require you to pass their own practical exam.
Levels of EMT Certification
EMT classes as well as EMT professionals are differentiated on a tiered system. Before finding where to take your class you will need to decide what kind of class you want or need to take. Each tier of EMT certification allows for different levels of care that varies from state to state but generally adheres to the following guidelines.
The lowest tier is EMT-Basic (EMT-B), whose training includes patient assessment and non-invasive procedures like CPR, splinting, controlling bleeding and respiratory management.
EMT-Intermediate 1985 (EMT-I/85) training allows for invasive procedures such as administering intravenous fluids, defibrillation and advanced airway management. EMT-Intermediate 1999 (EMT-I/99) is one tier up. Skills include interpreting cardiac rhythms, an expanded allotment of administrable drugs, needle chest decompression and endotracheal intubation.
EMT-Paramedic (EMT-P) is the highest pre-hospital health care status besides doctor. EMT-Ps can perform fluid resuscitation and administer a wider range of drugs.
Choosing an EMT Training Program
According to the American Medical Association, the minimum required training hours for each tier are generally 110 hours for EMT-B, 200 to 400 for EMT-I and 1,000 or more hours for EMT-P. EMT programs usually take two to six months but many EMT-P certification programs are two-year associate degree programs. There are also accelerated EMT-B programs that can be completed in two to four weeks.
If you are training to become a firefighter or police officer and you are required to take an EMT course, or you would like to be a volunteer EMT, you may want to choose the EMT-B program because it will take less time and money to complete. For these type of classes, your best bet is an EMS academy, hospital or community college.
Accelerated programs will require you to take classes five days a week for eight to 12 hours a day and these courses may not include clinical rotations which could impact the quality of your education.
If you want to be a career EMT and becoming a paramedic is your end goal, there are all-in-one EMT-P programs that train you from EMT-B to EMT-P. Make sure you look up your state's exact profile of each level of EMTs. In some states there is very little difference between EMT-I and EMT-P and you won't have to train as long, but also consider that some states are phasing out EMT-I in favor of only having EMT-B and EMT-P.
You may want to attend a college or university to obtain an EMT-P degree. Drexel University in Philadelphia; Drury University in Spjringfield, Mo.; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus have the best EMT training programs in the country, according to Education-Portal.com.
EMT Courses That Meet State Requirements
Each state has its own EMS department, agency or office and almost all of them will have a website that provides EMT certification requirements and a list of accredited EMT training programs.
NREMT's website has a description of every state's certification requirements and links to state EMS department pages. Jems.com also updates a list every year of all the accredited EMT training programs in the country by state.
EMTs must re-certify about once every two years, according to the Department of Labor.