To become an emergency medical technician (EMT), one must complete an EMT certification program. The program includes extensive coursework, practical, hands-on training, and standard examinations. In the United States, EMT certification is administered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), though some states have additional certification requirements.
EMT training programs are offered at many universities, technical schools, hospitals, and community colleges. In addition, there are several fully-accredited online EMT certification programs, which allow working men and women to complete coursework in their free time. Information about local and Internet-based training programs can be found online, or by contacting a state's Emergency Medical Services Office.
There are three levels of EMT certification: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and EMT-Paramedic. Each level requires a progressively longer and more difficult training regimen to become certified. In order to enroll in any training program, a candidate must be at least 18 years of age and possess a high school diploma or GED.
Certification at the EMT-Basic level involves the completion of around 100 hours of classwork, as well as several hours riding along in an ambulance or observing in an emergency room. EMT-Basic trainees learn how to perform a variety of emergency procedures, such as assessing patients, controlling blood loss, and using emergency equipment. Upon completion of coursework and practical training, trainees must pass both a written and a practical exam offered by the NREMT to obtain certification.
The EMT-Intermediate level requires trainees complete at least 200 hours of training, split between classroom work and hands-on training. EMT-intermediate trainees learn how to administer intravenous fluids and provide emergency medication to patients. Again, certification depends on passing NREMT exams after the training course is completed.
An EMT-Paramedic must obtain a two-year associate's degree and spend several hundred hours in emergency rooms and ambulances. Trainees enroll in specialized emergency procedure classes as well as general courses in anatomy, physiology, and biology. After graduation, paramedics must pass rigorous NREMT written and practical exams. In some states, the standard NREMT exams must be supplemented with additional state-administered tests and training to obtain EMT certification at any level.
An EMT certification remains valid for two years. An EMT at any level must therefore take a state-sponsored refresher course every two years to maintain his or her certified EMT status. This continuing education course ensures that an EMT remains mentally and physically fit to administer the best possible emergency care.