If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

EMT: How I got my job and where I'm going

What training and certifications are required to work as an EMT? What does it take to get hired? Ian, an EMT for Chatham Emergency Services, shares his journey and gives advice for people considering this path.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

I was originally going to school in college in a pre-law program, and kinda figured out that wasn't for me. I didn't like sitting behind a desk all day. I liked actually moving and working physically. I'd done manual labor since I was 16, so it related more to me. So I dropped out of the pre-law program, switched my major, moved some things around and the next semester I went to a fire academy. And I worked for 3 years as a volunteer firefighter in a small town in Florida. Once I got my EMT, I was able to go full-time professional. In order to get qualified for an EMT position, usually you go through a technical school, tech college. Some universities, regular college universities, offer these programs, where you go through your EMT basic course, which is what I went through. Some states go all the way up to EMT Advanced, and then beyond those two is paramedic. But you go through these schools. Go through, in my case it was a roughly three month program. I was in there 40 hours a week, five days a week. It was a very intensive program. You're in uniform, you're expected to stand when an instructor, an officer walks in the building. It was almost a paramilitary kind of a feel to it. So it regimented us very well. Same place I did my fire academy, so a lot of the same instructors. Once you go through this course, you then have to test, not only at the state level for your certification and your license to practice EMS medicine, but also a national certification level. We have what's called the NREMT, National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. And that's the national standard that's set, and virtually all states, with a few exceptions, require you to have your NREMT certification before you're given your state level. In addition to my EMT basic certification, I also got a specialized certification in geriatric emergency medicine. PHTLS, pre-hospital trauma care. I am a certified rescue diver through NAUI. I have my Fire one, Fire two national pro board certifications. I really focused on education, and training and gaining additional certifications not only make myself more marketable to different departments, but also to increase my own awareness, my own abilities, and make myself feel prepared for all the different kind of scenarios I might see. The job market can be very competitive, especially where I originally came from, Florida. But even in Georgia, it was very competitive. You have your very baseline requirements. You have to be 18 or older. Most departments prefer you be 21 or older. You have to have a certain physical ability. So you have to pass a physical, be in good health. You have to have your license and your certification levels, and they have to be within date, not lapsed, et cetera. Those are just the basics even to be considered. You still have to pass an interview, show that you're competent. You'll have to take a skills test, a written test. And once you have those minimums, you still might get passed over for somebody that has some additional certification or experience, et cetera, if it's limited options. I was lucky enough that I already had some of those advanced certifications, or extra certifications on top of my basic EMT. So that allowed me to eke out some of the other competition that might have been looking for the same spot I was. Personality is a big part of the job. I had an interview before I was hired. That was part of the consideration process. An interview basically allows them to figure out how personable are you. Are you able to talk to a patient? Are you able to communicate clearly and effectively? Are you able to even talk on the radio? That's a big part. You do a lot of talking to dispatch, both EMS and fire and PD dispatch. So you have to be able to communicate with other crews, with patients, with administration, all sorts of different people. And you have to do it effectively and politely, professionally. Those are all very big parts of our job. Most of my goals include probably moving up to a chief level one day. I'm in no rush, I don't want to be behind a desk. 'Cause once you get to that certain level, you're forever behind a desk, doing paperwork. I'm aware that at a certain point, your body doesn't really want to cooperate with you, especially in a physically demanding job like this. I'd like to work myself up to captain, chief level, start looking into becoming a training officer, be in charge of training personnel for technical rescue skills. Additional EMS certification level. Just more advanced classes, maybe even be in charge of training for a dive team. The more technical and more advanced kind of stuff, I want to do all of it. I want to do a little bit of everything. I feel like being a jack of all trades is way more fun than being just focused on one thing. My best advice for somebody starting out would definitely be get as much education as you can. Really focus in learning as much as you can about the human body, how the different systems work, your cardiovascular, your nervous system, et cetera, and the skeletal system, muscle system. All these different things all work together, and can give different responses based on things. Become a clinician. Really learn what one thing can be versus another. The telltale signs of one condition versus another. And try to put an emphasis on making your knowledge applicable. It's one thing to be book smart, but you also have to be street smart, in a sense. Don't be afraid of stepping in and saying "Hey, honestly, I don't know this. Can you teach me?" One of the biggest things is people will pretend, they'll try to fake it till they make it. You can't do that in this job. You have to be willing to say "I don't know. Let me look that up". You have to be willing to say "I don't know this. Can you teach me?" And the people around you will teach you. They will show you the right way to do things, the best way to do something, and they'll want you to be better at your job, because that makes their job easier. And you have to be willing to do that for other people once they ask you.