EMT Certification and Related Degrees

Careers in emergency medical technology can be very rewarding. As a vital part of a larger medical team, certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provide emergency medical treatment to individuals who have fallen gravely ill or been seriously injured. The treatment provided by EMTs can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

There are three different levels of EMT certification, and each state may have different training requirements for each level. EMT certifications are listed below:

EMT is the lowest level of EMT certification. EMTs perform the most basic procedures on patients, such as administering oxygen, glucose or nitroglycerin tablets. They can also evaluate a patient’s status to determine if intervention is necessary to unblock an airway, for example.
Advanced EMT is the next level and requires a lot of additional training. Advance EMTs are authorized to perform higher level medical procedures, such as starting intravenous lines.
Paramedic is the highest level of EMT certification. Paramedics are authorized to provide the most expanded level of medical care of all EMTs; they can perform cardiac shock treatment, insert ventilators, deliver babies, and administer more than 30 different types of medication.
EMT certification involves completion of emergency medical courses, many of which also provide the necessary technical training. Examples of EMT courses include: first aid, first responder, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in schools, hazardous materials, and heartsaver AED (automated external defibrillator). There are also Associate’s degree-level courses in Emergency Medical Services and

Emergency Medical Technology and Technician. A Bachelor’s degree in Emergency Medical Technology and Technician is available to those individuals who wish to learn advanced EMT procedures, supervise emergency personnel, or perform emergency surgical procedures. Aspiring EMTs can learn the basics and get started in this career immediately.

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Associate’s Degree

An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)-Paramedic studies is a two-year program that prepares individuals who wish to work as EMTs at healthcare centers or hospitals, or for some other emergency service provider or organization. The AAS degree in EMT-Paramedic is different from an EMT certification in that it gives a student the opportunity to take a wider series of specialized EMT courses and prepares the student for numerous job opportunities upon the successful completion of all coursework, examinations, and licensures. EMT certification, on the other hand, is for individuals who wish to obtain a basic certification quickly in order to obtain an entry-level position.

Every student aspires to something different. Students evaluating whether they should enter a certificate program or start on the path to a longer degree program should consider their long- and short-term goals. For students who know what they want to do, and want or need to do it now, a certificate program is their best choice. For those who are not yet decided on a future career, entering a degree program will expose them to different practices and fields, which will better enable them to discover the field of emergency medical services they wish to enter. There are other practical considerations to keep in mind as well, for example tuition and housing costs, timeline to complete the program, graduation requirements, and even class size.

Associate’s degree programs for EMT include EMT, Advanced EMT and Paramedic certificate coursework. But students who enroll in AAS degree programs for EMT will receive the benefit of being able to take additional courses that give them a broader, more diverse education. In addition to taking the EMT courses, students will take math, biology, and English courses, among others. AAS degree programs for EMT may also include coursework for students interested in the management aspect of emergency medical services. Students will also be required to complete a certain number of hours of field work during which they will gain direct experience by working with an ambulance crew or in a hospital emergency room; this exposure to emergency situations will help them learn how to apply immediate medical treatment. The EMT Associate’s degree program also provides practical coursework. Courses students can expect to take include: treating trauma and shock, basic emergency equipment, anatomy and physiology, cardiac arrests, airway management and ventilation, patient assessment, and nasal intubation.

To enter an EMT Associate’s degree program, the student must have a high school diploma or equivalent and will provide high school transcripts as part of the application process. Some schools may require students to take placement tests to demonstrate their levels of proficiency in college-level writing and basic algebra. In some cases, students must pass a criminal background check and drug screening test.

Students who successfully complete the AAS program for EMT-Paramedic are required to pass the National Registry examination and complete any requisite state testing or licensure. An EMT AAS degree qualifies individuals to perform a multitude of jobs both within the emergency medical services (EMS) field as well as outside it. Graduates can apply for jobs at fire or police departments, hospitals, or ambulance services. They may wish to work as an emergency medical service instructor, a flight paramedic or a ski patrol medic. Other interesting careers include emergency dispatcher and physician assistant programs. The well- developed “calm under pressure”-type skills also qualify degreed EMTs for jobs in law enforcement or air traffic control.

Bachelor’s Degree

Students who enter a four-year Bachelor’s degree program can earn a degree in Emergency Medical Technology and Technician (EMT). A Bachelor’s degree program encompasses a much wider range of topics than do EMT certification courses and can be focused in the areas of either clinical care or EMS management. A Bachelor’s program provides students with the necessary training to identify, assess, and manage medical emergencies in a pre-hospital setting. It also prepares students to manage and supervise ambulance personnel. Even more, it provides students and EMS professionals with much needed leadership skills. These programs are typically given under the supervision of one or more physicians, EMS experts, and other trained faculty.

From a clinical perspective, students will learn EMT procedures at the basic, intermediate, and advanced levels. They will be trained on rescue operations, patient stabilization and monitoring, emergency surgical procedures, medical triage, crisis scene management, drug administration, equipment operation and maintenance, and much more. Their courses will include anatomy, pathology, physiology, and toxicology. They will learn communication and computer operations, as well as emergency medical services (EMS) medical standards and regulations.

EMS management coursework includes EMS system design, EMS leadership development, EMS operations and management, EMS strategic planning and financial management, disaster management, and emergency preparedness.

The EMS profession is gradually becoming more organized and sophisticated in order to provide a wider range of treatments and care to larger populations. The next generation of EMS systems and providers will require more leadership and development than what can be provided with today’s EMS personnel, who have only specialized EMT training. In addition to having EMT experience delivering pre-hospital emergency care in the field, emerging EMS leaders should also be able to analyze and communicate appropriately regarding complex scenarios and systems. EMS management will need critical thinking skills that help these leaders envision EMS services and systems beyond the scope of traditional EMT care.

While many EMTs do not have significant post-secondary education beyond their required certifications, those EMTs at the Paramedic level have, in fact, already obtained a two-year Associate’s degree. These course credits can be applied toward the completion of a four-year Bachelor’s degree. EMS professionals who possess this strong education credential will be the ones who lead the way in advancing EMS services from today’s providers of ambulance transportation to tomorrow’s important and significant contributors of healthcare services in the community.


Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) must meet state-level certification requirements, which include passing a state certification examination. In addition, to become nationally certified EMTs must take and pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) examination. The NREMT had established national standards for training and certification of emergency medical personnel to ensure they possess the skills and competencies required to perform their jobs effectively. In order to maintain their certification, EMTs must re-register with the NREMT every two years, take continuing education courses, and remain employed as an EMT.

EMT certification programs include extensive coursework as well as practical, hands-on training. Certificate programs are available at technical schools, community colleges, universities, police and fire departments, and hospitals. There are also online EMT certification programs available for those who work full-time and need to coordinate EMT coursework and studies around their work schedules. Enrollment in an EMT certification training program requires that the candidate be at least 18 years of age and possess a high school diploma or GED.

EMT certification requires the student to complete approximately 100 hours of classroom training and additional hours riding in an ambulance and/or observing in an emergency room. At this level students learn a variety of emergency procedures, including how to assess patients and how to control blood loss. They also learn the use of certain emergency equipment. Once the coursework and practical training is completed, the student must pass the NREMT’s written and practical examinations in order to receive certification.

Advanced EMT certification requires the student to have the EMT certification and can include many additional hours of classwork and field training. Training at this level teaches students how to administer intravenous fluids, interpret EKGs, clear esophageal airways, and provide patients with basic medications. As with the EMT-B certification, upon completion of their coursework students must pass the NREMT’s written and practical examinations in order to receive certification.

Paramedics must have a two-year Associate’s degree. These students are typically required to possess EMT-Basic certification as a prerequisite for enrollment into a paramedic program. They may also need to provide letters of recommendation or documentation of some of the work previously performed. This coursework is extensive and includes field training and hospital rotations. Students in paramedic programs will learn advanced emergency medical procedures such as nasal intubation, needle decompression for collapsed lungs, administration of medications for treating cardiac arrest, respiratory complications, and allergic and diabetic reactions. Paramedics are trained and authorized to provide the highest level of pre-hospital care.

There are several advantages to obtaining EMT certification. The EMT certification is a good start for individuals interested in obtaining certification and possibly a job within a relatively short period of time. Existing EMTs can obtain additional certification in order to advance their careers without having to take a full Associate’s degree program.

An EMT’s level of certification will determine the jobs he or she is authorized to perform as an EMT. For example, first responders can become police officers or firefighters, providing basic emergency medical treatment until other emergency medical personnel arrive. From there, EMTs will provide the emergency medical treatment to the level at which they are certified. Aspiring EMTs should thoroughly research the various EMT levels and understand all the requirements before deciding which course of study to enter.

Online Resources and Certification Programs

There is a multitude of resources available online for aspiring emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to learn about the responsibilities and duties of the EMT job. If you are considering becoming an EMT you should do due diligence by performing online research before you make any significant time or financial commitments. You should read about the various levels of emergency medical technician and understand that each level of certification has specific training, as well as clinical and field work requirements. You should also familiarize yourself with the different types of jobs you can obtain as an EMT. Once you fully understand the EMT coursework, the on-the-job experience requirements, and your potential future career path, you will be well-equipped to select the program of studies that starts you on that path.

To become an EMT, you must have a high school diploma and be at least 18 years of age, or in some cases 21. You should have completed significant studies in the physical sciences and math. You should possess several essential attributes that will contribute to your success as an EMT: you should be emotionally stable; have good eyesight including proper color vision; be able to lift and carry heavy loads; and have excellent physical coordination, dexterity, and agility.

While you cannot obtain EMT certification via an online program due to the field and clinical training requirements, you can take some basic EMT courses online and complete the required clinical practice training at a local medical facility or community college. You will receive lessons in human anatomy and physiology and learn medical terminology. You will learn how to help someone who is having a heart attack or experiencing a drug overdose. Other general instruction includes lifting and moving patients, taking vital signs, setting fractures, and more.

EMTs are required to continually refresh and renew their levels of training and certification through continuing education in order to remain current on enhancements in emergency medical treatment techniques and medical equipment. Recertification is required every 2-3 years. EMTs also take continuing education courses to advance to the next level of EMT certification or to give the EMT the necessary educational background if he or she decides to pursue another career in the medical profession.

EMTs have a wide range of online continuing education coursess available to them. Many of the courses are in the fields of emergency medical services or paramedic science. Courses include airway management and ventilation, patient assessment, pediatrics, or trauma. Within each category there are more specialized courses such as pediatric poisoning or pediatric asthma.

There are several advantages to earning continuing education credits online. Online courses let you work at you own pace, on your own schedule, and wherever you have access to a computer. You will be able to choose your courses from a wider selection than if you were getting your continuing education credits at a local community college.

Similarly, there are some disadvantages. In spite of the convenience of taking a course online, taking a course in a classroom allows for discussion and other points of view and permits receiving learning firsthand from a qualified instructor. Additionally, not all online programs are accredited, so you could end up not receiving credit for your coursework. You might even have to repeat a course through an accredited program, which also means you will need to pay for the course a second time.

Whether you are just starting your EMT career or a practicing EMT looking to enhance your medical training, utilize the online EMT certification resources available to help you reach your goals.