How to Become an EMT

Last Updated on June 22, 2022 by Laura Turner

Every day as an EMT brings new challenges, experiences, and rewarding moments. One day you are treating an elderly patient with a rapid heart rate, and the next you’re on the scene of a car crash. What may be a routine day for you may be a defining, unforgettable moment in your patient’s life.

Becoming an EMT is an incredible way to give back to your community and to save lives. It may also be something you are considering doing as a premed. A lot goes into earning certification, including intensive training and rigorous preparation for the NREMT exam. But every step in the process will be worth it when you are out there on the field saving lives! If you have been looking to become an EMT but are not sure where to begin, this guide is a great place to start. We will help you navigate everything you need to become an EMT.

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What are the EMT Requirements?

Every EMT hopeful must attend an accredited school. Even if you have some medical experience under your belt whether as a lifeguard, physical trainer, or healthcare professional, you will need to complete additional requirements to become an EMT. You will need the training to pass the NREMT exam as part of your certification.

Each program has its own set of requirements and certifications, so be sure you cross them all off your list. Once you receive the good news that you have passed the NREMT exam, the last step is applying for EMT certification at a local EMS agency.

Here is the complete step-by-step process outlining how to become an EMT:

Step 1: Attend an Accredited EMT School

Not every EMT school is approved for EMT certification. To become an officially certified EMT, you must sign up at an accredited EMT program. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs has an online database of accredited EMT schools. Be sure to check which programs are available in your state.

However, before you even consider enrollment, you will need certain prerequisites. EMT requirements can vary between programs, but this is how to prepare for EMT school:

  • Be 18 years of age or older.
  • Have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Complete Basic Life Support (BLS) training.

Even if you do not have a medical background, you will learn the essential EMT skills needed to pass the NREMT exam during training. Resuscitating patients, controlling blood flow, and caring for heart attack victims are all part of any standard curriculum.

But it’s not all flashing lights and life or death emergencies––being an EMT is all about working with other people. Ambulance ride-alongs and collaborative hands-on simulations will also train you to work as part of a team. Whether it’s spending long hours with your ambulance partner or comforting a patient, interpersonal skills are such a crucial yet overlooked part of the job. EMT school is the perfect place to build those skills with your peers and find a support network. You will need each other to help make the hard moments a little easier.

Step 2: Pass the NREMT

There is no sugarcoating it: the NREMT exam is hard. In fact, just about 30% of students fail the NREMT certification exam on their first try. But the good news is EMT certification school is designed to help you pass with flying colors. The exam has two parts, cognitive (written) and psychomotor (skills) exams. The written test is generally 60 to 110 questions long and measures your medical knowledge. The psychomotor exam tests your practical skills in emergencies, where all your training comes into play. You will be tested in patient assessment, spinal immobilization, managing shock and cardiac arrest, and other emergency skills. Thankfully, the NREMT also provides skills sheets to help you stay on top of your training.

Step 3: Get a Background Check

Once you’ve passed the NREMT exam, it’s time to get a background check. Many states require a background check of at least state or federal criminal history; some require both for EMT certification. Your fingerprints will be sent to the Department of Justice within 24 hours for background check processing. It may sound like a lot, but it’s a simple process that barely takes a few days.

Step 4: Apply for EMT Certification

There are over 250,000 EMTs in the country. To officially join their ranks, you will need to apply for certification through your local EMS agency. Bring your NREMT card (issued after passing the exam), your certificate of completion from an EMT school, and your CPR card. You will need these to apply for an EMT number from the State Central Registry. Once you have received your EMT certification card, you can officially work as an EMT!

Can I Transfer My EMT Certification Between States?

If you ever plan to move or work in a different state, you can transfer your EMT certification to a different state. Many states even have reciprocity programs that make it easy to transfer your certification. First, contact the local EMS agency in the county you plan to work in for the required documents. You will likely need to show proof of your current certification.

If your certification has expired or if it has been more than two years since you took the NREMT exam, you might have to retake the test or potentially restart the certification process based on your new state’s requirements. Some states have requirements regardless of your certification status. For example, New York requires EMTs to take a refresher course in order to transfer their certification.

The process to become an EMT may seem daunting, but remember you will be on the frontlines working in life-or-death situations. Even the tiny moments, like comforting a patient through their pain, or just making them smile, can leave a lasting impression they will never forget. The standards are high, but that is the honor of being an EMT. Every drop, no matter how inconsequential, can be the tidal wave in a patient’s life. As an EMT, your hope is to turn the tides for the better.

This article provided by SureFire CPR.