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Overall Score
(5.6 out of 10)

Number of Jobs


Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

5.5 percent

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Best Health Care Jobs #37
The 100 Best Jobs #88

Emergency medical technicians, more commonly known as EMTs, are often the first ones to arrive at the scene following an emergency, ranging from house fires to car accidents and everything in between. Lives are often hanging in the balance, and EMTs must act quickly to save them. The pressure might be too daunting for most, but the reality is that people’s lives depend on the speedy, competent care that EMTs and paramedics provide. EMTs and paramedics care for the sick and wounded while quickly transporting them to a nearby medical facility. EMTs and paramedics often work side by side with police officers and firefighters to provide the best all-around care in emergency situations. They typically operate in teams, with one person driving while the other continues to provide emergency care to the patient. There are three general designations, each with its own training requirements and responsibilities: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and Paramedic. EMT-Basic and EMT-Intermediate are both expected to provide on-scene care and transport the patient to a medical facility, with the latter taking on more responsibilities. Paramedics are trained to provide additional pre-hospital care, including administering medications, interpreting EKGs and operating complex equipment.

An increasing call volume due to the country’s aging population is expected to keep job prospects high for EMTs and paramedics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics  projects EMT and paramedic employment growth of 23.1 percent between 2012 and 2022, adding 55,300 more professionals to the field.


The BLS reports the median annual salary for EMTs and paramedics was $31,020 in 2012. The best-paid 10 percent in the profession made approximately $53,550, while the lowest-earning 10 percent made approximately $20,180. The highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of Tacoma, Wash., San Francisco, Calif., and Olympia, Wash.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $40,680
Median $31,020
25th Percentile $24,560


A high school diploma is required to enter most formal emergency medical technician training programs. Training varies depending on the professional level desired. For EMT-Basic, training covers key emergency skills, including general patient assessment and handling patients suffering from cardiac arrest, trauma or respiratory emergencies. Classroom coursework is coupled with hands-on experience in an ambulance or emergency facility. Students become acquainted with basic equipment such as backboards, oxygen delivery systems and stretchers. At the EMT-Intermediate level, students learn all the material covered in the EMT-Basic program, with additional skills such as handling intravenous fluids and using airway devices. State education requirements vary, but the national standards mandate that students complete 30 to 350 hours of classroom and hands-on training depending on the program. Paramedics receive expanded training, with more emphasis on areas such as anatomy, physiology and advanced medical skills. Paramedic programs typically take one to two years to complete, and often result in an associate’s degree. Passing the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians examination is required to become a certified paramedic.

Reviews & Advice

Scott Matin, a longtime paramedic and a member of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians board of directors, says one of the best ways to land a job is to begin as a volunteer to gain experience. “The advantage is they have experience, which makes them much, much more marketable,” Matin says. Another way to boost your chances is to dabble in teaching. Matin says teaching is an important part of the job as an EMT or paramedic, so hiring managers will look for general experience as an instructor on your resume. Gaining additional certifications beyond your training program and qualifying for the more-rigorous national EMT license (rather than simply the state-level license) will also give you an edge. There is still a nationwide shortage for EMTs and paramedics, so jobs exist for those who are well qualified.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility poor Below Average
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Last updated by Kimberly Palmer.

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