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In medical emergency situations, paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are often the first responders who work to make sure people are safe and receiving proper care. Frequently working in life-or-death situations, their jobs are high-stakes and can be stressful, but they pay off with rewarding work and can lead to a variety of other career opportunities. Those looking to begin their careers as EMTs or paramedics should start by exploring different degree and training options, and learning about the steps involved to become an emergency medical response professional.

Best Paramedic EMT Programs

Earning a degree in a paramedic, EMT, or pre-hospital emergency medicine is a crucial step for any student looking to begin a career as an emergency medical technician. As a paramedic student, you will develop an understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology, as well as being exposed to a variety of real-life training lessons. Each school offers something different, which is why we've gone through and sorted out which programs are the most effective, cost-friendly and meet other important criteria. Look below to find the best paramedic and EMT programs.

4-Year Colleges

  1. Creighton University

    Omaha, NE

  2. University of South Alabama

    Mobile, AL

  3. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

    San Antonio, TX

  4. University of Maryland-Baltimore County

    Baltimore, MD

  5. Utah Valley University

    Orem, UT

  6. Anna Maria College

    Paxton, MA

  7. University of New Haven

    West Haven, CT

  8. Lewis-Clark State College

    Lewiston, ID

  9. Eastern Kentucky University

    Richmond, KY

  10. Siena Heights University

    Adrian, MI

2-Year Colleges

  1. Sinclair Community College

    Dayton, OH

  2. Barton Community College

    Great Bend, KS

  3. Kankakee Community College

    Kankakee, IL

  4. University of Arknsas Hope-Texarkana

    Hope, AR

  5. Kennebec Valley Community College

    Fairfield, ME

  6. Kansas City Kansas Community College

    Kansas City, KS

  7. Kellogg Community College

    Battle Creek, MI

  8. Garden City Community College

    Garden City, KS

  9. Tacoma Community College

    Tacoma, WA

  10. Sauk Valley Community College

    Dixon, IL

Paramedic/EMT Programs and Training

Paramedics and EMTs share many primary job duties, so the training for each career is similar. The main factor differentiating EMTs and paramedics is the amount of preparation, with paramedics receiving additional education. Programs vary in length depending on the credentials sought, but most programs are founded on basic EMT training courses. Lessons in anatomy and physiology, emergency first-response procedures, and ambulatory care are at the core of many public health and safety careers. From there, prospective paramedics and advanced EMTs take additional classes to build on their basic EMT training and prepare for more advanced first-responder duties.

Certificate and degree programs for EMTs and paramedics are available at career and technical schools as well as community colleges. Prospective students can learn more about each pathway to determine which type of EMT and paramedic training best suits them.

Career and Technical School/Community College

3 months - 2 years

Certificate | Diploma | Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Both community colleges and career and technical schools offer paramedic and EMT training designed to prepare students to offer life support procedures to patients in emergency situations, and to qualify them for the certification they need to enter the field. Career and technical schools tend to focus primarily on hands-on skills and professional certification requirements, whereas community colleges will build on those fundamental skills and offer additional education as students pursue an associate degree. In either case, students need a high school diploma or equivalent, and CPR certification before being admitted.

Both community colleges and technical schools may offer a combination of lecture courses in topics like medical terminology and anatomy, as well as practical courses that help students understand real-life emergency procedures, like trauma management. EMT students often have to complete an internship or practicum as part of their coursework. Students seeking additional education to become advanced EMTs or paramedics may have to participate in multiple internships throughout their studies to expand on their skills. Students in a degree program at a community college can also expect to take a number of general education classes to fulfill graduation requirements.

Looking at individual courses and requirements for EMT and paramedic programs can help students figure out which route is more tailored to their interests and professional goals, but in general, they can expect to take classes that cover the following areas:

Sample Courses for EMT Programs:

  • Introduction to Emergency Medical Services

    An overview of the roles and responsibilities of an EMT. Students learn about the field of emergency medical services, including topics such as major incident response, blood-borne pathogens, hazardous materials and stress management.
  • Medical Terminology

    The study and application of medical terms and vocabulary, including an examination of root words, suffixes, prefixes, spelling, pronunciation and structure.
  • Anatomy and Physiology

    An introduction to basic anatomical and physiological terms. Students will learn about various body systems, including circulatory, respiratory, skeletal, muscular and nervous systems.
  • Emergency Procedures

    An examination of procedures used in emergency response. The class can be repeated to improve proficiency.

Students who choose to build on their EMT educations and pursue advanced emergency responder training may find themselves taking courses like these:

Sample Courses for Advanced Training

  • Emergency Pharmacology

    An examination of drugs, their applications and classifications. Students will learn about the uses of drugs and how to administer them in emergency medical settings, as well as their adverse effects.
  • Special Populations

    The study and practice of special techniques used in the emergency care of different patient groups, like geriatric or pediatric populations.
  • Cardiovascular Emergencies

    A combination of lectures and lab time focused on treating patients with cardiovascular emergencies. ECG (also called EKG) monitoring, heart failure, acute coronary syndrome, and drug therapies will be addressed.
  • Paramedic Internships

    A supervised practice of life support techniques. Students begin by observing trained paramedics, and proceed to working as a team member in order to develop skills and knowledge.

Timeline to a Career as a Paramedic/EMT

While there is no single path toward becoming an EMT or paramedic, there are some steps that most professionals need to take in order to have a successful career with room for advancement.

1. Get a high school diploma or its equivalent

All paramedic and EMT training programs require students to be high school graduates.

2. Become CPR certified

EMT and paramedic programs also require students to be certified in CPR. Often, students can find CPR programs at the same institution they plan to attend for EMT training.

3. Research and apply for schools

During their research, students should make sure they meet all program requirements. EMT and paramedic programs often require specific immunizations, criminal background checks, or uniform purchases. Students should also be sure their program of choice is accredited .

4. Complete EMT training and become certified

After completing their EMT training courses, students can sit for the certification exam given by the  National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians  (NREMT). NREMT has certification exams that correspond to different levels of proficiency, including emergency medical responders, EMTs, advanced EMTs and paramedics. Before starting their careers, students also need to become licensed in their state. Many states use NREMT certification for licensure, but students should double-check the licensure requirements where they live.

5. Advance your education

After earning basic EMT status, build your skills by becoming an advanced EMT or paramedic, or pursue a higher-level academic degree. More education opens up students to greater variety in their work, more career options, and higher wages.

6. Stay current on training requirements

Refresher courses in CPR and other EMT duties are required to maintain licensure. EMTs and paramedics must meet continuing education requirements every two years in order to remain certified.

Paramedic/EMT Careers At-a-Glance

EMTs and paramedics are on the front lines in extreme situations, meaning they must remain calm, and make considered—but quick—decisions under pressure to ensure patients get timely, proper treatment. EMTs and paramedics typically work together in teams, with a paramedic having the additional experience and training to act as the team leader, make higher-level decisions, and perform more advanced procedures. Although most EMTs and paramedics work on ambulance crews, it's not the only path to employment. EMTs and paramedics may also work at hospitals, or at sites where established medical care is not easily available, such as cruise ships or remote job sites.

  • Paramedic and EMT: Career Basics

    Many paramedics begin their careers as EMTs, getting the basic training that will prepare them to pursue a variety of medical and emergency response careers. EMTs provide immediate care at emergency scenes, like car accidents or house fires, and may continue treating patients during transport to a hospital. EMTs assess patients' conditions, perform CPR, and treat wounds. While EMTs are trained in oxygen administration, they generally are not allowed to administer drugs or provide treatment that breaks the skin, with the exception of auto-injecting allergy medications.
  • Paramedic and EMT: In Depth

    Paramedics and advanced EMTs can perform all of the same tasks as entry-level EMTs, but additional training broadens their scope of practice, allowing them to provide more advanced first-response care to patients. Advanced EMTs may learn how to administer fluids and some medications, for instance. Paramedics take these skills even further and are able to administer intravenous and oral medications, monitor and regulate cardiovascular conditions, and perform resuscitation and support techniques on patients experiencing severe medical emergencies, like heart attacks. In order to accurately carry out these duties, paramedics need in-depth knowledge of anatomy, physiology, cardiology and medications.

Paramedic/EMT Career and Salary Outlook

EMTs and paramedics are in high demand. Employment for these occupations is expected to grow by 24 percent between 2014 and 2024 – more than three times faster than the national average for all careers. One reason is that medical facilities that specialize in the treatment of specific conditions are becoming more popular, so more EMTs and paramedics are needed to transport patients to different locations. In addition, the country's aging population needs additional health services, further increasing the need for well-trained emergency medical professionals. In 2014, nearly half of all EMTs and paramedics worked in ambulance services, but local governments and hospitals were also among the field's top employers.

Industries with the Most Paramedics/EMTS
Industry Total Employment (May 2015) Mean Hourly Wage (May 2015) Annual Mean Wage (May 2015)
Ambulatory Health Care Services 114,600 $15.65 $32,550
Local Government 66,430 $18.75 $39,000
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 40,620 $17.65 $36,700
Other Support Services 2,270 $17.81 $37,050
Outpatient Care Centers 1,770 $18.26 $37,970

*Excludes health practitioner offices, home health care services, outpatient care centers and medical and diagnostic laboratories.

Top 5 States with the Highest Concentration of Paramedics/EMTS:

  • Delaware: 1,460
  • West Virginia: 2,360
  • Maine: 1,640
  • South Carolina: 5, 130
  • Kentucky: 4,560

Top 5 States with the Highest Number of Paramedics/EMTS:

  • Texas: 18270
  • California: 16720
  • New York: 14250
  • Pennsylvania: 12320
  • Illinois: 12060

Highest-Paying States for Paramedics/EMTS:

  • District of Columbia: $59,010
  • Washington: $58,370
  • Alaska: $54,000
  • Connecticut: $46,220
  • Nevada: $44,320


Certifications and Salary Boosters

Beyond state licensure and certification from the NREMT, paramedics and EMTs can become certified in various specialties that can increase their salaries and lead to more job opportunities. Here are a few optional certifications that paramedics and EMTs can earn through the  Board for Critical Care Transport Certification (BCCTPC).

Certified Critical Care Paramedic

Designed for experienced paramedics. Those who apply must take an exam to prove their knowledge in paramedicine, as well as pre-hospital, inter-hospital and hospital patient care.

Certified Tactical Paramedic

A certification for tactical paramedics, who are specially trained to provide emergency medical services for law enforcing agencies, like SWAT, in hostile or high-stakes environments.

Certified Community Paramedic

Community paramedics adapt their services to better provide emergency treatment to medically underserved communities.

Certified Flight Paramedic

Experienced paramedics who are part of flight or critical care transport teams can apply for this certification. Applicants must pass an exam that demonstrates advanced knowledge of flight medic practices.

Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT)

EMTs who want to work in wilderness environments can take an intensive Wilderness EMT course offered by the Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI). Those who complete the course successfully will earn a WEMT certification from the WMI and will be prepared to take the NREMT certification exam.

Additional Resources

This guide is a good starting point for those interested in becoming EMTs or paramedics, but prospective students can also check out these resources for more information on certification, education and careers in emergency medical services.

This association is a worker's union representing those in emergency services. The association's site includes information about what flight and critical care paramedicine entails, along with education and career opportunities, certifications, and state critical care policies. JEMS provides articles, news releases and other informational resources to emergency medical service providers. NAEMT represents all types of EMS practitioners in all settings. Their website provides information about EMS careers and training, education resources and scholarships, health and safety, and industry news. The organization provides information on EMT and paramedic careers, certification requirements and access to a job board.

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