EMT Basic Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of an EMT-Basic career? Get job descriptions, salary information and career prospects to see if becoming an EMT-B is a good fit for you.
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Emergency Medical Technician-Basic Careers: Pros and Cons

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provide medical services to those in need, often at the scene of accidents, assaults and other emergencies. Entry-level EMTs are referred to as EMT-Basics (or EMT-B). By examining the pros and cons of becoming an EMT-Basic, you can determine if this career is a good fit for you.

Pros of an EMT-B Career
Outstanding job growth predicted (23% from 2012-2022)*
Don't need to earn a degree to enter this field*
Providing emergency services can save lives*
Many opportunities for training and career advancement*

Cons of an EMT-B Career
Relatively low-paying opportunity (average wages were about $35,000 as of May 2014)*
EMT-Basic is an entry-level position within the field*
Possible around-the-clock work schedules*
High physical and mental stress*
Strict licensing requirements

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Job Description

EMTs are quick to arrive at the scene of medical situations, usually by responding to 911 calls. Possible emergencies they can respond to include cardiac arrests, car accidents or other health scares. EMT-Basics must evaluate the situation, communicate with patients, determine a course of action and administer emergency medical treatment on site, if necessary.

This career field requires you to handle a number of stressful situations that can accompany a medical emergency. Night and weekend hours are routine. As their title implies, EMT-Basics are able to offer the most basic type of patient care on the emergency medical services continuum. EMT-Intermediates (also called Advanced EMTs) and paramedics are more advanced types of EMT professionals.

Duties

In some instances, EMT-Basics only need to transport patients to and from healthcare facilities or hospitals. In other situations, EMTs must use medical equipment, such as respirators for heart attacks, back stabilizers for car injuries or dressings to wrap wounds. They may also help to stabilize bones that have broken and administer CPR to resuscitate patients who cannot breathe. They typically must fill out incident reports based on the type of crisis that they handled. EMTs work in conjunction with local law enforcement professionals, as well as medical personnel, like nurses and doctors.

Duties can also vary depending on the employer. According to the BLS, about 48% of emergency medical technicians were employed by ambulance service companies as of 2012. Government employed 30% of emergency medical services personnel.

Salary Information and Career Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the emergency medical technician field has a good potential for growth, but average salaries fall below the national average for other occupations (www.bls.gov). All EMT personnel, which included basic EMTs, advanced EMTs and paramedics, earned an average annual salary of about $35,000 as of May 2014. Furthermore, about a third of all EMTs worked overtime, which makes this an even lower relative wage. The bottom ten percent of EMT professionals earned about $21,000 or less per year.

Still, despite the lower pay, the career field was expected to grow by 23% from 2012-2022, according to the BLS. A total of more than 55,000 new jobs in the sector were projected to be created during that time.

Career Requirements

Needed Training

EMT-Basics don't need to earn a degree, but they must successfully complete an EMT training program. These programs can be completed in 1-3 months. Certain programs might require you to already hold CPR certification and receive immunizations before enrolling. In some cases, these training programs are based on an hourly requirement that can include over 100 hours of learning.

The EMT-B curriculum includes some clinical experiences and ambulance ride-along time, in addition to skill development and classroom learning. EMT-Basic training is designed to give an overview of the various scenarios that can be encountered in the field. It's impossible to cover all possible situations, but EMT training focuses on common emergency situations, such as:

  • Airway obstructions and respiratory issues
  • Heart attacks or cardiac arrest
  • Treatment of bleeding and wounds
  • Emergency childbirths
  • Bone breaks and stabilization

Licensing Requirements

EMTs of all levels must be certified or licensed in order to perform their duties in the field. Most states require that EMTs successfully pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification exam (www.nremt.org). EMT-Basics must provide proof of formal EMT training, show their CPR certification and be at least 18 years old to take the NREMT exam. Other basic medical tests and clearances are typically required as well.

States may also require that candidates complete a state exam or meet additional requirements in order to gain employment. The NREMT noted that EMTs must earn continuing education hours in order to retain licensure or become recertified over time. The Continuing Education Coordinating Board for Emergency Medical Services (CECBEMS) provides an approved list of continuing education courses that can be completed as part of this process (www.cecbems.org).

What Employers Are Looking For

Employers of EMTs look to hire medical professionals who have current EMT certification. They may also seek those who are compassionate and have good problem-solving and interpersonal skills, according to the BLS. Physical strength is also a common requirement. Listed below are some excerpts from job postings for EMT-Basics found online in April 2012.

  • A surveillance company in Colorado seeks a certified EMT who it also plans to train in security skills. This is a full-time, entry-level position located near an adult community.
  • An EMT is needed in a Georgia-based hospital to provide transport and EMT services. Applicants must know the area well and adhere to strict protocol. Candidates must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent, EMT certification and a valid state driver's license. This job also requires you to lift patients who are up to 175 pounds.
  • A county in Montana seeks EMTs and paramedics who are willing to work 24-hour shifts. The position also requires an overtime commitment, and current licensing is needed. Applicants with prior experience and a bachelor's degree are preferred.
  • A certified EMT with at least one year of experience is needed in Arizona for this part-time, on-call position. Duties include working with nurses and providing emergency medical care to a senior community.

How to Stand Out

To stand out as an EMT-Basic, you may want to consider volunteering with a retirement home. Many opportunities for EMTs require emergency care for the elderly, so gaining experience with this segment of the population can be helpful. Additionally, EMTs are increasingly sought out by security-related companies, so a background in community service or patrol work could be beneficial.

Obtaining higher levels of EMT training can boost your profile and lead to more advanced EMT opportunities and pay. There are several levels of emergency medical services training beyond the basic level. Completing EMT-Intermediate or paramedic training can help give you access to a broader range of career possibilities. This can be accomplished by completing an associate's or bachelor's degree program in emergency services or fire technology. These programs can be completed in two years or less and provide students with additional education in areas like advanced trauma and medical situations, fire protection and rescue practices.

Alternative Careers to Consider

Nurse

If you like helping people, but don't want to risk your safety on a daily basis, then you may want to look into becoming a nurse. Whether you become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN), the nursing industry is expected to see strong job growth and competitive wages. The BLS reported that RNs earned just over $69,000 per year on average as of May 2011, although completing required RN education can take more time. There are many opportunities for career advancement once you're a nurse, as education is available across a spectrum of levels.

Firefighter

If you prefer the risk and excitement of an EMT-Basic career, but want greater pay, then you may be interested in becoming a firefighter. Although the BLS reported that employment in this field were expected to grow at a slower pace of nine percent from 2010-2020, firefighters made more money on average than EMTs, earning an annual average salary of almost $48,000 as of May 2011. The education that both firefighters and EMTs receive can overlap, since the fields are interrelated in many ways. Firefighters can work around the clock and also arrive at the scene of medical emergencies. In fact, they are frequently the first to arrive at such crises and respond to those incidents more often than they do calls for fire.

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