Medical Responder Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

About this article
A medical responder's median annual salary is around $32,000, but is it worth the training requirements? Read real job duties and see the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a medical responder is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of a Career as a Medical Responder

Medical responders, which includes emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics, are first responders who stabilize patients and transport them to medical facilities. Check out the following pros and cons list to learn more.

PROS of a Medical Responder Career
Nationwide shortage of these professionals could lead to favorable employment prospects*
Entry-level training can be acquired through certificate programs**
Job skills and training are transferrable to other health care careers***
Personal satisfaction and pride are common job perks*

CONS of Medical Responder Career
Irregular work hours are common (40-hour-plus work weeks)****
Earnings are lower than the national average for all occupations (EMTs' and paramedics' annual salary is around $35,000)****
Opportunities for advancement are limited****
Job risks include on-the-job injury and exposure to contagious diseases****

Sources: *U.S. News & World Report, **Western Technical College, ***National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, ****U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Also called emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, medical responders are often the first on the scene of an accident or emergency situation when a person calls 911. As a medical responder, it's your job to stabilize patients and transport them to medical facilities. Other job duties can include preparing initial reports of patients' injuries and vital statistics so you can communicate the necessary information quickly and efficiently to the medical personnel who will take over patient care. You might also transport patients from one facility to another in nonemergency situations or clean ambulances to prevent transmission of disease.

Career Paths

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) has established job duties for several different levels of medical responders. Basic, intermediate and advanced EMTs can be responsible for tasks that range in complexity from controlling bleeding and immobilizing patients with spinal cord injuries to administering IV therapies and using defibrillators. Paramedics are trained to perform the most advanced levels of pre-hospital care, including invasive procedures like endotracheal intubation and intraosseous cannulation, which is the process of administering medication via blood vessels in the bone.

Job Growth and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), EMTs and paramedics held around 236,000 jobs as of May 2014. Most were employed by ambulance services in larger cities, while smaller municipalities were more likely to use volunteers.

An average job growth of 23% was projected for these professionals during the 2012-2022 decade by the BLS. Employment opportunities were expected to be the result of an increasing number of emergency calls and the need to transport patients to specialized medical facilities in nonemergency situations. Employment growth was also expected for smaller areas where volunteer positions are being converted into paid positions.

What Are the Requirements?

Training

Entry-level medical responders begin their training at the EMT-Basic level and can continue their education to become intermediate EMTs, advanced EMTs or paramedics. Training for each of these types of medical responders is available through certificate programs. If you want to train to be a paramedic, you'll also have the option of completing an associate degree program that includes additional general education coursework.

Lecture courses and laboratory sessions at all levels cover topics in anatomy, physiology, injury assessment, airway management and CPR. These programs also include extensive clinical or internship requirements.

Certification and Licensing

To work as a medical responder, you'll need to either pass a state-issued licensing exam or earn certification through the NREMT. Certifications are available at all levels, but before you can sit for the agency's written and practical examinations, you must first complete an educational program that meets U.S. Department of Transportation training standards. If you're interested in qualifying for intermediate, advanced and paramedic certifications, you'll need to have earned EMT-Basic credentials as well. You must also meet minimum age requirements.

Other Qualifications

This job is not for everyone due to its physical demands, high stress levels and associated job hazards, which include the risk of exposure to disease, the physical strain of lifting and moving patients and the emotional toll of working with those who are mentally ill or uncooperative. Not surprisingly, employers look for individuals who can not only administer life-saving medical interventions, but also possess the communications skills and emotional stability needed to interact with patients and receive instruction from other medical personnel once they arrive at a hospital.

Job Postings from Real Employers

According to job postings in March 2012, employers look for applicants who have been nationally certified or locally licensed. Most employers also have a minimum age requirements. Other qualifications listed by employers are outlined in the following job posts:

  • A security company in Florida is seeking an EMT who can pass a drug test and extensive background check that includes criminal history and driving records.
  • An ambulance company in Indiana is looking for an EMT with a clean driving record. Applicants must also be able to meet the continuing education requirements needed to maintain certification.
  • A South Carolina healthcare facility is seeking a paramedic who can fulfill some supervisory responsibilities. Applicants will need three years of full-time experience in the field and a certificate or associate degree. Applicants with a bachelor's degree are preferred.

How to Maximize Your Skills

The BLS explains that the best employment prospects might be reserved for medical responders who've received advanced training, since employers look for applicants who can provide high levels of patient care. Once you've completed an EMT-Basic training program, you might consider enrolling in an intermediate or advanced program.

You might also look into working as a volunteer to gain experience before applying for paid positions. Additionally, if you live in a jurisdiction that only requires medical responders to pass state-administered exams, earning national certification from the NREMT could also help you stand out in the job field, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Alternative Career Paths

Firefighter

If you're still interested in receiving medical responder training, but would like to pursue a career with better employment prospects, you might want to consider becoming a firefighter. In addition to earning EMT certification, these first responders must complete a fire department training program. The projected job growth for firefighters was 19% from 2008-2018, according to the BLS. Moreover, these professionals earned higher average wages of around $48,000 as of May 2010.

Registered Nurse

If providing patient care in nonemergency situations sounds more appealing, you might consider becoming a registered nurse. To prepare for a job in this field you'll need to complete 2-4 years of college education in addition to earning passing scores on the National Council Licensure Examination. However, the employment outlook for this field is excellent. A 22% job growth was projected from 2008-2018. The average salary for registered nurses was also quite a bit higher than those of EMTs. Registered nurses earned about $68,000 per year, on average, according to the BLS.

Physician Assistant

You might also consider a career as a physician assistant. While degree programs in this field can be completed in as little as two years, the BLS explains that most accredited programs award bachelor's and master's degrees. All states also require passing scores on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination. However, this extra investment of your time and effort could pay off in the long run. The mean annual salary for these professionals was just over $87,000. The BLS also projected job opportunities for physician assistants to increase 39% for the 2008-2018 decade.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Administrator
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Fire and Emergency Management
      • Bachelor: Fire Science
      • Bachelor: Health Science
    Associate's
      • AAS in Public Safety and Security
      • Associate of Science in Fire Science
      • Associate: Fire Science
    Certificate
      • Medical Assisting Certificate
  • Campus Locations:
    2. Brightwood College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Medical Assistant - AS
    Certificate
      • Medical Assistant - Certificate
      • Medical Assistant - Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    3. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • RN to BSN
    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Campus Locations:
    5. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Certification - Medical Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    6. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
      • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
      • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences
      • MSHS in Translational Microbiology
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MS in Nursing
  • Bachelor: Fire and Emergency Management
  • AAS in Public Safety and Security
  • Medical Assisting Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Brightwood College

  • Medical Assistant - AS
  • Medical Assistant - Certificate
  • Medical Assistant - Diploma

What is your highest level of education?

George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • RN to BSN
  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Virginia College

  • Certification - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education completed?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
  • Graduate Certificate in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?