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Getting Certified in Emergency Medicine


EMS Certification

The field of emergency medicine is always in demand. In fact, jobs for paramedics and EMTs are expected to grow by 33 percent from 2010 until 2020. These individuals drive or ride beside another trained emergency medical professional in ambulances to provide care to those in need of immediate medical attention. Jobs in emergency medicine include first responders, paramedics and EMTs. Each requires a different amount of training and has different certifications.


Emergency Medicine Comparison

First Responder

First responders are police officers or fire fighters who take training in emergency response. All firefighters in the United States are required to become certified first responders and most cops are as well. A first responder is trained to do more than just first aid. They're trained in CPR, emergency childbirth, spinal and bone fracture immobilization and other similar procedures.


Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

An emergency medical technician or EMT is a person who drives an ambulance and has special training in emergency medicine. EMTs must assess patients and perform certain procedures in the ambulance prior to the patient reaching the hospital. In some cases, they may have to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), prevent shock or slow down bleeding. They are trained in basic life support. There are three levels: basic, intermediate and advanced.



Paramedics are more trained than first responders and emergency medical technicians of any level.  They assess, diagnose and treat patients prior to them arriving at the hospital for medical attention. They're trained in advanced life support techniques. A paramedic provides a person with injury and illness treatment along with some diagnostics.


How to Become a:

To enter into one of the emergency medical service (EMS) professions, you have to undergo certain training and follow certain requirements to become certified.


First Responder

A prospective first responder will have to complete training that varies based on his or her location. However, certain training and requirements are static in order to receive your Certified First Responder (CFR) credential in any state. You must earn your CPR/first aid certification for healthcare workers. Recognized in all states is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)'s curriculum. During your training, you'll complete 26 modules that are divided into seven sections. Part of the curriculum to become a CFR covers how the EMS system runs.  The 40-hour course takes about 30 days to complete and educates students on a variety of topics like childbirth, child and infant care, medical emergencies, airway management, and circulation. You'll learn techniques to help a patient remain stable until he or she can receive more extensive care at a hospital. At the end of the course, you'll need to complete a certification exam to actually become certified. You can take the one provided by National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), since it is the most recognized. The test supplied by NREMT consists of two sections. One is a hands-on portion, while the cognitive section demonstrates your knowledge through a computerized exam.  

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

To become an EMT, you should choose a program in the state where you're going to work that's approved through NREMT. Most EMT programs are given in a community college or a technical school. Sometimes, you're able to do a portion of them online. Throughout the course of training, an EMT learns how to care for patients who are experiencing life-threatening conditions that require immediate attention. They're also trained on how to prevent further injury. They learn CPR, emergency childbirth and how to stop a hemorrhage. For all levels of EMT training, you must go to a local testing examination center to take the test administered by the NREMT.



EMTs are trained on three different levels. EMT-basic training lasts under 110 hours states the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They learn the necessary skills to care for a patient when they arrive on-scene. After training is complete, they're able to assess a patient and provide emergency medical treatments for conditions such as cardiac and respiratory emergencies. An EMT-B is able to treat conditions like shock, too.  


To obtain EMT-Intermediate certification, you must complete a 300 to 400 hour course.  The classroom/practical portion needs to be 175-225 hours, while the clinical part needs to be between 50 to 75. The field internship part lasts around 75 to 100 hours.  A program covers more advanced procedures and allows for the EMT-I to be able to administer medication and IV fluids.



The EMT-Advanced education teaches an EMT the basic skills and everything that an intermediate-level EMT knows such as bleeding control and spinal immobilization. The training also teaches a prospective EMT more techniques and procedures that he or she can use in an emergency situation. Community colleges and hospitals are the locations that generally offer this course. The NREMT exam to obtain an EMT-A certification includes both a cognitive and a psychomotor portion. The psychomotor portion demonstrates your hands-on ability by testing you in 10 different skills. The cognitive portion is done via computer and is comprised of 134 questions, for which you have two hours and 15 minutes to complete. Your exam will cover topics related to respiration, ventilation, cardiology, gynecology, geriatrics and much more.  

Changes to Levels

The NREMT recently made changes to the requirements for people to retire their EMT Basic or Intermediate certification for an EMT Advanced. The new standards were implemented as of 2011. The training a person already has can be used to advance in EMT levels. However, a transition course must be taken to educate the student on more advanced practices. There will no longer be separate levels of training, but one position known as just an Emergency Medical Technician.



A  paramedic must complete training that includes learning both the EMT-B skills and the EMT-A skills.  In addition, paramedics learn more advanced medical skills. Their training is usually offered at a community college and requires 1,300 hours of training that can last up to two years. A paramedic will be able to perform tasks like administering IV medications and stitching wounds. Although it varies by state, the NREMT offers a certification for paramedics. The test is computerized and the number of questions ranges from 80 to 150. You'll have two-and-a-half hours to finish the test. The test covers EMS operations, oxygenation and trauma. 


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