Do you like being part of a team? Do you consider yourself to be a take charge type of person that can remain calm, cool, and collected in any situation? Do you enjoy meeting and working with a wide variety of people?  If you answered yes to the questions above, then a career as an EMT might be right for you!

As part of the broader group of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are emergency responders trained to evaluate and determine the nature and extent of an injury or illness, provide immediate care at the scene, and provide transport to medical facilities.  An exciting and rewarding career, the job of an EMT requires compassion, good communication and listening skills, mental stability, physical fitness, the ability to remain calm, and think and react quickly in what can be life or death situations.

Career Overview

EMTs work what most would consider irregular hours.  They are often expected to work in 12 hour shifts including weekends and holidays.  The daily duties of an EMT typically include the following:

  • Respond to 911 calls for emergency medical assistance
  • Assess a patient’s condition and determine the appropriate treatment
  • Transfer patients to medical facilities and notify the hospital emergency department of the nature and extent of treatment provided and explain the patient’s medical condition
  • Create patient care reports that document the medical care provided
  • Replace used supplies in medical bags and the ambulance
  • Check and clean all equipment after each call

EMTs perform a variety of medical duties in order to stabilize patients prior to transferring them to a medical facility.  These procedures include opening airways, restoring breathing, controlling bleeding, treating patients for shock, administering epinephrine or oxygen, assisting in emergency childbirth, treating heart attack victims with an external defibrillator, and other basic procedures.

Often a starting or entry point into other health care professions, EMTs work as part of EMS, fire departments, hospitals, private ambulance services, or independent rescue teams.  They may work as part of a technical rescue team such as extrication, rope rescue, or water rescue.  Additionally, EMTs and Paramedics are being hired as consultants for companies that design and build ambulances.  In an effort to keep patients, EMTs and paramedics safer during transport, these companies are speaking with the professionals to learn how they can best achieve this goal.

Career advancement opportunities for EMTs include paramedic, EMS supervisor or manager, administrative director, dispatcher, instructor, registered nurse, physicians assistant, physician, or other type of health care worker.

Education, Training and Certification

As indicated by the Florida Department of Health, in the state of Florida you must be 18 years old or older, successfully complete a state-approved EMT course within the past two years, not have a criminal background, and first be certified by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) prior to being certified and licensed as a Florida EMT.  Two levels of certification are offered in Florida for EMS providers based on the amount of education and extent of care they can provide to patients: Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Basic and Paramedic.

There are over 70 schools in Florida offering training programs for individuals seeking a career as an EMT.  Education for an Emergency Medical Technician (Basic) consists of 250 hours of class room instruction, skills practice in a laboratory, hospital emergency room and ambulance experience, and a field internship.  Instruction in basic life support including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), physical assessment, bandaging and splinting, spinal immobilization, airway management, childbirth and other essential skills are part of the curriculum.

Tuition will vary depending on whether you attend a public or private school for training.  EMT Basic training through a public school, such as your local community college, will cost between 200 and 1,000 dollars.   EMT Basic training through a private program ranges from 750 to 1,800 dollars or more.  Books may or may not be included in the tuition fees.  Additional expenses will include the certification application fee ($35), the national exam fee ($70), continued education courses and recertification ($20), every 2 to 3 years according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To gain a better understanding of the information that you will be tested on for certification purposes visit EMT National Training at http://www.emt-national-training.com/practice_tests.php.  Practice tests made up from a database of over 3000 study questions are available on the site.

In addition to completing and passing a state approved training program, applicants for EMT certification must hold either an American Red Cross CPR for Professional Rescuer card, an American Heart Association Basic Life Support (BLS) for the Healthcare Provider, or a CPR equivalent certification from an organization approved by the Florida Department of Health.  To find a local certification program, visit either the American Red Cross or American Heart Association website.

Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median national annual salary for EMTs in 2010 was $30,360, or $14.60 per hour.  Salary.com lists a slightly higher median annual salary at $31,258.  The median annual salaries for select major cities in Florida fall slightly below the national average as shown below.

Jacksonville $29,820
Miami $30,664
Orlando $28,726
Tampa/St. Petersburg $29,382
Tallahassee $28,569

 

Career Outlook

The Occupational Information Network (O*Net) cites the career of EMT as one with a bright outlook.  Essentially this means that the position of EMT is expected to grow quickly over the next seven years (through 2020), and is projected to have a large number of job openings.  A growth rate of 33% is anticipated, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations listed on the site.

Emergencies including vehicle accidents, violence related to crime, natural disasters, and age-related health emergencies will continue to create a demand for EMT professionals.

Some Advice from the Inside

Some information cannot be found on the internet or in a book.  That information is the valuable insight that can only be gained by talking with someone who has gone through all of the steps to become a certified EMT and held a position as an EMT.  Bobbie Sartor, EMT Program Coordinator at Valencia Community College, has been an EMT since 1982.  She then became a Paramedic and in 2001 she began teaching EMT students in the classroom setting at Valencia.  Her suggestion to anyone considering a career as an EMT is to “do things right the first time.”  Sartor said, “The EMT program is very difficult.  I believe that EMT students learn more in one semester than any other student on any college campus.  Preparation is everything!”

Having kept in touch with former students, Sartor said that several have told her that they would not have just jumped right in.  They would have prepared themselves more and had more background information under their belt.  Sartor suggests taking certain classes before enrolling in an EMT program – “Medical terminology, anatomy, physiology and public speaking – a great confidence builder”.

“Dedication, maturity, good study habits, discipline, a strong academic background, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology class, and lots of determination are a must for success in any EMT and Paramedic program!”, Sartor advises.

For additional information regarding a career as an EMT check the following sites:

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians at http://www.naemt.org/

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Office of Emergency Medical Services at http://www.nhtsa.gov/

Ready to move towards a career as an EMT?  Review our list of EMT training programs in Florida.  To find a school near you, enter the name of your city in the search box at the top of the page.