By LAPG Staff
May 17th 2021

APN Photography/

An EMT is an exciting and fast-paced medical profession. You never know what each call is going to bring. Whether you live in a rural area or a big city, the demand for EMTs is always there. Becoming an EMT is the first step to other great positions like becoming a firefighter, EMT Enhanced, a paramedic and more.

The good thing is that it’s simple to become an EMT, as the typical training lasts around 16 weeks. You can start before you’re an adult at most volunteer fire and rescue agencies. Many aspiring firefighters and paramedics start at 16 years old. So, it won’t be long before you’re putting on your new EMT boots and catching the next emergency call.

Here’s what you need to know on how to become an EMT.

What Does an EMT Do?

EMTs are certified medical professionals who provide basic medical care in the field. Many first responders start with EMT training to progress along the career path. Like other EMS workers, EMTs are trained to stop external bleeding, perform CPR and manage other medical emergencies.

EMTs are often the first on the scene at accidents and medical emergencies. They work with firefighters and law enforcement officers to respond to emergencies and take care of medical problems quickly. That care ends once they are transferred into the care of a hospital or a patient refusal.

Different EMT Levels

EMT certification comes in different levels, and they have different names in different states. You take them in succession, so you start with EMT basic and progress from there.

EMT Basic

This certification is the basic standard and requires fewer responsibilities and training hours than other levels. These EMTs provide basic medical care, like stopping external bleeding, performing CPR, splinting broken bones, etc. But they cannot give medicines or perform any invasive procedures, such as starting an IV.

EMT Intermediate or Advanced

This is the next level of certification and requires more training, but these EMTs take on more responsibilities. They can insert IVs, intubate patients and, in some states, they can administer certain non-prescription drugs.

New York Presbyterian EMS

Leonard Zhukovsky/


A paramedic is often the highest EMT level in most states and requires much more education. Many have a college education as well or do a combined college and paramedic program. They can administer more drugs than intermediate EMTs, perform manual defibrillation and much more. Paramedics respond to the most serious medical calls, often working with intermediate and basic EMTs.

What Do You Need to Be an EMT?

As mentioned before, some states allow you to get a basic EMT certification starting at 16 years old. However, other states require you to be 18 with a high school diploma or equivalent.

The typical training requirement is 154 hours and lasts for months because most people take evening classes that fit around their school or full-time job. The best place to start is with your local volunteer fire department or rescue squad. You often can’t get a full-time job as a professional firefighter or EMT without an EMT certification.

emt equipment

Ken Onizuka/

Must-Have Tools for EMTs

Usually, the volunteer or professional agency you work for supplies the important tools, such as the EMT jump bag and other medical equipment, as they come stocked on the rescue squad or engine. This equipment includes:

  • Infusion pumps and syringe drivers
  • ECG monitor with defibrillator
  • Incubator
  • Suction unit
  • Backboard or trauma board
  • Bag valve mask

You’ll also need the right clothing–like durable EMT pants, a good pair of tactical boots and other comfortable clothing that allows you a full range of movement. You may find yourself in a variety of environments caring for people involved in traffic crashes in the snow, rain or ice, rural areas and even in caves or down cliffs. EMTs respond to emergency calls any place you can think of and some you likely haven’t! Your shirts are usually provided by the agency you work for or run calls with.

Discover Tactical EMT Pants

Becoming an EMT is a dream for many, and it’s an achievable one, too. You can start training young as many teenagers start with their local fire and rescue agency when they are 15 or 16. There’s another bonus to this: It keeps teenagers out of trouble because they’re busy training for their future job. Fire and rescue agencies are like families, so they always look out for each other.

So, are you ready to start your EMT training?

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