Emergency medical service, or EMS, personnel care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings. They respond to emergency calls, perform medical services and transport patients to medical facilities. Designations or titles are based the amount of education and scope of care they provide to patients. The National EMS Scope of Practice Model has four levels of EMS care.
- Emergency Medical Responder, or EMR, typically has 58 hours of education. An EMR provides care, most often within a team, but is not educated to take care of patients in the back of an ambulance. Most EMRs are on rapid response vehicles and help other EMS providers at a scene.
- An EMT, also known as an EMT-Basic, cares for patients at the scene and during transport by ambulance to a hospital. An EMT-Basic has the skills to assess a patient's condition and manage respiratory, cardiac and trauma emergencies. Formal EMT courses include about 150 hours of specialized instruction with some instruction typically held in a hospital or ambulance setting.
- An Advanced EMT, also known as an EMT-Intermediate, requires about 400 hours of specialized instruction, including all EMT training plus additional coursework on advanced medical procedures, such as using complex airway devices and administering intravenous fluids and medications.
- Paramedics require 1,200 hours of accredited education and provide more extensive care than EMTs. They are trained in EMT tasks but can also give medications orally and intravenously, interpret electrocardiograms or EKGs, used to monitor heart function, and use other monitors and complex equipment. To become a paramedic, a person must first be an EMT.
The specific tasks EMTs and paramedics can perform at any of these levels vary by state.
Education, certification and licensure requirements
Typically, to work in EMS you must be 18 years old, pass an EMT education course and not have a criminal background. Find EMT course locations nationwide by contacting your state EMS office. Visit the Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your specific state.
As an EMT or paramedic, you may be hired or act as a paid or unpaid volunteer at a variety of facilities, including the following:
- Hospitals and medical centers
- Fire departments
- Ambulance services
- Correctional facilities
If you are seeking employment as an EMT or paramedic, consider opportunities with Military Spouse Employment Partnership companies and organizations.
Working as an EMT or paramedic involves handling medical emergencies in high stress situations. You will need in-depth training, a supportive team and good stress management techniques for this field. You may be exposed to the elements or to contagious diseases, so you must learn to protect yourself using proper equipment. You may have evening, weekend or “on-call” shifts, but knowing your schedule in advance will help you arrange child care, support systems and schedule requests.
Becoming an EMT or paramedic is a great way to enter the medical field in a bright outlook career path that should make it easier to find a job when you relocate to a new duty assignment. If you decide being a paramedic is not right for you, use your skills to transition to an emergency room technician or possibly consider a career as a registered nurse.
Consider joining a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies surrounding the EMS profession. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move.
Networking with other professionals in your industry will give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to obtain an interview at your new location. Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.
If you are considering a career as an EMT or paramedic, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Take the Strong Interest Explorer and Myers-Briggs self-assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with this career path. Investigate whether you are eligible for My Career Advancement Account Scholarship assistance and use the Scholarship Finder to see if money is available to help fund your classes and certification.
If you move due to a PCS, your service branch can now help reimburse licensure and certification costs up to $1,000. Each service has its own procedures for reimbursement, so be sure you know what your branch requires.
Talk to current EMTs or paramedics about their jobs to learn more about what to expect. All Army and Air Force medical personnel are EMTs, so you may have a ready source of mentors available. If you’re not physically fit, join a gym, hire a trainer or set up a training plan to prepare physically for the position. Call 800-342-9647 and speak with a career coach for help finding training opportunities or scholarship funding, searching for a job or overcoming challenges.