All EMTs and paramedics must complete a formal training program. All jurisdictions require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed; requirements vary by location. Both a high school diploma or equivalent and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification are prerequisites for most formal education and training programs. High school students interested in entering these occupations should take courses in anatomy and physiology.
Formal training is offered by technical institutes, community colleges, and facilities that specialize in emergency care training. At the EMT-Basic level, training includes instruction in assessing patients' conditions, dealing with trauma and cardiac emergencies, clearing obstructed airways, using field equipment, and handling emergencies. Formal courses include about 100 hours of specialized training. Some training may be required in a hospital or ambulance setting.
The EMT-Intermediate typically requires 1,000 hours of training based on the scope of practice. At this level, people must complete the training required at the EMT-Basic level, as well as more advanced training, such as training in the use of complex airway devices, intravenous fluids, and some medications.
Paramedics have the most advanced level of training. They must complete EMT-level and Advanced EMT training, as well as training in advanced medical skills. Community colleges and technical schools may offer this training, in which graduates may receive an associate's degree. Paramedic programs require about 1,300 hours of training and may take up to two years to complete. Their broader scope of practice may include stitching wounds or administering IV medications. Separate training and licensure is required to drive an ambulance.
Although some emergency medical services hire separate drivers, paramedics take a course requiring about eight hours of training before they can drive an ambulance.
Paramedics and EMTs must provide emotional support to patients in an emergency, especially patients who are in life-threatening situations or extreme mental distress. They almost always work on teams and must be able to coordinate their activities closely with others in stressful situations. They need to listen to patients to determine the extent of their injuries or illnesses. They also need to be physically fit. Their job requires a lot of bending, lifting, and kneeling. They need strong problem-solving skills. They must evaluate patients’ symptoms and administer the appropriate treatments. They need to be able to comfort and explain procedures to the patient, give orders, and relay information to others.