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Paramedics and EMTs: Certificates, Degrees, and Job Opportunities

Education and training as a paramedic or emergency medical technician (EMT) can open doors to an exciting career with excellent pay. Paramedic and EMT jobs span a variety of opportunities from public service to private sector jobs. There are also non-traditional opportunities such as sporting events and jobs in the tourism industry, including theme parks and cruises.

Paramedics and EMTs

Although sometimes used interchangeably, EMTs and paramedics have different requirements. All states require paramedics and EMTs to be licensed, although requirements will vary by state. In general, an EMT is an entry level position while job opportunities as a paramedic require additional training and education.

EMTs and paramedics have the following job responsibilities:
  • Respond to 911 calls for emergency medical assistance
  • Assess patient’s condition to determine treatment
  • Provide first-aid treatment or life support care
  • Transport patients to the hospital or other healthcare facility
  • Document medical care given to patients
  • Report patient details to physicians, nurses, or other staff
  • Inventory, replace, and clean supplies and equipment
  • Report case to appropriate chain of command
When transporting a patient in an ambulance, one EMT or paramedic may drive while the other(s) attend to the patient. Some paramedics work as part of a helicopter or airplane flight crew to transport patients via air to the appropriate healthcare facility.

Specific responsibilities of and requirements to become EMTs and paramedics will vary by state. Some states will have their own certification programs; however, most states defer to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). NREMT provides national certification of EMTs and paramedics at four levels: EMR, EMT, Advanced EMT, and Paramedic.

Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs)

Trained to provide basic medical care with minimal equipment. EMRs are intended to intervene with immediate lifesaving interventions while waiting for more equipped emergency medical resources.

Emergency Medical Technician-Basic

Cares for patients at the scene and while transporting patients by ambulance to a hospital. An EMT-Basic has the skills to manage respiratory, cardiac, and trauma emergencies.

Emergency Medical Technician-Advanced

Has completed the requirements for the EMT-Basic certification, as well as instruction in more advanced medical procedures such as administering intravenous fluids and medications.


Able to provide extensive pre-hospital care. In addition to EMT training and education, paramedics are qualified to administer medications (orally and intravenously), use and interpret EKGs and other complex health-monitoring equipment.

Paramedic and EMT: Jobs and Education

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates employment of EMTs and paramedics will grow 6 percent over the next decade, faster than the average for all occupations. Emergencies such as car crashes and natural disasters will continue to require the skills of EMTs and paramedics. In addition, the aging of the Baby Boomer population will lead to an increase in age-related health emergencies (such as heart attacks and strokes) that will continue to require the skills of EMTs and paramedics.

Training to pursue a career as a paramedic or EMT is commonly available as a postsecondary certificate or an associate degree program. Some of the non-degree certification programs can be completed in less than 1 year. Paramedics typically need an associate degree which can take up to two years to complete. Programs in emergency medical technology are offered by technical institutes, community colleges, universities, and facilities that specialize in emergency healthcare training.

Programs for paramedics can be found at the community college and university level. An education and career as an EMT or paramedic is especially beneficial for military spouses, as they are certain to secure excellent job opportunities across their many moves with the appropriate education. Don’t forget about the MyCAA Program for military spouses; for more info click here.

EMT Certification Program

It is important to enroll in and earn your certification from a reputable military friendly college or other institution. Certification programs from educational institutions are especially esteemed, as are programs with healthcare affiliations. Certification programs can offer students an opportunity to fast track their career and complement their future academic ventures. Keep in mind that the GI Bill can be used for non-degree seeking programs through approved institutions.

Emergency Medical Technician – respond to emergency calls, perform medical services, and transport patients to medical facilities. Median annual salary: $30,000.

Associate Degree in Paramedic Studies

An Associate Degree in Paramedic Studies is a great opportunity to start a rewarding career. In addition to the variety of paramedic jobs that are available, earning an associate degree can be a stepping stone for a multitude of careers in the healthcare industry and beyond. Typically a paramedic education will require about 1,200 hours of instruction.

>> Search GI Bill-approved schools with associate degrees in paramedic studies

Jobs with an Associate Degree in Paramedic Studies

Paramedic – respond to emergency calls, perform medical services, and transport patients to medical facilities.

Median annual salary: $40,000.

Paramedic industry salaries:
IndustryAnnual mean wage
 Ambulatory Health Services$35,670
 General Medical and Surgical Hospitals$39,760
 Outpatient Care Centers$45,310
 Physician Offices$44,680

VA-Approved Paramedic and EMT Programs

Ready to become a paramedic or EMT?

Check out these great programs available at our partner schools:

Lone Star College

Offers a stackable certificate and degree program, including a one-year paramedic academy and an Emergency Medical Services Professions Associate of Applied Sciences Degree. Programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Lone Star College does not participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

New England Institute of Technology

Offers an Associate in Science Degree in Paramedic Technology. New England Institute of Technology participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Northwest Missouri State University

Offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Emergency and Disaster Management. Students can earn their National Registry Emergency Medical Technician certification and Missouri state EMT license upon successful completion of this undergraduate program.