EMT Training
So you want to become an EMT?

EMT Training can be long, hard and physically demanding, So, what do you need to know to become an Emergency medical technician? Do you have what it takes? I will answer these questions.

There are many reasons why you want to start a career in emergency medical services. It could be for the thrill of the job. I will admit in my nearly 25 year career that I have been scared to death. I was a responder to the 911 tragedy in New York City. Every exciting job does have its dull times as well. Are you ready to deal with paperwork, to sit through mandatory retraining and to be barfed on?

EMT Training involves dedication. Most courses are offered at colleges and many receive college credit. In New Jersey, the state in which I instruct, the EMT training for the basic course is considered a 4 credit college course and several universities will give credit for courses taken outside their walls. If you have never been to college be prepared to do a lot of reading and to spend a great deal of time in class.

Unlike when I was in college, you can't cut classes either. Most states have legal requirements for you attending class and you are held accountable. Just think if you cut class on the "Airway Management" day, what would you do when you came upon a patient who has stopped breathing?

The United States Department of transportation via the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration has created a set of standard for EMT training. Here is a link to the various levels of training (Warning! Opens a new window): DOT EMT Curriculum

There are 4 primary levels of EMT training in the United States. These levels are Emergency Response Technician (formerly known as a First Responder), EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic. The minimum hours for training at each level is 40 hours for Emergency Response Technician, 120 hours for EMT-basic, 320 hours for EMT-Intermediate (in addition to EMT-Basic) and 1000-1200 hours for EMT-Paramedic. Many states award an associates college degree for paramedic training.

Each state has its own version of what it means to be an EMT and ultimately sets their own standards of EMT training. This site concerns itself with the EMT-Basic level of training.

In 2009 the US DOT decided that it needed to revamp the EMT training program. We no longer refer to a training curriculum rather to a set of training guidelines.

New Jersey has adopted the new guidelines but did not decide to implement them until 2010. Click here to see how New Jersey has begun to implement the new guidelines.


The EMT training for the basic program involves 120 hours - divided between lecture and skills development. Some states require that 10 hours of volunteer hospital service be included while others allow "Ride-Alongs" as part of the training.

Age plays a part in the training during the EMT-Basic program. I have been an EMT-Basic instructor for nearly 15 years and have made some observations. High school and college age students seem to do very well by reading the text books and by absorbing the lecture material. Older students, such as myself, seem to do better with the hands-on skills and then relating that back to the lectures. Even a student being out of high school or college for only a few years generally mean that the hands-on training is more effective than the lectures or reading.


The EMT Training for the basic curriculum is divided into seven modules each with its own set objectives. These modules ("Mods" as referred to by us instructors) are (click on the link for more information):
Module 1 - Preparatory
Module 2 - Airway
Module 3 - Trauma Assessment and Documentation
Module 4 - Medical Assessment
Module 5 - Trauma Emergencies
Module 6 - Pediatric and Geriatric Emergencies
Module 7 - Operations
There is an optional 8 module called Advanced Airway which will not be covered in these pages.


The job description for an EMT is that he or she be able to understand, read and write English. To that end, most EMT-Basic courses use written tests to assess both the knowledge of the subject material and how well the student understands English.

Unfortunately most instructors either write sloppy questions or use commercially available test banks which do not do either well.

If English is your second language you will be at a disadvantage to complete most courses. My recommendation to you is to take as many practice tests as you can. First you need to be able to understand what is written on those tests. Next you need to be able to get the correct answer (without cheating) and finally you need to complete your practice tests in the time period allowed by your course site.

This is true if you have a learning disability. Practice, practice, practice


Return from EMT Training to EMT Resources