Career Opportunities

    Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics.

    Working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) or as a paramedic is one of the most rewarding careers possible. While the pay may not be the best in the world, the benefits are certainly worth it. This article will highlight some of the benefits and drawbacks of working as an EMT or paramedic, and it will provide average salary information, training requirements, and more. 

    Key Points

    • Emergency medical services (EMS) is a demanding job field, both mentally and physically
    • Working as an EMT or paramedic often requires long shifts, including holidays, nights, and weekends
    • Mental stability is required to deal with the multitude of emergencies that an EMT or paramedic sees in his or her lifetime
    • Patient interaction requires superb interpersonal skills
    • Specific training is required to become an EMT or paramedic
    • A license is required to work as an EMT or paramedic in the State of Georgia
    • Employment is expected to grow faster than average as the population grows significantly. 

    Nature of the Work

    Peoples lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care of emergency medical technicians (EMT's) and paramedics, EMT's with additional advanced training to perform more difficult pre-hospital medical procedures.

    Incidents as varied as automobile accidents, heart attacks, drownings, childbirth, and gunshot wounds all require immediate medical attention. EMT's and paramedics provide this vital attention as they care for and transport the sick or injured to a medical facility. Depending on the nature of the emergency, EMT's and paramedics typically are dispatched to the scene by a 911 operator and often work with police and fire department personnel. Once they arrive, they determine the nature and extent of the patients condition while trying to ascertain whether the patient has preexisting medical problems. Following strict rules and guidelines, they give appropriate emergency care and, when necessary, transport the patient. Emergency treatments for more complicated problems are carried out under the direction of medical doctors by radio preceding or during transport.

    EMT's and paramedics may use special equipment such as backboards to immobilize patients before placing them on stretchers and securing them in the ambulance for transport to a medical facility. Usually, one EMT or paramedic drives while the other monitors the patients vital signs and gives additional care as needed. Some EMT's work as part of the flight crew of helicopters that transport critically ill or injured patients to hospital trauma centers. At the medical facility, EMT's and paramedics help transfer patients to the emergency department, report their observations and actions to staff, and may provide additional emergency treatment. After each run, EMT's and paramedics replace used supplies and check equipment. If a transported patient had a contagious disease, EMT's and paramedics decontaminate the interior of the ambulance and report cases to the proper authorities.

    The lowest level First Responders are trained to provide basic emergency medical care because they tend to be the first persons to arrive at the scene of an incident. Many firefighters, police officers, and other emergency workers have this level of training. The EMT-Basic represents the first component of the emergency medical technician system. An EMT-Basic is trained to care for patients on accident scenes and on transport by ambulance to the hospital under medical direction.The EMT-Intermediate has more advanced training that allows administration of intravenous fluids, use of automatic external defibrillators to give lifesaving shocks to a stopped heart, and use of advanced airway techniques and equipment to assist patients experiencing respiratory emergencies. The EMT-Paramedic provides the most extensive pre-hospital care. In addition to the procedures already described, paramedics may administer drugs orally and intravenously, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs), perform endotracheal intubations, and use monitors and other complex equipment. 

    Working Conditions

    EMT's and paramedics work both indoors and outdoors, in all types of weather. They are required to do considerable kneeling, bending, and heavy lifting. These workers risk noise-induced hearing loss from sirens and back injuries from lifting patients. In addition, EMT's and paramedics may be exposed to diseases such as Hepatitis-B and AIDS, as well as violence from drug overdose victims or mentally unstable patients. The work is not only physically strenuous, but also stressful, involving life-or-death situations and suffering patients. Nonetheless, many people find the work exciting and challenging and enjoy the opportunity to help others.Because emergency services function 24 hours a day, EMT's and paramedics have irregular working hours that add to job stress. 

    Training and Continuing Education

    Formal training is required to become an EMT or paramedic.

    To become an EMT, one must complete an EMT course, which includes classroom and clinical time. To become a paramedic, one must already be certified as an EMT and must complete a formal paramedic program. 

    Li censure/Certification

    Certification is needed to become an EMT or paramedic. All 50 states possess a certification procedure. In 38 states and the District of Columbia, registration with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) is required at some or all levels of certification. Other states administer their own certification examination or provide the option of taking the NREMT examination.

    Georgia requires registration with NREMT prior to certification by the State of Georgia. Individuals must pass the NREMT-administered EMT-Intermediate (1985) or EMT-Paramedic examination before he or she will be granted a certificate/license by the State of Georgia.The following is required to become certified as an EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate or EMT-Paramedic by the State of Georgia:


    • Attend a formal EMT-Basic course that includes 120 hours of classroom time
    • No formal clinical training is required
    • This certification does NOT allow one to staff an ambulance


    • Attend a 377-hour EMT course offered at an available school (includes 345 hours of classroom time and 32 hours of clinicals)
    • Pass the NREMT-Intermediate (1985) exam
    • Apply for certification by the State of Georgia using the results of your NREMT-Intermediate exam


    • Be a certified EMT-Intermediate with at least six (6) months of work experience
    • Attend a formalized paramedic course that includes a minimum of 934 hours of instruction time (634 hours of this in a classroom)
    • Perform 300 hours of clinical time to include rotations in the emergency department, intensive care unit/critical care unit, operating room, labor and delivery, psychiatric institutions, pre-hospital, and other areas
    • Pass the NREMT-Paramedic exam
    • Apply for certification by the State of Georgia using the results of your NREMT-Paramedic exam 


    EMT's and paramedics employed at Whitfield EMS work a 12-hour day or night shift with flexible staffing options.

    The typical workweek is 36 - 48 hours with overtime available.

    The starting average annual salary for EMTs and paramedics at Whitfield EMS is:

    Emergency Medical Technician: $25,551

    Paramedic: $29,795

    National Registry Incentive Pay $0.75/hr EMT and $1.00/hr for Paramedics

    Shift and weekend differential. 

    Employment Outlook

    Employment of EMT's and paramedics is expected to increase nationally over many years.

    Original document:

    Used and modified with permission of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    This document is designed for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as an official document. Whitfield EMS does not warrant the information contained within this document.

    If you are interested in becoming an EMT or paramedic, call Bill Young, Recruitment and Retention Officer, Hamilton EMS @706-278-9211 ext 230. He will be able to provide you with further information. Hamilton EMS will allow prospective students to ride on the ambulances to see first-hand what it is like to be an EMT or paramedic.