Emergency Medical Technicians, better known as EMTs, are medical professionals who specialize in emergency medical situations. Working as first responders, EMTs are usually the first people on the scene to help with serious accidents and injuries. This article will tell you about the EMT salary in every state, the job description, and the minimum requirements to start a career in this field.
Despite their life-saving role, EMTs don’t make as much money as some other medical professionals.
However, the barrier to entry is much lower than for a doctor or nurse, making this an appealing career option for many interested in emergency care.
If you’re interested in an intense, fast-paced job with life-or-death stakes and a true feeling of accomplishment, read on to learn more about how to get a job in emergency medical services focused on patient care and how much money you can expect to earn in the field.
What Is An EMT And What Do They Do?
An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is a first responder trained in life-saving emergency medicine. Most EMTs are employed by private ambulance services, fire departments, hospitals, or police departments. They may also work for government and military organizations.
Emergency medicine aims to stabilize a patient’s condition long enough to get them to a hospital. This means that EMTs don’t spend much time diagnosing or treating conditions. Instead, they focus on vital treatments like maintaining a patient’s airways, addressing bleeding, preventing shock, and administering certain life-saving drugs and treatments like CPR.
Some first responders choose to receive EMT training in addition to their other career fields. For example, you can be a firefighter/EMT or a police officer/EMT.
These individuals usually make more money due to the added level of training. This is one reason you might find a fire truck dispatched to a medical emergency; the odds are good that most of the firefighters on board are also trained EMTs.
For laypeople, an EMT and a paramedic may seem interchangeable. However, paramedics have received additional specialized training and can do more on the job.
Do Paramedics Make More Than An EMT?
EMTs are first responders. They’re the people who arrive first at a scene to stabilize a patient, assess the severity of the situation and provide some basic life-saving treatments such as administering CPR or giving glucose to a diabetic patient.
Paramedics, on the other hand, are licensed medical providers who provide critical care and similar treatments to what a patient might receive from an emergency room technician. These treatments include advanced life-saving measures like using a defibrillator, administering drugs, inserting an IV line and intubating a patient.
Many EMTs choose to receive a paramedic certification. In order to receive it, the student would need to study under both basic and advanced EMT studies as well as supplementary courses. There is also on-the-job training to work through. Because paramedics have more education and experience, they earn more money.
The average annual salary of a paramedic is about $40,000, but experienced medics in some places can earn double that. EMT pay averages between $33,000 to $50,000 per year on average. Of course, a number of factors can affect this pay including the state of employment and the company a person works for.
Minimum Requirements To Be An EMT
You can become an EMT without a college degree. Individuals with a high school diploma or GED can pursue formal EMT training, which makes it one of the easiest and quickest medical fields to break into.
There are three levels of EMT training:
This covers tasks like triage, wound stabilization, cardiac emergencies, and respiratory emergencies.
This requires you to pass basic training and then receive an additional 30 to 350 training hours, depending on the state and your specific situation. At the intermediate level, you will be able to start IVs and provide medication, among other tasks.
This program is usually offered as a two-year degree program at community colleges. Paramedics must pass the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians) exam to become licensed.
All emergency medical service programs combine classroom-based coursework and on-the-job training. After learning the basics, new EMTs will be paired with more experienced teams and sent on “ride-alongs” to do field work. This will give you a good taste of what life on the job is like so you can decide whether it’s something you wish to continue pursuing.
In total, an EMT receives about 120 to 150 hours of training before receiving a license. A paramedic may clock up to 1,800 hours of training. While many people who train as EMTs go on to become paramedics, it is not essential.
You can work as an EMT indefinitely or continue your studies toward a paramedic license at a later date. Most people who become paramedics work as EMTs to support themselves while studying for the more advanced license.
Life As An EMT
Working as an EMT can be incredibly rewarding. It can also be a high-stress environment. While you probably already know that the job often comes with life-or-death stakes, you may not be as familiar with the other aspects of day-to-day life awaiting you as an EMT.
These include unusual work hours and schedules.
How Long Are EMT Shifts?
The shifts available for an EMT will vary depending on the company you work for. Some ambulance services offer regular 8-hour or 10-hour shifts scheduled five or four days per week.
However, it’s not uncommon to see 12-hour, 16-hour, 24-hour or even longer shifts.
If you work a 24-hour shift, you will be “on-call” during that period. This usually means spending your time in the ambulance or at the station and fitting in eating and sleeping between calls.
How busy you will be on a given shift depends on where you live, how much EMS coverage there is in that area and other factors that affect public safety.
In some cases, you may not be paid for hours spent sleeping or idle on the job. For example, if the job allows you to go home while on-call, or if it sets aside scheduled blocks of five or more hours for sleep breaks, that time may be unpaid.
However, the Fair Labor Standards Act mandates that employees be compensated for the time at work even if that time is idle if the employee must stay on-call and on-site.
Do EMTs Get Days Off?
Most EMTs and paramedics work long shifts separated by long breaks. For example, you may work 24 hours “on” followed by 24 hours “off” with up to a week between on/off cycles. Another common schedule for medical professionals is to work three long shifts followed by four days off.
This can be a bit confusing for people accustomed to working a 9-to-5 job, but many EMTs love the flexibility of these work schedules as they can provide for more leisure time than a standard two-day weekend.
Do EMTs Have Set Schedules?
As noted above, EMT schedules are usually different from the standard office job. These schedules can also change and rotate from one week to the next.
For example, you may have two 24-hour shifts one week, a few days off, then three or four 12-hour shifts. If your total hours for a week exceed 40, your employer will be required to pay overtime wages for the difference.
The flexible nature of work hours in medical professions can be a blessing or a curse depending on your preferences. Some people enjoy having variety in their schedules, especially since it allows days off during the week for running errands or shopping in non-peak hours.
Others find the erratic scheduling to be a challenge for things like securing childcare or managing hobbies. Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule amidst frequent shift changes is another major concern for many people working in EMS.
How Much Does It Pay To Be An EMT?
Wages vary by location and experience. In general, areas with a high cost of living will receive higher wages than those who live in more affordable cities.
Other factors, such as the amount of time you’ve worked with one employer, your level of education and the specific ambulance company or hospital who employs you will also factor into your wages and total compensation.
How Much Does An EMT Basic Make An Hour?
According to Salary.com, the average annual salaries reported for EMTs are between $32,860 and $40,760 nationwide. This works out to an average of $16 to $20 per hour.
By comparison, Salary.com places a paramedic’s annual wage between $38,722 and $49,143, or an average of $21 an hour. However, paramedics can earn significantly more with time and experience; EMTs usually max out their earning potential around the $20/hr wage.
Where Do EMTs Get Paid The Most?
As with most career fields, EMTs make the highest wages in areas with a high demand for their services. States with a high cost of living compared to the national average may also tend to have higher wages. Before you move to a new region in search of a better-paying job, consider the relative costs of housing, food, travel and other necessities.
You may find that the high wages offered in some places actually translate to a lower buying power.
Based on average wages reported by Zip Recruiter and confirmed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paid EMT jobs are in New York, where EMTs average $15.78 an hour which translates into an average salary of $32,823. The lowest-paid EMTs are in North Carolina, where the average pay is $11.57 an hour or $25,072 annually.
These figures are current as of late 2020, but they may not be an entirely accurate reflection of the field as they are based on user-reported income. Consider the figures more like ballpark estimates or guidelines for your state.
Average EMT Salary Broken Down By State
Below are average estimates of wages as reported by Zip Recruiter, ranked from highest to lowest.
1. New York
$15.78 per hour or $32,823 annually. The lowest reported pay is $24,622, and the highest is $42,678.
$15.52 per hour or $32,286 annually. The lowest reported pay is $24,419, and the highest is $42,326.
$15.52 per hour $32,286 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,398, and the highest is $38,822.
4. New Hampshire
$15.21 per hour or $31,643 annually. The lowest reported pay is $23,958, and the highest is $41,427.
$15.01 per hour or $31,226 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,549, and the highest is $39,085.
$14.49 per hour or $30,131 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,780, and the highest is $39,484.
$14.48 per hour or $30,122 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,431, and the highest is $38,880.
8. Rhode Island
$14.36 per hour or $28,877 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,656, and the highest is $37,537.
$14.35 per hour or $29,838 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,500, and the highest is $39,000.
$14.29 per hour or $29,715 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,532, and the highest is $39,055.
$14.27 per hour or $29,677 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,562, and the highest is $39,107.
$14.23 per hour or $29,677 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,500, and the highest is $39,000.
13. North Dakota
$14.18 per hour or $29,492 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,500, and the highest is $39,000.
$14.17 per hour or $29,467 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,500, and the highest is $39,000.
$14.14 per hour or $29,419 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,466, and the highest is $38,942.
$14.08 per hour or $29,288 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,029, and the highest is $38,182.
$13.80 per hour or $28,699 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,910, and the highest is $36,243.
18. South Dakota
$13.76 per hour or $28,631 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,223, and the highest is $36,787.
19. New Jersey
$13.74 per hour or $28,569 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,521, and the highest is $37,303.
20. West Virginia
$13.72 per hour or $28,534 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,770, and the highest is $37,735.
$13.65 per hour or $28,396 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,328, and the highest is $36,968.
22. South Carolina
$13.58 per hour or $28,249 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,220, and the highest is $36,781.
$13.57 per hour or $28,223 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,146, and the highest is $36,653.
$13.54 per hour or $28,155 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,214, and the highest is $36,771.
$13.53 per hour or $28,151 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,251, and the highest is $36,835.
$13.52 per hour or $28,114 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,383, and the highest is $37,065.
$13.52 per hour or $28,1114 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,166, and the highest is $36,687.
$13.51 per hour or $28,093 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,500, and the highest is $39,000.
$13.43 per hour or $27,929 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,914, and the highest is $36,251.
$13.40 per hour or $27,862 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,509, and the highest is $35,549.
$13.37 per hour or $27,804 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,222, and the highest is $36,785.
$13.31 per hour or $27,684 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,695, and the highest is $35,871.
$13.30 per hour or $27,672 annually. The lowest reported pay is $21,077, and the highest is $36,534.
$13.28 per hour or $27,626 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,840, and the highest is $36,122.
$13.26 per hour or $27,582 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,781, and the highest is $36,022.
$13.22 per hour or $27,504 annually. The lowest reported pay is $22,500, and the highest is $39,000.
$13.21 per hour or $27,483 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,468, and the highest is $35,477.
$13.16 per hour or $27,372 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,678, and the highest is $35,843.
$13.02 per hour or $27,090 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,616, and the highest is $35,734.
$12.90 per hour or $26,822 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,107, and the highest is $34,851.
$12.75 per hour or $26,514 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,231, and the highest is $35,068.
$12.68 per hour or $26,370 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,216, and the highest is $35,041.
$12.59 per hour or $26,195 annually. The lowest reported pay is $20,132, and the highest is $34,895.
44. New Mexico
$12.72 per hour or $26,457 annually. The lowest reported pay is $19,900, and the highest is $34,492.
$12.69 per hour or $26,390 annually. The lowest reported pay is $19,719, and the highest is $34,181.
$12.61 per hour or $26,227 annually. The lowest reported pay is $19,712, and the highest is $34,168.
$12.47 per hour or $25,930 annually. The lowest reported pay is $19,826, and the highest is $34,366.
$12.44 per hour or $25,869 annually. The lowest reported pay is $19,445, and the highest is $33,705.
$12.15 per hour or $25,281 annually. The lowest reported pay is $18,972, and the highest is $32,883.
50. North Carolina
$11.57 per hour or $25,072 annually. The lowest reported pay is $17,455, and the highest is $30,256.
As you can see, there is some variation between regions across the country, but the basic range in EMT wages is similar in all states.
Why Is EMT Pay So Low?
Considering the high-stress work environment and vital nature of emergency services, you might be surprised to see the wages for EMTs be so low, especially when compared to other medical professions.
Many EMTs are overworked and underpaid, bringing in wages that aren’t much higher than those in service industries like fast food or retail.
Why are EMT wages so low? There are a few reasons:
- It’s a job widely viewed as a stepping-stone to something better. Although many people do stay as EMTs for all of their working lives, most go on to become licensed paramedics or even pursue education toward becoming doctors, nurses and other higher-paid medical professionals.
- Local governments do not set aside enough money for emergency services, and private ambulance services risk being priced out of the market if they charge more. Similarly, insurance companies are not willing to pay as much for ambulance services as other medical expenses. All of this drives profits down, which trickles down to the employees.
- Certification to become an EMT is a fairly quick process, and there is a low barrier of entry when compared to other jobs. There is also minimal room for advancement within the role, so career-minded people often move on to other things rather than staying in place and receiving raises.
- In some areas, especially rural communities, EMS roles are staffed by volunteers. This makes it even harder to secure a living wage as an EMT since there are others willing to do the work for free.
Can You Make Good Money As An EMT?
It’s unlikely that you’ll ever earn a fortune working in emergency medical services, but it is possible to secure a stable living on the job. Salaries aren’t set in stone, and you can squeeze more money out of your career. There are a few ways you can boost your income and meet or exceed the high-end earnings estimates for your area:
- You can pick up extra hours. If you’re able to do it safely, working more than 40 hours per week can pad your paycheck. In most cases, overtime pay is 1.5 times your usual hourly rate. You may also receive a shift differential, or higher pay, for working sub-optimal shifts such as overnights.
- You can pick up a second job. This doesn’t mean moonlighting as a delivery driver, either. There are plenty of gigs for trained EMTs. Working as a standby medic for an event or teaching a CPR class can earn you some extra money.
- You can pursue higher education. Putting in the hours to receive your paramedic license is worthwhile, even if the initial pay boost isn’t that much. Your experience and knowledge will give you more bargaining power if you seek another employer.
If you have positive work experience and know that you bring value to your employer, you can ask for a raise. Your boss may not be able to extend one, but you’ll never know unless you try.
Can You Live Off An EMT Salary?
Whether you can make a living as an EMT depends largely on your expenses and standard of living. If you’re trying to be the sole provider for a large family, it will be hard to make ends meet as an EMT.
However, if you are a bachelor, have a spouse with a good job, live an affordable lifestyle or otherwise keep your expenses low, you can live comfortably on an EMT salary.
Are EMTs In Demand?
Like all medical professions, emergency medical services have stable demand. Employment is expected to grow 7 percent between 2018 and 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
This means that it’s easy to find work as an EMT, and securing a job is generally as simple as completing the required training.
Most Popular Companies Hiring EMTs
Most EMTs and paramedics are employed by hospitals, government agencies or private ambulance companies. Many private ambulances specialize in transport rather than emergency response. First responders are more likely to be paid by local or municipal governments.
AMR, or American Medical Response, is one of the best-known companies operating ambulances in cities around the country.
Working in emergency services isn’t a path to riches, but it does offer stable employment and a rewarding career path. Many people view their work as an EMT as a calling as much as a career, and there are medics in the field who have been working the same job for decades.
If you are interested in the medical field and want a job that can be entered with minimal formal education, becoming an EMT might be right for you.
Although you won’t make as much money as a doctor with an EMT salary, you’ll also enter the field with substantially less debt. The fast-paced work environment, flexible schedule and tight-knit community with other first responders help to make this job an appealing choice despite the relatively low pay.
What Is An EMT?
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is a first responder trained in life-saving emergency medicine. Most EMTs are employed by private ambulance services, fire departments, hospitals or police departments. They may also work for government and military organizations.
How Much Does An EMT Basic Make An Hour?
The average annual salaries reported for EMTs are between $32,860 and $40,760 nationwide. This works out to an average of $16 to $20 per hour.
Where Do EMTs Get Paid The Most?
The highest-paid EMT jobs are in New York, where EMTs average $15.78 an hour or $32,823 annually