What is an EMT

When a person is injured or becomes severely ill, the first professionals to respond are generally emergency medical technicians (commonly referred to as EMTs). They get to the location of the incident as soon as possible and secure the scene, then examine patients and administer urgent care.

EMTs also administer medication, interpret electrocardiogram test results, immobilize patients on backboards, carry them on stretchers, and transport them to hospitals for further treatment. For more on job duties, please visit our EMT job description page.

Work Environment

Over 50% of EMTs are employed by hospitals, police and fire departments, and other rescue operations that operate ambulance services. EMTs drive or ride in ambulances to the scenes of medical emergencies, which may be outside or indoors. Inclement weather (including temperature extremes, heavy precipitation, and strong winds) is frequently encountered.

Most career EMTs and paramedics work in metropolitan areas, compared to volunteer EMTs and paramedics that are more common in small towns and rural areas.

The job entails exposure to patients’ infectious diseases, and some heavy lifting (to get patients onto stretchers and into ambulances). EMTs must be able to cope with upset, anxious, and panic-stricken people.

Work Schedule

The majority of EMTs are full-time employees, while some work part time. Others are on call. About one-third of these professionals put in more than 40 hours per week. The schedule depends in part on whether an EMT serves a rural area part time or as a volunteer, or is a salaried professional in a city.

Mean Annual Emergency Medical Technicians or EMT Salary

The average income for an EMT in the United States, as of May 2013, was $34,870. That was 43 percent less than the average salary of all job postings nationwide. The top ten percent of EMTs earn more than $54,710 a year, while the bottom 10 percent make only $20,420.

The number of hours worked is, of course, a major factor in the rate of pay. An EMT’s education, training, experience, and certification also help determine the salary. The location and the type of employer have an effect, as well.

Emergency Medical Technicians or EMT Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$34,870 per year
$16.77 per hour
Top 10% Salary$54,710 per year
$26.30 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$20,420 per year
$9.82 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2013237,660

EMT Job Outlook and Prospects

Federal labor officials predict that the number of EMT positions in the United States will increase 23 percent between 2012 and 2022. That is a far greater growth rate than that of the average profession.

A leading reason for the high demand for EMTs is the nation’s growing population, and a corresponding rise in the volume of emergency-services calls. The percentage of people who are elderly also continues to increase. Seniors are more prone to needing the help of EMTs because of falls, other household injuries, and serious illnesses.

Another factor in the rapid job growth is that EMTs need to spend more time with patients than in the past, as crowded emergency rooms force people to wait for treatment. EMTs must stay with their patients, to monitor their vital signs and keep them stable until a doctor is available. This heavy demand for emergency care sometimes causes ambulances to be diverted from their initial destinations to other hospitals, resulting in a need for more EMTs. Furthermore, emergency medical service agencies find it increasingly difficult to retain unpaid volunteers; consequently, more paid paramedics will be needed.

EMT Salary: Factors of Influence

In the past three years alone, the median annual wage of paramedics and EMTs has increased from $33,020 to $34,870. While this might seem like a minor difference, it is an increase of over 2%, making the future prospect of further wage increases more likely as the job market increases as well.

However, it is important to remember that not all EMT’s will make the same amount of money. In fact, salaries for both paramedics and EMTs vary according to a wide range of factors including experience, specialization, industry, and location.


Because completing a licensing program is the only education or certification required to work as an EMT, the primary driving force of increased wages is experience. Working in the profession for a long time can result in significant pay increases, especially if it leads to the development of more specialized skills for work in a less concentrated industry. EMT who just joined the profession will usually only start at $20,000 per year while those who have worked for many years get up to $55,000.

Education and Specialization

The basic educational qualification to work as an EMT is a high school diploma or general-equivalency degree, as well as certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Those wishing to reach the top level in the field, that of a paramedic, need to obtain bachelor’s degrees.

Training programs are offered by community colleges, vocational and technical schools, and other institutions. The training takes students to one of three levels: basic, involving patient assessment and emergency care; intermediate or advanced, with instruction in administering medication, intravenous fluids, and airway devices; and paramedic, which entails more advanced medical skills and knowledge. Becoming a basic EMT requires 100 hours of training, while qualifying for the next level takes 1,000 hours. The salary increases with each step up the ladder.

With Paramedic being at the top of the emergency care profession, these individuals generally earn the highest income averaging over $50,000 a year. Graduates of advanced training in Paramedic usually have to go through at least 1000 hours of classroom and clinical training before certification. These individuals have more knowledge, as a result, they are exposed to more job opportunities and higher salary.

Even more lucrative jobs are available to paramedics who are promoted to supervisor, operations manager, administrative director, or executive director of emergency services.


Like many other healthcare industries, finding work in a smaller, more specialized sector is extremely important to earn a higher salary. While almost exactly half of all EMTs work in ambulatory care services, those earning the most are working in more abstract industries such as heavy and civil engineering construction, waste treatment and disposal, and state government. This makes finding work in a more unique industry essential for a salary above the mean annual wage.


The area in which an EMT works can make a big difference in the salary. Many of those in small towns and rural areas are unpaid volunteers or part-timers, while professionals in large cities have full-time jobs and make solid middle-class incomes.

At last report, EMT jobs in the District of Columbia paid more than those in any state. Next on the list were Alaska, Washington, Illinois, and Maryland. The most financially attractive cities for EMTs were Tacoma, Wash.; San Francisco, Calif.; Olympia, Wash.; Bremerton-Silverdale, Wash.; and Chicago, Ill.

Local police and fire departments, as well as independent rescue operations, offer some of the best salaries to EMTs. They typically pay more than the salaries offered by hospitals.

Emergency Medical Technicians or EMT Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying StatesTop Paying IndustriesStates with Highest Employment Level
Tacoma, WA: $69,140District of Columbia: $52,930Other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction: $54,180California: (16,960 jobs) $34,210
San Francisco, CA: $66,460Alaska: $51,570Waste Treatment and Disposal: $50,180New York: (15,470 jobs) $39,210
Olympia, WA: $66,210Washington: $50,980State Government: $48,120Pennsylvania: (13,840 jobs) $32,210
Bremerton-Silverdale, WA: $66,210Illinois: $48,350Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping and Payroll Services: $47,450Texas: (13,290 jobs) $31,980
Chicago, IL: $57,170Maryland: $42,410Other Amusement and Recreation Industries: $46,980Illinois: (12,670 jobs) $48,350

emt salary state by state 2013