Introduction to Emergency Medical Technicians

Written by Zoe Palmer '26, Pre-Med

Why I Chose EMT
EMTing is a great way to gain clinical experience during undergrad and beyond. EMTs work directly with patients and respond to so many different calls that cover almost every branch of medicine including trauma, medical, and behavioral emergencies, so we develop a very broad understanding of medicine and treatments. We also get to treat people of every age, ability, and demographic. In addition, something that really stood out to me about EMS over other basic healthcare roles was the increased autonomy. In the prehospital setting, EMTs and paramedics are the sole providers of care and while we often work on the phone with doctors/medical direction from the hospital, we are mostly independent in our patient care decisions within our scope of practice.

What’s The Job Like?
Shifts range from 12 (most common) to 48 hours every week which is very lengthy but there can be considerable amount of downtime between calls to do training, truck checks, sleep, and even catch up on school work if we’re lucky. I work Sunday day shifts every week which are from 6am-6pm, or longer if we get a late call. Some shifts we’re busy and on our feet nearly all day but some shifts we only get 1 or 2 calls. It can definitely be stressful on busy days or more extreme calls but it is incredibly rewarding to have such a significant impact on patient outcomes.

How to Become an EMT
1) Take EMT course

  • These classes can be offered over a longer period of time (I took mine through community college over the course of an entire school year in highschool) or in an accelerated summer program (usually about 8 weeks). They normally cost about $1000.
  • EMS stations often offer classes, and they may pay for them if you commit to work there after. Contact your local station and ask about getting certified!
  • For options in the Charlottesville area, check out this resource from Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad

2) Pass National Registry Exam

  • There is a cognitive (written) exam and a psychomotor (skills) assessment
  • Costs $98

3) Join a station!

  • Every station does things a bit differently so find one that’s a good fit for you
  • I recommend doing ride-alongs at different stations to figure out which one you like the best
  • Keep in mind that most positions are volunteer/unpaid
  • An EMT certification also qualifies you to work as an ED tech if you prefer to be in the hospital setting

4) Maintain your certification

  • You will have to recertify your national license every 2 years and your state license every 4 years
  • For an EMT-B, the requirement is 40 hours of continuing education or retaking the cognitive exam