Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics are an important part of pre-hospital emergency medicine. These certifications/licenses may be required to work on an ambulance, for a fire department, or even in the hospital emergency room. Do these jobs pay well? Can you live off the money you make as an EMT or Paramedic?
EMTs and Paramedics can live off the salary they make. However, the lifestyle they can live will depend on location, experience, employer, and overtime hours.
If you are thinking about becoming an EMT or Paramedic but are wondering if you can support yourself on the salary, keep reading. We will also compare salaries from different areas of the US to help you decide if and where being an EMT is right for you.
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What Do EMTs and Paramedics Do?
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is a category of certifications for medical training. The different types of EMTs will depend on the state, but the common types are:
Again, not every state recognizes EMT Intermediate. We will stick to the most common two in this article: EMT Basic (or just EMT) and EMT Paramedic.
EMTs are trained and certified to perform First Aid and Basic Life Support (BLS) level of emergency medical care. This includes: CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) including AED use, splinting, bleeding control and bandaging, administering oxygen, and medical and trauma assessments.
Paramedics, after becoming EMTs, are trained and licensed to perform Advanced Life Support (ALS) level of medical care. They can: perform advanced assessments, start IVs, give intravenous medications, insert advanced airways, use manual defibrillators, and other advanced emergency medicine. They are also usually certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).
Also read: Can An EMT/Paramedic Work As A Phlebotomist?
EMTs and paramedics are most commonly employed by private ambulance companies and fire departments. They can also work as Emergency Room Technicians (ER techs) at the hospital.
How Much Does an EMT/Paramedic Make per Hour?
Do paramedics get paid well? Paramedics, because they have more advanced training, make a little more. The National Average paramedic salary is around $43,000 per year or around $20 per hour.
These are just the average though as many people make more or less.
EMTs that work in a hospital usually make a little more than those that work on the ambulance. The national average for an ER Tech is around $63,000 per year or $30 per hour. Again, these numbers can vary depending on where you look.
Most firefighters are also EMTs or Paramedics. Because firefighters are responsible for both firefighting and emergency medical response, they are usually paid more than EMTs and paramedics working on an ambulance. The national average salary for firefighter/EMT is about $47,000 per year or $23 per hour. And the national average for firefighter/paramedics is around $57,000 per year or about $28 per hour.
So, you can see that EMT and Paramedic salaries can be very different depending on who you work for.
This video has some more information about how much money EMTs and Paramedics make:
Also read: How to Become an EMT: Expert Guide
What States Pay EMTs and Paramedics the Most?
Also read: Can Firefighters Make 100k Per Year?
The lifestyle that you lead not only depends on how much money you make, but how much money you have to spend. We all know this can vary widely based on location.
Some places will pay EMTs and Paramedics much less, but the cost of living is so much lower, that your dollar will go much farther and therefore you can afford much more on an EMT salary.
People still wonder what areas/states pay the most to EMTs and Paramedics.
However, according to Forbes.com, the top 5 highest paying states for paramedics are:
It seems that the highest paying areas are not consistent depending on the sources. However, the areas with higher costs of living generally pay higher wages.
Even though some of these wages are not super high, paramedics and EMTs can supplement their income by working overtime hours, which is very common in the industry.
Also, just because the average for EMTs and paramedics is from $30,000 to $60,000 or so per year, there are areas that pay much more.
For example, firefighters in New Jersey (who almost always have to be an EMT or paramedic) make an average of $75,000.
Additionally, firefighter/paramedics in San Francisco (Bay Area of California, very high cost of living) make an average of $86,000 and some get paid as much as $208,000!
In the hospital setting, some ER techs make up to $56 per hour, which depending on hours worked, is likely well over $100,000 per year!
Also read: How Much Does It Cost To Call An Ambulance?
Why Are EMTs and Paramedics Paid so Little?
People wondering why the national average is relatively low for Paramedic and EMT salaries. After all, the average salary for all occupations in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is $53,490 per year.
The average EMT salary at $36,000 per year and the average Paramedic salary at $43,000 per year are both well below the average. So, why is this?
As we saw above, the salary will depend on who you work for and where you are in the country. But the majority of EMTs and Paramedics work on ambulances, many for private companies. These are usually the lowest-paying employers.
One of the reasons for lower pay is time invested in training. While the skills that EMTs learn are very important and can save lives, most EMT training programs only take about 4-6 months to complete (about 150 total hours). This low barrier to entry means that it doesn’t take too long to become an EMT and the pay reflects that.
Paramedics do have to complete a significant amount more training hours (about 1800 hours). However, when compared to nurses and other medical professions, schooling takes less time to complete.
Another reason for low pay when working for private ambulance companies is profits. These companies are usually trying to squeeze every dollar possible out of the system and their patients. This means they will pay employees the least they possibly can.
The ability to promote (or lack of) is also a factor that affects the lower pay for ambulance EMTs and Paramedics. While firefighters can promote from firefighter to driver/engineer to lieutenant to captain to the chief, etc., on the ambulance you are pretty much either on the ambulance on managing the whole operation, not many opportunities in between. This means fewer chances to increase your salary through the years.
The private ambulance EMTs and Paramedics are lower paid and frequently overworked. This is why many people (myself included) used the job working on an ambulance for experience and as a stepping stone to get into the career I really wanted (Firefighter/Paramedic).
Many others do the same to get experience as they work to become nurses, police officers, and doctors. However, some do make a career working on the ambulance and if it’s right for you, then go for it.
Is Becoming an EMT/Paramedic Worth It?
So, after all these stats, is it worth becoming an EMT or Paramedic?
Paramedics and EMTs get to work in a dynamic, challenging environment. They have the opportunity to help many people on their worst days when they have no one else to call, and even get a chance to save people’s lives!
It can be an exciting job if that’s your kinda thing. Just remember that it is not the same as it looks on TV. The working conditions can be tough in some areas, but it is worth it for many people. It also can be a great way to get your foot in the door to more competitive careers like firefighting.
No one can answer for you whether it will be worth it for you. However, if it interests you, the EMT basic training only takes about a semester. You can become certified and see for yourself if it is right for you.