The Difficulty of EMT School: Is It That Hard to Pass?

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We’ve seen a lot of people dismissing EMT school as some sort of cakewalk because it’s not too hard to get accepted onto an EMT course and the course itself is quite short. Between you and me, that’s a mistake. 

EMT school is meant to be challenging. It’s not as easy as you might think to pass and get certified. However, it is very doable for most people, if you put in the time and effort.

Here’s what you need to know about the difficulty of EMT school and the whole process of becoming an EMT.

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Also read: How to Become an EMT: Expert Guide

5 Steps To Become An EMT (and Their Difficulty)

how hard is EMT school

To become an EMT you will need to get into an EMT school, pass the EMT school, register and pass for National Registry certification, complete a background check and then get a job. 

We’ve broken each step down into (roughly) what each of them entails and how hard they might be to attain. 

Also read: Is EMT a Good Job/Career? Is it Worth It?

1. Meet All Prerequisites to Apply for a EMT Program

The first step is, in theory, quite easy. You will need to find an EMT school and ensure that you meet their conditions for entry.

While you do not need to be a graduate to go to EMT school, you will almost certainly be asked to demonstrate that you finished high school. 

Given that approximately 90% of Americans complete high school to a sufficient standard, this is reasonably easy. 

It’s also a good foundation to learn more skills on, if you can’t finish high school then the classroom side of your EMT course is likely to be too tough for you to keep up with and there’s no point in throwing your money away on training that you can’t cope with is there?

You also need a CPR card which can be gained by completing some basic First Aid training from a qualified training provider – most people will undergo this with an organization like the Red Cross and it usually costs less than $100 to do. 

It is also possible that any individual school that teaches EMTs to levy additional basic requirements before they permit entry. 

Finally, of course, though it’s not an expensive course, you will have to pay for your EMT training and while this varies from provider to provider, you will probably need to raise $1,200 – $2,000 plus your expenses (books, etc.)

That’s not a lot of money and assuming that you are lucky enough to still be living with your parents, a summer job should cover the costs. 

So far, so easy. 

Also read: What Shifts Do EMTs/Paramedics Work? Schedules Examined

2. Completing An EMT Basic Course At An EMT School 

Now, things get a little tougher. 

It’s important that you check to see if your EMT school is certified by the NREMT and if it is not certified, that the NREMT (National Registry EMT) recognizes the school and will allow you to apply for NREMT certification anyway.

If this is not the case? Then you’re making life very hard for yourself, indeed, as you cannot work as an EMT without NREMT certification. So, the course is in essence worthless without the ability to take the NREMT certification and you’d need to do another course before you could work as an EMT!

Now, assuming that you’ve done your homework and the school itself is NREMT registered, you’ve got to attend the school and you’ve got to pass.

How hard is EMT School? Probably harder than you think. We’ve seen plenty of places online that seem to suggest that going to EMT school is a walk in the park because it’s a short course and not very hard to get onto.

Those places are wrong.

As this Redditor says,

“I’m taking a 4 month EMT-B class… I’ve always heard that EMT was pretty easy.

Long story short… we are about halfway done with the class and we started out with 25 students… 13 have dropped already.

The class requires a grade of 80 to be passing. At most, there are only two people with a passing grade right now. (and that’s only because the instructors gave us massive amounts of extra credit on the exams)

We go over power points in class and vocab, but we almost never go over scenarios… and the tests are all scenarios.

Am I the only one that thinks the problem might not be the fault of the students if there are only 3 or 4 on graduation day out of 25?

Can anyone offer any input?

Am I being irrational?

Should an EMT class be so hard that even if you truly bust your ass, study almost every waking moment, you could still fail?”

It may come as a shock if you’re expecting to sail through your EMT classes, but EMT school is hard and it’s hard because it’s designed to weed out those people who won’t cut it in a hard job.

EMT work is not easy. It’s physically demanding. It’s mentally demanding. And it’s even spiritually demanding, you’re going to see things that are genuinely distressing as part of your work. Sure, some days it’ll be great and everything you do will add value to people’s lives but other days?

Won’t be so great. Trust us. 

That doesn’t mean that you can’t cut it.

It does mean that you will need to attend every class, conduct every practical activity, and do all the homework required of you and with enthusiasm and effort.

If you do that? Then EMT school is something you can do, it won’t be a piece of cake but you can do it. 

You may also need to complete a series of ambulance ride-along either during or after the course before you can sit your NREMT examination. 

This video has some helpful info for becoming an EMT:

Also read: How Long Does It Take to Become an EMT?

3. Schedule And Pass Your National Registry Exam

We’ve looked at how hard it is to pass the NREMT in more detail here, but here’s what you need to know in a nutshell.

The NREMT is an exam that is designed to take into account your responses and adapt to you. It’s designed with testing you to your individual limits in mind. 

So, each time you answer a question correctly, you’re inviting the computer to ask you another harder question on the same subject area. 

This also means there’s no standard exam or even a standard number of questions. 

You can end up answering as little as 70 questions or as many as 120!

So, there’s no doubt that the NREMT is challenging. The good news is that it’s meant to be challenging but it’s also meant to be passed by people who’ve completed their EMT training.

If you don’t pass? You can retake the test. 

You can take it 3 times before being required to do a day’s additional remedial training. 

And you can take it 6 times before you are required to repeat the entire EMT course.

Most EMTs will pass in their first couple of attempts.

It can help to keep in mind that the NREMT is not looking for you to fail, just to ensure that you meet the minimum standards to save lives in the field. 

Also read: Is The EMT State Exam/Test (NREMT) Hard To Pass?

4. Complete A Background Check To Be An EMT

This is really easy and only takes a couple of days, but it’s only easy if you have a clean criminal record. 

If you have a criminal record, the vast majority of convictions will disqualify you from becoming an EMT. 

So, if you have a criminal record, we would strongly advise you to talk this through with your EMT training provider before you pursue steps 2 and 3, there’s no point working to becoming an EMT if you are going to be barred from working as one. 

Also read: What Disqualifies You From Being An EMT/Paramedic? and Do Paramedics/EMTs Get Drug Tested? How Often?

5. Get Hired As An EMT

Assuming you’ve completed each step of this process, then getting a job as an EMT should be relatively straightforward.

In most parts of the country, there’s a high demand for EMTs and not enough qualified EMTs to go around. 

Join an EMS agency, show them your qualifications and certifications, and then wait for the work to roll in!

Also read: What Jobs Can You Get With An EMT Certification? 11 Jobs

This video has some more detailed information that can prepare you to be successful in EMT or Paramedic programs:


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