What Disqualifies You From Being An EMT/Paramedic?

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Are you thinking about becoming an EMT and wondering whether events in your past might prevent you from becoming an EMT? Well, it’s important to find out whether or not you are barred from the profession prior to undertaking the training and career path and there are some guidelines that may be useful to you. 

You can be disqualified from being an EMT or Paramedic due to a criminal record (DUI, felonies, violent crimes), substance abuse, or not being able to perform the physical tasks required. It will vary by location and employer.

The criteria for being disqualified from working as an EMT or paramedic can vary by state. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you could be disqualified and how to handle it. Here’s what you need to know.  

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Also read: Can You Be a Firefighter with a Criminal Record? (Felony, Misdemeanor, 5150)

What Can Prevent You From Becoming An EMT or Paramedic?

Fire department ambulance

Emergency Medical Technicians operate in a role with a huge amount of responsibility, both for themselves and for members of the public who may require emergency treatment and transportation to the hospital.

This means that EMTs regularly come into contact with sick and injured people at their lowest points in life. This means that EMTs and Paramedics have a responsibility to maintain certain professional standards.

This doesn’t mean that a criminal record will automatically disqualify you from working as an EMT or Paramedic and, in fact, only a state body or the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians) can make a decision as to whether or not you will be prevented from working based on any given conviction or other issues. 

Also read: How Long Does It Take To Become a Paramedic? and How Long Does It Take to Become an EMT?

What State Regulations Disqualify You?

It is important to realize that every state will have its own standards that it applies to the appointment of EMTs and their ability to practice. That means nobody can give you an authoritative list of “what will disqualify you in all states” because it varies from state to state.

The best way to find out whether or not you are likely to be disqualified is to talk to the state’s licensing agency for EMTs.

They can help review your criminal record and make a decision on whether or not you are going to be allowed to work.

There are some crimes that are likely to result in automatic disqualification, as you might expect, murderers and attempted murderers are unlikely to be seen as good candidates for EMT roles in most states. Any sexual offenses are also likely to see you placed on a permanent blacklist – there’s just too much risk for the state to assume when it is asked to license people with convictions like these.

It is also important for you to know that a state may place a set of conditions on people convicted of other types of offense before they can obtain a license to work as an EMT.

If you can meet these conditions, though, you will be able to work as an EMT in that state.

Some typical conditions are likely to include:

  • Elapsed time. The state may want some proof that a number of years have passed between the time of your conviction and the time when you apply for an EMT’s license. This is to ensure that you have had time to reform following your conviction. 
  • Reference letters. It’s not atypical for state authorities to ask for references to persuade them to certify someone with a criminal conviction. They might ask for letters from an employer, your educational establishment, your probation officer, or your therapist or medical doctor. 
  • A statement. You may be summonsed to appear before the licensing authority or you might be required to put a statement in writing. At this point, they are going to want to understand what led to your conviction, and then how you have learned from your experience and have worked to rehabilitate yourself in the time following. This is the key. You have to prove to them that will not make the same mistakes again.

These conditions are not meant to disproportionately burden you in your pursuit of a job as an EMT, they are meant to help safeguard the public and ensure that every EMT and Paramedic is a fit and proper person to treat vulnerable people at the scene of an emergency. 

Also read: The Difference Between EMT And Paramedic? 

What Federal Regulations Disqualify You From Certifying With The NREMT?

back of an ambulance

In addition to satisfying your state’s criteria for licensing as an EMT, you must also satisfy the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians that you are a proper fit and can maintain the professional standards that are expected of EMS professionals. 

The NREMT has a full and comprehensive policy regarding the certification of EMTs with criminal records.

These policies can shed some light on the types of things they are looking for.

It is commonly believed that the NREMT automatically disqualifies all people with federal criminal records, but this is not the case, the NREMT has the power to allow the certification board to examine such convictions and then to decide whether certification is appropriate.

However, while they may investigate most federal crimes prior to making a decision, there are 5 categories of crime whether they be felony or misdemeanor that lead to instant refusal:

  1. The use of a dangerous weapon – emergency medical technicians are expected to have never misused weapons, it ought to be fairly obvious as to why.
  2. Physical assault – there is no way that the board can risk putting those convicted of violent offenses into contact with vulnerable members of the public.
  3. Abuse (be it of the elderly or children) – again, once a person has abused a vulnerable individual, it would be foolish for the NREMT to place them into a position where they might be able to do this again.
  4. Property crimes – this covers pretty much all kinds of theft.
  5. Sexual assault/abuse – again, once a person has abused a vulnerable individual, it would be foolish for the NREMT to place them into a position where they could hurt someone.

When the NREMT weighs the offenses you have committed, they are likely to look at how severe the crime was, how much time has elapsed since the offense, and how the offense might have a bearing on what you do as an EMT. 

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

Can You Be An EMT or Paramedic With A DUI?

As a DUI does not fall under a specific category which results in automatic disqualification – the answer is “maybe” and you would need to seek confirmation from the NREMT and your state certification board. 

This is usually an offense where the time elapsed comes in to play. A DUI is not usually a deal-breaker, but you most likely won’t be allowed to work in EMS for a period after it occurs. This is primarily due to the liability of you driving an emergency vehicle with that on your record.

This video gives some more insight into becoming an EMT or Paramedic if you have a criminal record:

Also read: Is EMT A Dangerous Job? Risks and Challenges

I Have A Conviction, Should I Apply For An EMT Program?

The vast majority of EMT training providers are well aware that there are restrictions on EMTs with criminal records and their application process and/or interview process will be designed to find out if this might apply to you.

It’s very important that you honestly disclose your past, if you don’t, you may find that you’ve wasted your efforts studying at a later date if you are refused a license, certification, or employment.

If the learning provider doesn’t ask – then you should find an appropriate person within the college (a student advisor would be a good start) and go to see them (make an appointment, don’t just show up unannounced) to discuss the issue. 

They will be able to give you some insight as to whether or not you are likely to be able to certify or gain your license. You may need to provide them with some detail of your convictions for them to give you the best advice. 

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


What disqualifies you from being an EMT? It is very important to realize that there are no “set in stone” rules when it comes to disqualifying EMTs and while a felony conviction may greatly increase your odds of being refused certification by the NREMT, it’s not a guarantee and the best way to determine what position you are in is to ask.

Firstly, if you haven’t already qualified as an EMT – talk to your local learning provider, they can walk you through the pros and cons of any problems you’ve had in the past and the likelihood of being able to work as an EMT in your state or elsewhere in the country. If you have qualified, talk to the state body and/or the NREMT. You may be surprised at their reaction.

Related Articles:

What Disqualifies You From Being a Firefighter?

How to Become an EMT: Expert Guide

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