The 7 Best EMT Certification Programs of 2020

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First Look

The health care industry is one of the fastest-growing fields today. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 2.4 million new health care jobs are anticipated by the year 2029. This number represents more new jobs than any other occupational group. 

The job explosion is not limited to professionals with advanced degrees: Many other health care positions are quickly becoming available as well, including the role of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). All states require EMTs to be licensed, but the specific requirements for licensure/certification vary by state. 

If you are considering a career in the health care industry but are not interested in investing the time (and expense) it would take to get an advanced degree to become a medical doctor or a nurse, you may consider signing up for a program that offers an EMT certification.

An EMT responds to emergency 911 calls and performs necessary medical interventions when a person is en route to a medical facility. The EMT provides care such as assessing the patient’s condition, managing the airway and circulation (administering CPR when necessary), as well as handling trauma emergencies. EMTs often work as first responders, transporting patients via ambulance or even helicopter to health care facilities. They can also be on call at sporting events or other community gatherings that anticipate medical emergencies.

Becoming an EMT is a great career option for people who are compassionate, have good interpersonal, listening, and problem-solving skills, and are physically fit—the job requires a lot of lifting, bending, and kneeling.

To be successful as an EMT, you must enjoy a fast-paced work environment and be able to function well under pressure. There are many training program options available; here are our top picks.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: National Medical Education and Training Center (NMETC)

National Medical Education and Training Center

National Medical Education and Training Center

The National Medical Education and Training Center (NMETC) EMT program was launched by Brad and Kim Newbury in response to a request from a single mother in need of a flexible training program. The NMETC program is accredited by the Massachusetts Department of Health and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

In addition to offering classroom training, NMETC also makes it possible to complete the core components of your EMT education with an innovative curriculum that combines online and in-person courses. The comprehensive program begins with either a virtual, online classroom experience or an in-person, campus classroom.

The next component of the program is the practical aspect of the training where students put their skills to the test in simulated real-life situations (offered in a classroom setting). The last part of the training involves real-world practice (under the supervision of experienced, licensed trainers). These hours are offered as part of the EMT program and are required by each state, but requirements may differ.

The NMETC program requires you to complete 192 hours of training and usually takes about four or five months to complete. If you are unable to attend a live class, you can watch the recording later and receive full credit.

Once you complete the online component of your training, you will be ready to attend six days of in-person classes in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. These lessons are designed to prepare you to take the EMT certification exam in your home state. If you live in the West Bridgewater area, you can opt to take the entire EMT training course on campus.

To qualify for the NMETC application, you must have a valid driver’s license (or other legal photo ID, such as a passport) and be at least 17 years old. On-campus tuition is around $1,300, while online tuition is roughly $1,800. That does not include a $50 application fee and the cost of books and materials, travel expenses, and fees to take the exam.

Best Self-Paced: Allied Medical Training

Allied Medical Training

Allied Medical Training

Founded by Dr. Sean Ewen who began his medical career as an EMT, Allied Medical Training is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Prehospital Continuing Education (CAPCE) and provides virtual online continuing education.

The CAPCE accreditation is accepted by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), the organization that offers national certification for EMTs). NREMT also meets the licensure requirements in most states. In addition, Allied Medical Training meets the standard of approval for continuing education with the Minnesota POST Board. The student pass rate in recent years was roughly 93%, well above the national average.

There are both self-paced and in-person program options. The self-paced involves three months of part-time, online classes. Some students have completed the online classes in as little time as four weeks (when they participated in the self-paced track of the program). You have up to six months to finish the online component of the course once you have registered.

After the online training, if you decide you want to continue with the program, you can opt to register for the hands-on portion of the course, which involves seven consecutive days of skills training in St. Paul, Minnesota. In most states, this hands-on training is a requirement for licensure. Allied Medical Training offers a curriculum that is approved by NREMT, including part of the required certification test called the “Psychomotor Skills Exam.”

Allied Medical Training also offers an in-person class once a week in St. Paul for those who want more structure.

The self-paced program costs about $695 for Part I (the online course) and roughly $1,250 for Part II (the hands-on training). If you opt for the in-person option, a deposit of approximately $250 is due upon registration and around $1,600 (the remainder of the tuition) is due on the first day of class.

Best Supplemental Study Component: Coursera (U of Colorado)

University of Colorado

University of Colorado

Coursera may be an ideal option if you're looking to learn more about an EMT course without making a major financial commitment, are currently enrolled in a course and are in need of some supplemental information to help you review for the certification test, or are planning to recertify as an EMT by taking the cognitive exam.

This 26-week EMT course is taught by the faculty of the Denver Health Paramedic Division. The course content—which is about three hours per week on average—involves the lecture portion of the EMT curriculum. This includes critical insights and other skills needed to be an EMT. Getting licensed as an EMT requires a hands-on component of education as well, which is not offered directly by Coursera.

It’s important to note that once you complete the 26-week course, you will not be legally eligible to work as an EMT. Certification that allows you to legally practice as an EMT is available through the National Registry of EMTs (NREMT); it requires an additional hands-on skills portion of coursework and an EMT certification exam.

The EMT Coursera Specialization series of courses are designed to help you master skills involved in EMT training. You can sign up for the EMT Specialization as a whole (and take each class that is offered) or you can pick and choose which individual classes best meet your needs. The program is set up as a subscription, so once you enroll, you can complete as many courses as you want or you can pause your learning and end your subscription at any time.

The cost of the monthly subscription is $49 per month.

Best Hands-On Training: UC Davis Fire Department

UC Davis

UC Davis

The UC Davis Emergency Medical Technician Program was created for those with an interest in emergency medical care (such as an EMT) or students pursuing an advanced medical degree. The 11-week online and in-person program is accredited with the state of California through the Yolo County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

UC Davis offers engaging lectures and skills practice sessions involving topics such as bleeding control, airway management, triage, and emergency transportation. Assessment skills, techniques for treatment as well as a foundation in neurological (the brain and spinal column), respiratory (breathing), and cardiac (heart) emergencies are part of the curriculum.

Administrative aspects of emergency medical care will also be covered, such as workforce safety, the EMS (Emergency Medical System), and information on ethical and legal issues. Next, the lessons taught in the classroom will be put to the test in the hands-on portion of the training, as students participate in hospital emergency clinical experience, and they are required to sign up to ride along in an ambulance and fire engine to gain some real-world clinical experience alongside licensed EMTs and paramedics.

There is a requirement to complete the program with a pass rate of 80% or higher. Students who meet this threshold will qualify for the National Registry of EMT’s (NREMT) exam to receive a certification as a Nationally Registered EMT.

Program costs for UC Davis students are about $1,755, while non-UC Davis students will pay roughly $1,950.

Best Local: Creighton University

Creighton University

Creighton University

Located in Omaha, Nebraska, Creighton University is a top-ranked college that boasts higher-than-average pass rates compared to the national average (an 89% first-pass rate and a 100% pass rate after three attempts) on the NREMT certification test. 

According to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, the national average first-time pass rate for EMT students is 64% and the cumulative third attempt pass rate is 75%. 

Creighton offers a 16-week course that meets in the classroom two times per week for four-hour sessions. Additionally, hands-on training includes ambulance and hospital clinical experience to practice the skills you will need to provide emergency medical care.

The course was developed by experts in the fields of emergency medicine as well as education; this may be one reason why the student pass rate is so high. Creighton’s EMT course focuses on patient assessment and reinforces the basics in emergency care procedures.

Creighton’s EMT education is very competitively priced, with tuition costing roughly $795. That price does not include the deposit due upon admission decision, textbook cost, or the certification exam fee.

Best Refresher Course: EMT & Fire Training Inc

EMT & Fire Training Inc

EMT & Fire Training Inc

EMT and Fire Training Inc. offers a variety of continuing education and refresher lessons, such as the 20-Hour and 24-Hour Traditional EMT Refresher Course.

The refresher classes cover the requirements under the National Continued Competency Program model, which is recognized by the NREMT and is CAPCE accredited. Students can utilize this course to maintain certification and gain three more attempts at the NREMT exam or for re-entry purposes. Each class is held in an online, virtual classroom forum that features powerpoint-type lectures. An assessment exam will follow each class.

Prerequisites for the course include good computer skills, a browser that supports flash-based modules, a high-speed internet connection (for viewing videos and virtual class attendance), and a headset with a microphone (suggested but not required).

The cost of the 24-Hour Traditional EMT Refresher Course is about $240, while the 20-Hour Traditional EMT Refresher Course is roughly $165.

Best for Recertification: American Red Cross

American Red Cross

American Red Cross

As an EMT student, you will be required to get a current Basic Life Support (BLS) CPR certification for Healthcare Providers as part of your licensing/certification process. Most schools require the BLS-CPR certification card on the first day of EMT class. 

The American Red Cross offers affordable continuing education for EMTs with BLS Courses for Healthcare Providers. The training offered by the Red Cross allows EMTs to stay current with basic life support skills such as CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) classes.

Once you are licensed and working as an EMT, you’ll need to renew your BLS-CPR certification regularly. To renew it, you can participate in an abbreviated version of the instructor-led course to receive your certification via an expedited format. The Red Cross encourages EMTs who are co-workers to take their BLS-CPR continuing education courses together so that they can learn to work better as a team when it comes to dealing with scenarios in the field.

The Red Cross EMT training is available throughout the United States and meets the criteria set by the nation’s top accrediting organizations (such as the AHA Guidelines for CPR/ECC), as well as most of the state accrediting requirements.

The classes are taught by trained, certified instructors who are experts in their field. Class schedules are flexible; the Red Cross offers part of the training online through the Simulation Learning program. In-person training is available at nationwide Red Cross locations year-round.

The cost of training will vary, depending on which course you select, where you live, and whether you are completing your training in the classroom or as a combined online and hands-on course. In many locations, the cost for Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED courses is about $126, while the Basic Life Support-BLS Healthcare Provider classes are roughly $92.

How We Chose the Best EMT Certification Programs

The primary consideration for selecting the best EMT certification programs was whether the program was legitimate; in other words, we selected programs that were, first and foremost, accredited by the state. To make the list, programs also had to meet or exceed the National Emergency Medical Services Education Standards for the EMT. This equates to a program that is qualified to train EMTs for certification (which is required for licensure in most states).

After considering the legitimacy and certifiability of the program, we looked for unique programs that could offer flexibility, superior certification exam pass rates, above-standard training, and more in the hopes of offering at least one program that fits the needs of each potential student, regardless of their personal situation. We also looked for a good mix of low-cost programs (Coursera), as well as ones that provided a variety of different pricing tiers (UC Davis Fire Department).

Do You Need a College Degree to be an EMT?

Most EMT courses require a high school diploma, but you do not need a college degree.

Do You Need to Do Online Training?

Online and blended courses (involving both in-person and online lectures) are meant to be flexible options, but they are not the only ways to become an EMT. Some components of the course require in-person classroom instruction and others involve hands-on practice in real-life scenarios (such as in hospital emergency rooms or ambulance ride-alongs).

You can check your state’s specific requirements by doing a Google search and entering your state’s name, followed by "EMT licensure requirements." In addition to online training, many institutions offer in-person, classroom-based EMT courses, such as community health care organizations, fire departments, adult education programs, and community colleges. Training in your local community may offer flexible scheduling while being more budget-friendly than many online classes. You may be eligible to receive financial aid if you enroll in EMT training at a local or community college.

What Are the EMT License Requirements?

After your training, you will need to be licensed as an EMT (according to the laws in your state) before you can begin working. All states require licensing, and most conform to the requirements of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification program. This program requires:

  • Successful completion of a state-approved EMT course that meets or exceeds the National Emergency Medical Services Education Standards for the EMT.
  • Current CPR-BLS for Healthcare Provider training or equivalent credential.
  • Successful completion of the National Registry cognitive (knowledge) exam.
  • Successful completion of a state-approved psychomotor skills exam.

How Long Are EMT Certification Programs?

Most basic EMT training programs can be completed in less than one year (depending on which state you live in and which type of program you sign up for). The coursework offered by most EMT programs will take around 120 to 150 hours to complete. There is also a requirement for a specific number of hours working in the field (riding along in an ambulance and working in an emergency care facility). Again, the specific requirements depend on the state you live in. 

Where Can You Become a Certified EMT?

EMT courses are offered by various types of institutions, including community colleges, universities, and facilities that specialize in emergency care (such as the fire department).

Is Being an EMT Dangerous?

There are some dangers inherent to an EMT's typical work environment, such as responding to car accidents on a busy highway or providing care to people during a natural disaster. High-pressure situations can put an EMT in precarious situations as well.

For example, an EMT may need to interact with a person who has a history of violence. EMTs may also be exposed to environmental or chemical toxins, as well as getting exposed to various communicable diseases. EMT training involves a safety component providing education on how to take necessary precautions to protect yourself, your coworkers, and the people you are caring for.

How Much Is an EMT's Salary?

The compensation for EMTs fluctuates depending on where you live and work. The average pay across the nation is around $15 to $17 per hour, but in 2019, the average income (across the country) for an EMT was $35,400, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.   

Do I Need to Renew My Certification?

Yes. Recertification is required every two years with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). EMTs can get recertified by the NREMT either by either taking the cognitive examination or by completing 40 hours of continuing education. Your state license must also be renewed. The renewal period varies from every two to four years; the requirements vary, depending on your state’s mandates.

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Article Sources
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  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "How to Become an EMT or Paramedic." Accessed June 3, 2020.

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