How to Become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in California

Career Overview

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics provide care to sick and injured people and transport to local medical facilities. They are often the first responders in cases of accidents and other emergencies and lives often depend on the promptness of response and competence of care.

Specific job duties of EMTs and paramedics include:

  • Respond to 911 calls to provide emergency medical assistance, such performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or providing oxygen for heart attack victims or dressing and bandaging wounds.
  • Making a quick assessment of the patient’s condition and deciding on treatment
  • Following all guidelines for care that they received as part of training
  • Place patients on backboards and use restraints to restrict patient movements and keep them save during transport.
  • Assist with transferring patients to emergency department of hospitals and report their findings to attending nurses and doctors.
  • Prepare a patient report; documenting all medical services delivered
  • Clean and replace all supplies after use with each patient

Most EMTs and paramedics travel in twos so that one may drive while the other attends to the needs of the patient while in transport to the hospital. Some paramedics work as part of a helicopter care team to transport critically ill patients to hospitals at distant locations for special care. In other cases, patients may need to be transported to another local hospital that has expertise in treating that illness (e.g. with special expertise in cardiac care or neurology).

Most entry level EMTs and paramedics are classified as EMT-Basic and provide routine care and mange respiratory and cardiac emergencies en route to hospitals. An EMT-Intermediate (aka Advanced EMT) possesses advanced training and is skilled in the use of intravenous fluids and other advanced procedures, such as performing tracheotomies.

Paramedics provide more extensive pre-hospital care than do EMTs. In addition to the duties provided by EMTs, paramedics are also able to administer medications orally and intravenously, and read electrocardiograms to monitor patient heart function.

Education and Training

Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics who wish to work in California must first complete a formal training program. All states require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed.

A high school diploma and CPR certification are prerequisites to acceptance in most formal education and training programs for EMTs. High school students interested in this career should take courses in anatomy and physiology. Training is offered by community colleges and health care facilities that offer emergency care training programs.

EMT-basic level training includes coursework in patient assessment, handling trauma and emergency situations, clearing obstructed airways, proper use of all equipment. Formal coursework will include about 100 hours of specialized training. Some portion of the training may be conducted within a hospital setting.

Advanced EMT training requires 1000 hours of training which will cover the use of complex equipment, administration of intravenous fluids and administration of some medications.

Paramedics have obtained the most advanced training.  Before being accepted into paramedic training, applicants must first have completed basic and advanced EMT training. Most community colleges offer paramedic training and graduates will receive an associate’s degree. Training requires about 1300 hours of instruction and can take up to two years to complete. Training includes how to dress and stitch wounds, performing emergency procedures, such as tracheotomies, and administering IV medications.

Licensure and Certification

California requires that all applicants who wish to work as EMTs or paramedics first pass a national certification examination offered by the National Registry for Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), along with graduation from an accredited training program. The national exam is composed of both a written and practical portion. As per the California Emergency Medical Services Authority (CEMSA):

After passing the written and skills certification exams, and obtaining a criminal background check, an applicant may be certified through the local EMS agency or through a public safety agency, both of which issue an EMT certification card (They are also known as the certifying entity). Certification is valid for two years from the date of issue and is recognized statewide.

For more information on the (NREMT) certification test and registration and test fees, visit

Salary Considerations

The average salary for EMT’s in five cities throughout the state are:

Los Angeles$40,819
San Diego$38,987
San Francisco$45,435