What is an EMT? How to Become an EMT.

October 6, 2021 By: Donna Weiss

What is an EMT and what training do I need to become one?

 This is the number one question I get.

If you are interested in becoming an EMT (emergency medical technicians) and/or paramedic, you will be entering a field that is expected to “grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations”, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.  We have seen a nationwide shortage of EMT’s and paramedics due to a wide range of reasons, which include lack of interest in the field, injuries, growing districts/departments, and a growing demand for 911 services.

EMT’s and paramedics are responsible for being the first responder to a scene.  They can encounter patients that have experienced traumatic injuries, and medical and behavior emergencies.  EMT’s are most commonly employed on an ambulance but have many other job opportunities in urgent cares and emergency rooms.  We have seen many healthcare systems starting to rely on EMT’s and paramedics as part of their healthcare team.

In Missouri, there are three basic levels of licensure:  EMT-basic, Advanced EMT and EMT-Paramedic.  You may see volunteer providers with certification as an EMR (emergency medical responder), but keep in mind, most paid services like ambulance districts and fire departments will require employees to be certified at least as an EMT.  Most districts and departments in the St. Louis and St.Charles area require employees to be a Para


An EMT is the basic level of provider employed by most services.

The EMT is able to assess the patient’s condition and provide basic care, which includes bleeding control, airway 

Training to become an EMT involves completing a state-approved EMT program.  Students must attend an accredited program to make sure they are eligible to attend the required psychomotor and written testing to obtain licensure.management, CPR, and the use of the AED (automatic external defibrillator).

In my experience, students will want to make sure their training program is suited to the type of learner they are.  If you are the type of learner who likes to see your instructor in-person, touch and feel the equipment, ask questions, get feedback from your instructor, and interact with other students/instructors, then you will want to attend a class in-person.  If you are extremely motivated and are able to pace yourself through a course with little interaction, then a hybrid class might be a better fit for you.  The state of Missouri has not approved a 100% online EMT course.  Students should be aware of this.  They must attend some portion of their class in-person for it to be approved in Missouri and be eligible for them to attend the required psychomotor and written examinations.

EMT training usually lasts approximately three to four months and should be approximately 120 – 130 hours of class time.  The amount of material that is required to learn and retain is substantial.  Students should understand they are learning the information to treat their patients and not to just pass the next exam.  It is important to read, study, comprehend and understand the information in a critical way that allows them to recall the information without thinking too much about it.  EMT training programs that deliver the information in four or six weeks do not leave enough time for the student to absorb, comprehend and apply the information.

Each EMT program will have different entry requirements and the student should consult their particular program.  At Respond Right EMS Academy, EMT students must be 18 years old (or turn 18 before completing the course), complete a drug screening and criminal background check, complete a recommendation form, turn in copies of identification documentation, high school diploma or GED, have current health insurance, complete a physical exam, complete an AHA BLS course and be up-to-date with immunizations.  We usually have a waiting list for our programs, so students are required to complete their entrance application within a certain amount of time.

After students complete the EMT program, they will be eligible for the state psychomotor exam and NREMT (national registry of emergency medical technicians) written exam.  During class, we prepare the student for these exams.  The psychomotor exam is the hands-on skills testing that is administered by a third-party company.  This currently involves either a medical or trauma assessment and up to three skills stations.  The cost ranges anywhere from $90 – $130 for the exam.  Additional fees apply for retests.

The NREMT written exam, or cognitive exam, is a computer adaptive test that is administered by a third-party company.  This exam will range anywhere from 70 – 120 questions and must be completed in two hours.  Students will be tested in all areas of EMT knowledge including: Airway, Respiration & Ventilation; Cardiology & Resuscitation; Trauma; Medical; Obstetrics/Gynecology; EMS Operations.

Students are allowed to attempt the psychomotor exam and written exam three times each.  If a student is unsuccessful on an exam attempt, they may apply to retest 15 days after the last examination. After three unsuccessful examination attempts, the student must submit official documentation verifying the completion of a remedial training program.  It’s always our goal for the student to pass their exams on the first attempt.

Upon successful completion of the EMT psychomotor and written exam, students are able to apply to the state of Missouri for their EMT license.  The current process for licensure can be found on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services – Bureau of EMS website.

If you have thought about entering the field of EMS (emergency medical services), your first step is signing up for EMT school.   Feel free to reach out to us for help with your journey to become an EMT.

You can find our current class schedule, tuition rates and requirements here.



Written by: Toni Milan, Paramedic - Program Director
EMT Class