Emergency medical technicians (or EMTs) and paramedics provide medical treatment and care to sick and injured patients in critical ― and often life-threatening ― situations. Their regular duties include responding to calls for emergency medical services, performing CPR and/or first aid and transporting patients to hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities. EMTs and paramedics must become licensed in all 50 states; specific licensure requirements vary by state, but often include a comprehensive exam, a criminal background check and/or certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.
Many aspiring EMTs and paramedics begin their career by earning an associate degree in their field. EMT and paramedic associate programs equip students with the knowledge and skills needed for this demanding, high-stress professional field. The curriculum emphasizes hands-on learning, and students will have numerous opportunities to practice life-saving techniques in simulated environments. Associate EMT and paramedic programs often include internships or externships, as well; these courses allow students to receive supervised training from experienced professionals. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their EMT and paramedic associate degree online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of postdegree job opportunities. The asynchronous (or self-paced) format of most online associate programs is also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare responsibilities and other obligations that may interfere with campus-based learning.
Learn more about what you can do with an online EMT and paramedic associate degree program and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE EMT AND PARAMEDIC ASSOCIATE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
Online EMT and paramedic associate programs cover all fundamental areas of emergency patient care. Students learn how to assess individuals for cardiac arrest, stroke, respiratory ailments and other health-related issues, and also evaluate different burns, broken bones and other types of traumatic injury. Coursework will also introduce students to essential life-saving techniques, as well as important equipment like stretchers, backboards and ambulance-based devices. Offsite practicum training will give students the chance to apply their skills in a real-world setting.
WILL AN ONLINE EMT AND PARAMEDIC ASSOCIATE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online associate degree programs for EMTs and paramedics offer a flexible alternative to traditional, classroom-based education. Students will be able to access course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from home on their own schedule. Current technology also allows them to study away from their personal computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices. For added convenience, online EMT and paramedic associate students can usually coordinate practicum courses at sites located within a reasonable distance of their current residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY EMT AND PARAMEDIC ASSOCIATE DEGREE?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that a 'high school diploma or equivalent' is considered the educational minimum for EMTs and paramedics, so those who earn an associate degree will be well-positioned to compete in the job market. Intermediate and advanced EMT and paramedic roles may require additional specialized instruction; the best online EMT and paramedic associate programs prepare students for postdegree licensure requirements, including certification exams and other options available through the NREMT.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE EMT AND PARAMEDIC ASSOCIATE PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online EMT and paramedic associate degree programs in the United States. If you are considering an online EMT and paramedic associate program, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific associate degree requirements and offerings.
Accredited Online Paramedic Programs
Lenoir Community College
|Kinston, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 18%||
Located in Kinston, North Carolina, Lenoir Community College offers an EMT associate degree in a hybrid format. The program combines in-person and online coursework and provides comprehensive training in the field. Upon graduation, students can take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians and North Carolina Office of EMT exams.
The 71-credit AAS in emergency medical science includes 55 major classes, covering topics including pharmacology, advanced airway management, cardiology, trauma emergency management, and medical terminology. Learners can also take a rescue scene management course, during which they learn to manage hazardous materials, extricate patients from difficult situations, and perform incident command protocols. Coursework teaches students the skills and techniques necessary to provide lifesaving care in high-pressure scenarios.
Applicants must submit their official high school transcripts or GED test report, along with any college transcripts. The program does not require a minimum GPA.
In addition to pursuing the EMT associate degree, students can participate in the paramedic academy. The 36-week course comprises mostly online learning, with 10 weekend visits to lab sites. Additionally, the paramedic outreach track is open to students with EMT basic training or advanced EMT certification who want to advance their careers.
Lenoir's EMT associate degree is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Online learners can access services including academic advising, career coaching, counseling, library resources, and tutoring.
Hutchinson Community College
|Hutchinson, KS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 38%||
Based in Hutchinson, Kansas, HCC offers an AAS in emergency medical service and paramedic that prepares students to deliver advanced lifesaving care in prehospital settings.
The 68-credit EMT associate degree includes courses on human anatomy, patient history gathering, patient assessments, cardiac emergencies, pharmacology, and emergency scene management. Students learn how to gather key information at an emergency scene, quickly determine the appropriate measures to take, and work as a team to deliver competent care. Students can take classes in an order and at a pace that suits their needs.
From 2016-2018, 100% of the program's graduates passed the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam. The program graduates 15-20 students each year.
Applicants must participate in an interview and submit high school transcripts or GED scores. They must also provide two letters of recommendation and a 250-word essay detailing their EMS experience and reasons for pursuing a career in the field. Prospective students may need to take a placement exam to determine their individual prerequisite requirements. Admitted students can begin coursework in August or January.
Online students benefit from personal counseling, academic advising, tutoring, and technical support. HCC offers a job board and career services, which help students find internship and job opportunities. The EMT associate degree is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
Eastern Kentucky University
|Richmond, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 44%||
EKU offers a paramedicine associate degree designed for professionals with EMT certification. The program helps learners expand their career opportunities and teaches them to address a variety of urgent health concerns. The fully online program focuses on patient assessment, emergency medical techniques, and the delivery of optimal prehospital treatment.
The EMT associate degree requires 64 credits and features eight-week courses. Students can earn up to 18 credits for previous experience. Coursework covers topics including emergency operations, cardiology, advanced life support, and prehospital management of pediatric needs. Students can pursue a concentration in emergency services administration, which requires additional classes on EMS design and budgeting, legal and ethical issues in the field, and research methods.
After earning the EMT associate degree, many graduates enter EKU's bachelor's in emergency medical care program. The bachelor's program offers concentrations in EMS administration, clinical and fire services, and paramedic science.
Applicants must hold paramedic certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Students can apply up to 12 credits toward renewing their certification or state license. Transfer students can bring up to 49 earned credits from accredited institutions.
Located in Richmond, EKU offers the same low, per-credit tuition rate to in-state and out-of-state learners. Active-duty military members receive a discount. EKU waives the application fee and provides a dedicated adviser for military personnel and their families.
Davidson County Community College
|Thomasville, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 30%||
DCCC offers an online AAS in emergency medical science bridging option that allows certified EMTs and paramedics to earn 40 credits of advanced placement for their professional experience. The program comprises 66 credits, so students with sufficient experience only complete 26 additional hours to earn the associate degree.
The program includes courses on EMS management, professional research, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and general psychology. Students also take a rescue-scene management course that covers incident command, the management of hazardous materials, and the extrication of patients. To earn additional credits, students can take challenge exams. This can further reduce completion time for the EMT associate degree.
Applicants must have a credential from the National Registry or the North Carolina Medical Care Commission and must have completed an accredited EMS or paramedic certification program. Applicants must submit high school transcripts or GED scores, along with college transcripts, if applicable.
Online students can access DCCC's digital library and resources including tutoring, academic advising, career development services, and personal counseling resources.
Located in Mocksville, North Carolina, DCCC offers discounted tuition rates for state residents. The college also provides services to military veterans and their families, including assistance with GI Bill® benefits and the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program.
Iowa Western Community College
|Council Bluffs, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 21%||
Based in Council Bluffs, Iowa Western Community College delivers a paramedic program in a hybrid format. Students can apply up to 30 credit hours earned through the paramedic program toward an associate of applied science in applied business from IWCC. Paramedic coursework prepares students to work in settings including ambulances and critical care units.
Students complete online coursework asynchronously and can access lectures and complete assignments at their convenience. Learners attend classroom sessions each Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., during which students gain practical experience at the university's EMT simulation center. Four courses, including pediatric advanced life support and advanced cardiac life support, comprise two consecutive days of eight-hour sessions. Paramedic students also complete an internship, which requires about 12 hours each week.
The paramedic program meets educational standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Graduates are eligible to pursue certification from the National Registry of EMTs and the Iowa Department of Public Health.
IWCC charges a flat tuition rate, the entirety of which is due at the time of registration. Tuition for the paramedic program includes textbooks, malpractice insurance, and a criminal background check. Eligible Iowa residents can qualify for tuition assistance.
New students must possess Iowa EMT or AEMT certification and must have completed a CPR class. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must meet basic physical standards necessary to perform the duties of an EMT. The paramedic program boasts a 100% graduate placement rate for 2016-2018.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online EMT and Paramedic Program
|Timeline||18 months to 2 years|
|Program Costs||$6,000 to $20,000 in annual tuition|
|Related Areas of Study||Nursing, Medical Assistant, Medical Technology, Healthcare Administration, Fire/Medical Dispatch|
|Accreditation||Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the Emergency Medical Services Professions (CoAEMSP)|
Employment Outlook for EMT and Paramedic Program Graduates
Current projections indicate strong job growth and steady employment in the years to come for EMTs, paramedics and other assistive healthcare and medical personnel. This trend is largely due to a sharp uptick in the number of medical patients nationwide; millions of previously uninsured Americans now receive medical coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the aging baby boomer population ensures a greater need for personnel with geriatric care training. According to U.S. News & World Report, paramedics face an unemployment rate of 3.0%; by comparison, the national unemployment rate for all occupations currently sits at 4.9%.
Using data from U.S. News, the following table compares unemployment rates for EMTs/paramedics and other supportive healthcare occupations.
|Occupation||Unemployment Rate (2016)|
|Occupational Therapy Assistant||1.2%|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographer||1.9%|
|Clinical Laboratory Technician||3.4%|
|Physical Therapist Assistant||5.8%|
Source: U.S. News & World Report
The 10-year outlook for EMTs and paramedics is quite favorable, as well. The BLS projects 24% industry growth for EMTs and paramedics between 2014 and 2024, which should result in roughly 58,500 new jobs.
Earning a Living
According to U.S. News, the median annual salary for EMTs and paramedics is $31,700. However, earning potential for these personnel largely depends on factors like certification level, employer size and city/state of employment. The following table features a median salary breakdown for EMTs and paramedics currently employed in the United States.
|Percentile||Median Annual Salary|
Source: U.S. News & World Report
Salary expectations for EMTs and paramedics will also depend on work experience level. The next table looks at 20-year salary growth projections for five of the most common career pathways for EMT and paramedic associate degree recipients.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)||Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)|
|Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)||$29,554||$35,132||$35,530||$42,000|
|EMT Basic Certification||$33,813||$42,086||$42,775||$48,486|
|Emergency Room (ER) Technician||$29,614||$30,516||$39,882||$39,838|
|Medical Dispatcher (EMD) Certification||$34,169||$38,011||$45,488||$50,251|
All five occupations listed on the table experience a career salary growth rate ranging from 33% to 48%. Employees with the Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) certification show the highest rate of salary growth: a 47.1% increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Employees with basic EMT certification placed second, with 43.4% salary growth after 20 years on the job.
Career and Further Education Opportunities
Students who complete EMT and paramedic associate programs will be qualified for dozens of entry-level roles, although candidates may need certification or additional training to meet licensure requirements in some states. The EMT and paramedic profession and three related career pathways are detailed below.
EMTs and Paramedics: Nearly a quarter million EMTs and paramedics are currently employed in the United States, and nearly half work for 'ambulance services'. Continuing education is essential to this occupation; EMTs and paramedics must be recertified in CPR and first aid every one or two years, and they will receive additional trainings on a regular basis. Basic, Intermediate and Advanced certification can also be obtained through postdegree coursework.
Ambulance Drivers and Attendants: Ambulance drivers and attendants operate vehicles and medical equipment used in emergency calls. They often act as supportive personnel for EMTs and paramedics on scene. These personnel are trained to care for sick, injured and convalescent individuals, and must pass a series of background checks and driving tests.
Police, Fire and Ambulance Dispatchers: Also known as 'public safety telecommunicators', these professionals act as mediators between emergency callers and EMTs, paramedics, police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel. They must first assist the callers and gather essential information, then relay this data to the appropriate responding unit. Depending on their specific position, dispatchers may also be trained to handle non-emergency calls.
Firefighters: Firefighters are trained to put out fires using a wide range of tools, and rescue people and animals directly threatened by fires. CPR and first aid is an essential skill in this profession, and many firefighters have earned certification as EMTs and/or paramedics.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary|
|EMTs and Paramedics||$31,980|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants||$25,470|
|Police, Fire and Ambulance Dispatchers||$38,010|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to the EMT/paramedic profession is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for professional EMTs and paramedics. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.
- National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians: The NAEMT holds partnerships with more than 50 EMS providers and agencies across the country. Members gain access to scholarships, grants, job listings and other exclusive opportunities.
- International Association of EMTs and Paramedics: Currently representing more than 10,000 members worldwide, this union was created to provide leadership and advocacy for different EMS personnel. Employees in the private, public and 'third service' sectors are all welcome to apply.
- National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians: The NREMT offers official certification for EMTs and paramedics; in many states, those who have earned NREMT certification will qualify for licensure. The website hosts a compendium of study guides, practice questions, exam outcomes and other information about EMT certification requirements.
Financing Your Online Associate in EMT and Paramedic
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.
- Best Online Associate in EMT and Paramedic Programs of 2018
Ranking School Location 1 University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 2 Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson, KS 3 Creighton University Omaha, NE 4 Lenoir Community College Kinston, NC 5 Davidson County Community College Thomasville, NC 6 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY 7 Iowa Western Community College Council Bluffs, IA
- Best Online Associate in EMT and Paramedic Programs of 2017
Rank School Location 1 University of California-Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 2 Lenoir Community College Kinston, NC 3 Davidson County Community College Thomasville, NC 4 Creighton University Omaha, NE 5 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY