Online EMS and Paramedic Degree Programs

Article Sources
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  • Emergency Medical Services Program, Oregon Tech,https://www.oit.edu/portland-metro/academics/degrees/ems,accessed June 2018
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Emergency situations call for fast action and competent professionalism. Among the first responders who provide emergency procedures and treatments at such crucial times are likely to be Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals. EMS professionals include Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics.

Prospective students interested in pursuing a career in emergency medical services should possess a strong desire to help those who are sick or injured and they must be able to deal calmly with stressful situations. EMS professionals must also exhibit a sense of compassion for their patients, possess excellent listening skills, and be exceptional problem solvers. The ability to do some heavy lifting and function in a variety of spaces is a must.

Those with families and/or students with prior work commitments may find online degree programs in emergency medical services a convenient way to earn a degree in this field. With 24-hour access to training materials, students enjoy the flexibility of studying at a time that is most convenient for them.

These are three types of emergency medical service providers, depending on their expertise and qualifications:
  • EMT-I
  • EMT-II
  • Paramedic

Because emergencies can happen at any time, paramedics and EMTs are required to work at all hours and in all weather conditions. EMS professionals are usually employed by fire departments, police departments, hospitals, or ambulance services.

All EMS providers can be considered first responders, but their specific title or categorization - such as EMT-1s, EMT-2s and paramedics - depends on the level of education they have received. First responders can provide immediate lifesaving care in emergency situations while waiting for additional or more highly trained EMS resources to arrive.

Typically, their duties include:

  • EMT-1s (also known as EMT-Basics or EMT-Bs) care for patients on site and during their transport to a hospital in an ambulance. They can assess patient situations and can provide care during respiratory, cardiac, and trauma emergencies.
  • EMT-2s (also known as Intermediate or Advanced EMTs) can perform all the duties of EMT-1s as well as provide advanced medical care like administering intravenous fluids and some medications.
  • Paramedics offer more advanced techniques of treatment than EMTs. They administer medications orally or intravenously, as well as use complex equipment to monitor patients' health and vital signs.

Those aspiring to a career in EMS have a variety of options available to them. The following chart details some EMS-related careers, along with relevant wage and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Average Salary
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
Physician Assistants114,710$108,43037.4%
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics257,210$37,76015.1%
Source: 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2016-26 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals

While earning professional certificates and associate degrees online are the norm for most paramedics and EMS professionals to gain entry-level employment, earning a bachelor's or graduate degree in the field may lead to upper-level leadership positions.

Once students finish their online courses, they are expected to finish their practical component. This hands-on practice is usually supported by local hospitals or ambulance services.

What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?

Paramedics experience less job turnover than EMTs which may be attributed to the fact that they experience more emergency calls, perform fewer routine transport services, and are more highly paid.

Online EMS certificate programs can prepare students with the academic knowledge necessary to treat patients as an emergency first responder. Students are generally awarded a non-degree certificate on completion.

Typical duration: Less thana year; up to two years depending on the program

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent. You may also need medical clearance, and to pass a drug test and background check. Some certificate programs may expect you to have prior knowledge of human anatomy or complete CPR certification; others may include these as part of the curriculum.

Typical coursework: Online EMS certificate programs can prepare students with a sound theoretical knowledge of emergency medical services. Core classes may include:

  • Introduction to emergency medical care
  • Well-being for EMTs
  • Basic trauma life support
  • EMS wilderness emergency care
  • Human body/anatomy and physiology
  • Transporting patients
  • Medical emergencies

Generally speaking, EMTs must complete 150 hours of specialized instruction, after which they may be expected to attend classes at a local hospital or clinic to learn the practical skills necessary for the job. Advanced EMT-level programs may require 400 hours of instruction.

What can I do after earning a certificate?

An online EMT certificate program can prepare you for entry-level job roles in the emergency medical services at the levels of EMT-1 or EMT-2, such as an EMT/Dispatcher.

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

Online EMS and paramedic associate degree programs may be ideal for individuals looking to become paramedics. While some programs are tailored toward individuals currently working in the field, others may be appropriate for new entrants.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent, current CPR certification, you may also need medical clearance, and to pass a drug test and background check

Typical coursework: Associate degree programs include some core general education courses in addition to EMS-related subjects. Some courses you may find included in your curriculum are:

  • Pharmacology for the EMT/Paramedic
  • EMT laboratory
  • Introduction to the human body
  • Vital signs and SAMPLE history
  • Lifting and moving patients
  • Maintaining open airways
  • Rescue scene management

Possible Electives: Emergency vehicle operations, medical terminology, selected studies in emergency medical services.

What can I do after earning an associate degree?

Associate degree holders in EMS may apply for jobs as a:

  • EMT
  • EMT, Basic
  • EMT/Driver
  • EMT Intermediate

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?

Typical duration: Four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent. You may need medical clearance, to pass a drug test and background check, and be required to hold a current CPR certification.

Typical coursework: Online bachelor's degree programs for EMTs and paramedics build on the skills you may already have learned in an associate-level program. They may also focus on leadership and management skills. Some of the courses you may see included in the bachelor's curriculum are:

  • Medical/legal and ethical issues
  • Patient assessment, physical exams, and documentation
  • Respiratory and cardiovascular emergencies
  • Diabetes
  • Allergic reactions
  • Poisoning and overdose
  • Environmental and behavioral emergencies
  • Advanced airway techniques
  • Medical emergencies for infants and children

Students are required to complete an internship as a part of their online bachelor's emergency management degree program.

Possible electives: Community risk reduction in EMS, EMS public information and community relations, finance of EMS systems.

What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?

Bachelor's degree programs aim to prepare you for leadership roles in the emergency medical services industry. You may be able to apply for jobs in the fields of education, management of EMS systems, public relations, disaster management or industrial health services.

Some potential careers are:

  • EMT
  • Paramedic
  • Emergency management specialist
  • Emergency preparedness manager

An online master's degree program can be used for career advancement and leadership positions in the field of emergency medical services.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: bachelor's degree

Typical coursework:

  • Biostatistics for clinical and translational research
  • Epidemiology for clinical and translational research
  • Economics and finance in EMS
  • EMS systems design and analysis

Students may be required to complete a master's thesis based on original research as a part of their online master's degree program.

What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?

A master's degree can lead to management positions in EMS organizations and educator roles such as EMS training officer, EMS quality assurance coordinator, EMS educator, EMS director.

Those who would like to study further can pursue an M.D. in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care. These programs take an additional four years or more of study after completion of a bachelor's degree, plus approximately three years of residency. Doctoral programs may enable individuals to work as physicians or surgeons in the field of emergency medicine and critical care. They may also allow individual to work as an educator.


Accreditation is a voluntary process institutions undergo in order to ensure the quality of the education they provide meets the industry standards of quality. EMS accreditation works as tool to ensure that the workforce is well prepared and qualified to provide emergency healthcare services. Make sure the program you choose is accredited by Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) which is the only national accrediting body for EMS programs.

Students seeking National Registry's National EMS Certifications at the Paramedic level must have successfully completed education from a school accredited by CAAHEP.


While each state may have its own requirements for certification, it is necessary for EMTs and paramedics to pass the national board exam given by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). Candidates must be able to complete both a written component as well demonstrate practical abilities as a part of this exam. Criminal background checks are mandatory in some states. The NREMT offers the following certifications:

Advanced EMTs and paramedics may need to be licensed at the EMT level or higher in order to apply for certification. Certifications are typically valid for two years and individual are required to renew their certifications by taking continuing education courses or via examinations.

Specialty Certifications

From critical care to wilderness medicine, EMS personnel can work in a wide range of settings. Specialty certifications can help you prepare to work in these settings. A few specialty certifications offered by the International Board of Specialty Certification (IBSC) are listed below but students are encouraged to explore the variety of options on their own:

  • Community Paramedic Certification (CP-C)
  • Critical Care Paramedic Certification (CCP-C)
  • Flight Paramedic Certification (FP-C)
  • Tactical Paramedic Certification (TP-C)
  • Tactical Responder Certification (TR-C)


All states require personnel in the EMS to hold licenses in order to practice. Most states require NREMT certification in order to qualify for licensure. Some states may also require individuals to pass an examination in order to obtain a license to practice. EMTs and paramedics may also receive licenses to become ambulance service drivers by completing the requisite courses.

Employment Statistics

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Other Ambulatory Health Care Services
  • Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
  • Other Support Services
  • Other Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation
States with the highest level of employment
  • Texas
  • California
  • New York
  • Illinois
  • Pennsylvania
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division
  • Olympia-Tumwater, WA
  • Tacoma-Lakewood, WA Metropolitan Division
  • Bremerton-Silverdale, WA
  • Kennewick-Richland, WA

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

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