Emergency medical services (EMS) offer a way into health care professions for a variety of people. Whether transitioning careers or just getting started in college course work, it’s a way for many to avoid the dreaded “college broke” status taken on while earning an associates or bachelors. It’s also a great way to gain experience that will open doors for future employment. There are four levels of EMS certification. The four designations are Emergency medical Responder (EMR), emergency medical technician, advanced emergency medical technician, and Paramedic. Each level involves increased duration of training and responsibility.
There are average wages listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the nation; however, a word of caution about averages should be mentioned first. As we know, the average takes the highest and the lowest wages (and all the wages in between); therefore, while not a bad predictor for wages, doesn’t always account for local economic conditions. For example, the national average listed by the BLS for an EMT as of 2014 is $16.88 per hour. However, an EMT’s mean wage in Florence, Alabama is $11.97 per hour and the mean wage in Seattle is $30.71. This poses an obvious problem. There is great variability and it is difficult to know exactly how much to expect.
I have called several employers of medical responders in order to gather wage data that will provide an idea of what real wages are in various locations. You can compare these to data on the Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292041.htm. Unfortunately, several of the organizations I called did not answer and a few did not provide information for some or all levels of emergency response workers. In some instances, such as with paramedics, data was pulled from www.usajobs.gov. Many government job postings for emergency responders are posted at that site.
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is the main entry way into the health care professions for many people. It’s an attractive option because requires no prerequisite training or coursework, the certification is relatively short and inexpensive, and there is a strong demand for EMTs. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook from 2012 to 2022 for EMTs is “23% (Much faster than average.” Below are wage data from several EMT employers in the US.
Phoenix $11.84 per hour
Prescott $11.00 per hour
It depends on what company you work for. In LA, you can make anywhere from minimum wage to $13.00 per hour… EMT is usually a stepping stone to other careers like nursing or fire fighter, not a career itself.
The Emergency Medical Responder is another entry-level certification for health care providers. The training takes fewer hours to complete than the EMT certification and has similar responsibilities. However, the demand for EMRs may not be as strong. For example, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alaska, and several other states do not even recognize EMR as a certified level. Several companies were researched for this article in states that do recognize EMR as a certified level; however, the individual companies either did not hire for this position or declined to respond.
Advanced EMT is the stepping stone to becoming a Paramedic in several states and generally comes with increased pay and responsibility. Two examples of wages are listed below.
It should be noted that this particular position also calls for fire-fighting services as well. It is not uncommon for fire-fighting departments to combine their services with emergency medical services. However, the fire-fighting services most likely account for the high salary range for this particular job.
The Paramedic is the highest trained pre-hospital, emergency responder. The length of training varies from state to state and may require either a certificate or an associate’s degree. Paramedics are also the highest paid EMS workers. Wages for six locations are posted below.
39,570.00 $51,437.00 per year
What Accounts for the Differences? Your experience level will account for variation in pay from the average. A new EMT will not make as much as someone who has several years of experience. The economic conditions will also account for some of the differences. Larger organizations are likely to pay their EMS personnel more. These larger institutions are more likely to be found in larger metropolitan areas. However, the size of these larger areas also lead to greater competition among EMS providers. They are simply more numerous and the competition may actually drive down the wages in some of these areas. Los Angeles is an example of this. Despite being the second largest city in the U.S., hourly wages may still be below the national average. Finally, some government or state run facilities may offer higher wages. In some cases, these jobs may also come with increased responsibility such as fire-fighting.