EMT Certification Requirements: How to Become an Emergency Medical Technician in California

California Emergency Medical Technicians receive their certificates or licenses from local authorities. Generally, the authority is a Local EMS Agency; LEMSAs may be single-county or multi-county. In some cases, EMTs are certified by a public safety agency like a fire department.

California EMTs are expected to meet state standards, as well as any other standards that may be set at the local level. State standards are based on national ones. Examinations are those that are used most commonly across the nation: those of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). California does not mandate continued NREMT certification.

Locals EMS agencies provide information to the central authority. Although certificates are issued locally, they are recognized outside the local county. An EMT who holds a current California certificate may work in another county without additional certification. However, he or she may still need to meet additional requirements. The local agency may use the term “accreditation”.

Advanced EMTs (AEMTs) have some additional training, but significantly less than that of a state-licensed paramedic. The California Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) notes that AEMTs are employed mainly in rural parts of the state. Very few California providers have this designation. Many have the EMT designation. All ambulance attendance hold credentials at at least this level. Many firefighters do as well.

Although there is a defined scope of practice for each level, some additional skills may be approved at the local level.

Select a California EMT Topic:

Training Requirements

A prospective EMT will need to complete an authorized training program. A variety of organizations can be authorized or entitled to offer EMT training; included are accredited colleges and universities, private post-secondary institutions, acute care hospitals, governmental organizations, local EMS agencies, and military units.

Local EMSA agencies are authorized to approve educational programs. A program approved by the local EMS agency in a particular county may include some information specific to the county. This means that a student who completes a program in another area may need to do a little training later at the local level. This will not, however, be the case in all instances.

California EMSA has information about approved programs operating throughout the state. Prospective EMTs can search for programs on the EMSA website (http://www2.emsa.ca.gov/ShowTraining/TrainingPrograms/GroupByTrainingProgramsTable.aspx). The search tool allows for filtering by program level and geographic location. Local EMS agencies may also have links to training programs.

A student must be at least 18 to begin a California program.

California EMT programs are at least 160 hours and include at least 136 hours of didactic training and at least 24 hours of clinical training. The individual must have 10 patient contacts.

An EMT who continues training at the AEMT level must meet additional prerequisites. The individual must hold CPR and EMT certifications. A high school diploma is also a prerequisite.

An AEMT program will comprise at least an additional 160 hours. At this level, the combined didactic and skills lab requirement is 80 hours. Students must complete at least 40 hours of hospital clinical work and at least 40 hours of field internship. They must have at least 15 patient contacts at the Advanced Life Support (ALS) level.

Examination Requirements

An individual will need to take two tests at each level: 1) psychomotor (or practical) and 2) cognitive.

Candidates can generally expect to receive information from their training programs about practical examination. Advanced EMT examinations may be posted on the NREMT website (https://www.nremt.org/nremt/CbtEmtServices/candidate_locate_exam.asp).

A certification candidate will need to create an NREMT account before registering for cognitive examination; this process can also be carried out through the NREMT website. The program can authorize registration. The candidate will need to pay fees before his or her ATT is issued. The fee at the EMT level is $70 but is scheduled to increase by $10 in 2017.

The Application Process

Application forms are available from local EMS authorities. Some use online application systems.

Fees are variable. Applicants may pay a local charge as well as a central registry charge.

Individuals with certain offenses are prohibited from certification. Fingerprint-based background checks are a typical requirement.

The local EMS authority is typically the best source of information about Live Scan (electronic) fingerprinting. The LEMSA may provide a form and a list of agencies authorized to perform the service.

Local Requirements and Policies

Los Angeles County and Orange County are among the LEMSAs that require additional training.

In Los Angeles County, an EMT must meet basic training and examination requirements and also complete Los Angeles County EMT Scope of Practice training (http://dhs.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/dhs/ems/certification). An applicant pays $125 with his or her application. The Los Angeles County LEMSA has provided a document of EMT Certification/Recertification Requirements with links to Live Scan forms, approved schools, and independent scope of practice training providers.

A prospective Orange County EMT must take an expanded scope of practice course in order to achieve local accreditation (http://dhs.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/dhs/ems/certification).

Out-of-State EMTs

Out-of-state EMTs are expected to have passed required NREMT examinations at some point in the past. They may hold current NREMT certification or current out-of-state licensure; they can also meet standards on the basis of having passed examination in the recent past.

A course completion record is considered valid for two years (http://www.emsa.ca.gov/emt_frequently_asked_questions).

Renewal Requirements

California state certification is issued for two years. An EMT will complete a refresher course or do 24 hours of continuing education.

Skills verification will be required.

An AEMT will do 36 hours of continuing education.

Additional Information

Information about EMT certification is available from the California Emergency Medical Services Authority (http://www.emsa.ca.gov/EMT). The document ‘California’s Emergency Medical Services Personnel Programs’ provides a general overview; it is revised periodically.

Additional information is available from Local Emergency Service Authorities; EMSA has provided contact information for each (http://www.emsa.ca.gov/Local_Ems_Agencies).