Become an EMT!

It's more than a career, it's a calling!

Becoming an EMT offers you an exciting and rewarding opportunity as a healthcare provider. EMTs provide emergency medical care and transportation to the ill and injured. EMTs must stay calm in a crisis and be physically and mentally strong. As an EMT, you will be part of a team dedicated to providing care to people in need.

If you seek a dynamic, challenging workplace where you will be of service to others, consider a career as an EMT or other EMS professionals.

There are 3 steps to become an EMT:

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  • 1. Complete an EMT course

    EMT classes are offered by community colleges, trade schools, and emergency care training academies. These courses are required to offer a minimum of 170 hours of training, including clinical experience.

    San Diego County EMT courses are listed here.

    EMT schools may require students to have completed a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) course (Health Care Provider/Professional Rescuer/BLS Provider or equivalent) prior to enrolling. 

    EMT students will be trained to national standards, including: 

    • Assess for cardiac, respiratory, and other medical emergencies
    • CPR
    • Basic airway management
    • Hemorrhage control
    • Deliver newborns
    • Spinal protection
  • 2. Pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) examination

    The National Registry of EMTs (NREMT)  is the qualifying examination for EMS professionals.

    After completing an EMT course, candidates for NREMT certification must successfully complete the cognitive examination. Candidates must pass the exam within two years of their course completion.

    Candidates need to create a profile and apply for testing on the NREMT website.

    Please see the NREMT site for more information.

  • 3. Receive California EMT Certification

    All EMTs must hold a current and valid California EMT certificate to practice as an EMT within the state.

    Once you have successfully completed an EMT course, you must apply for certification in California. If you live in or plan to work in San Diego County, you should apply for certification with the County of San Diego.

    The County of San Diego EMS office requires the following documents:

    • Complete a Live Scan using this form at any Live Scan vendor in California
      • Can't find a Live Scan site?
        • Search for "Live Scan near me" on the internet
    • Complete the online EMT Initial application
    • Upload the requested documents:
      • Government-issued photo identification 
      • EMT course completion certificate 
      • Current NREMT card 
      • Current card CPR (BLS/Healthcare Provider/Professional Rescuer-level)
    • Pay the fees. A Credentialing Unit staff member will review your application and inform you of the next step(s).

    A quick reference EMT Certification handout is also available

    In California, Local EMS Agencies (or LEMSA) issue EMT certificates on behalf of the state. Each LEMSA has an EMT recognition process for EMTs certified by other LEMSAs. If you plan to work within the San Diego County borders, being certified by the San Diego County EMS Office is usually best.


Many individuals have questions about the process and terminology related to EMT certification. Please see these resources:

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  • I passed the NREMT and I am now a “nationally registered EMT.” Can I start work as an EMT in California or are there other requirements?

    The NREMT is the cognitive (written) exam used to qualify EMTs for certification in the State of California. 

    Once you have passed the exams and received your EMT National Registry certificate, you must apply for California EMT certification. 

    After applying for California EMT certification, you will be assigned an EMT number from the State Central Registry and your EMT card will be issued.

    Until this process is complete, you may not work as an EMT in the State of California.

  • What is a Live Scan?

    Live Scan is a computerized background check service using fingerprints. 

    The digital fingerprints and demographic information is sent to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search for criminal convictions.

    It is very important for you to use only the Live Scan form provided by San Diego County EMS

    These forms contain information that is unique to each agency and this information must be on the form before arriving to have fingerprints taken.

    1. Please fill legibly fill out the Applicant Information section.
    2. Take the completed for to any Live Scan vendor in California. California DOJ maintains a list of vendors
    3. At the Live Scan vendor, the Live Scan operator will collect any fees, which include the transmission of the prints and all necessary services from the DOJ, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and San Diego County EMS
    4. Keep the Live Scan form for reference. The ATI number entered by the operator can be used to track the status of your submission
    5. After recording the fingerprints and applicant information, the data will be electronically transmitted to the DOJ for processing.
    6. Once completed, the DOJ will send the results of the fingerprint check to San Diego County EMS.

    Estimated time to receive results from the date the fingerprints are submitted to the DOJ if there is no criminal history:

    Fingerprints DOJ— Approximately 3 days

    Fingerprints FBI— Approximately 5 days

    More information can be found at the DOJ's Live Scan website.

  • What is an EMT?

    Emergency Medical Technicians provide out of hospital emergency medical care and transportation for critical and emergent patients who access the emergency medical services (EMS) system.

    EMTs have the basic knowledge and skills necessary to stabilize and safely transport patients ranging from non-emergency and routine medical transports to life-threatening emergencies.

    Emergency Medical Technicians function as part of a comprehensive EMS response system, under medical oversight. Emergency Medical Technicians perform interventions with the basic equipment typically found on an ambulance.

    Emergency Medical Technicians are a critical link between the scene of an emergency and the health care system. 

    [From the: National EMS Scope of Practice Model]