5 Steps To Become A Certified First Responder

first responder

Being a certified first responder enables individuals to provide essential medical care in emergency settings. As trained medical professionals, emergency responders can perform life-saving techniques at the accident site or in ambulances, increasing the chances of a patient’s survival before reaching the hospital. 

Because of the risks involved in their work, responders must have extensive knowledge and earn certification from the National Registry of Emergency Technicians and the state before working as one. Their training help must be comprehensive, allowing them to administer appropriate methods and use complex medical devices in critical situations.

If you’re interested in becoming one, continue reading to understand what a certified first responder does and the steps you must take to fulfill your goal.  

What Does A Certified First Responder Do? 

As the name implies, first responders are often dispatched during emergency situations to provide proper assessment and medical intervention to help prolong the lives of patients. 

EMRs, which stand for emergency medical responders, are tasked with providing initial patient care while waiting for the arrival of medical services. EMTs, or emergency medical technicians, provide intervention to patients transported to a hospital. 

These interventions could include basic first aid administration, wound and trauma management, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), to name a few. Certified first responders are also generally tasked with supporting other medical professionals in emergencies such as childbirth, seizures, vehicular accidents, and shooting incidents in public and out-of-hospital settings—helping improve patient experience and outcomes. 

Whether you want to become an EMT or an EMR, you need to have a state license and certification to practice. Here are steps to follow in becoming a first responder: 

1. Obtain A High School Diploma

Certification requirements vary from one state to another. However, the minimum educational requirement to enter the program is a high school diploma. Before taking a first responder training course, aspirants must complete their secondary education or pass the General Educational Development (GED) exam. 

High school subjects, especially biology, anatomy, chemistry, and math, can help prepare you for the program. Also, check if the school has a recognized short course for responders, so you can continue your studies there after finishing secondary education. 

2. Complete A Training Program

Technical and vocational schools and community colleges often have state-accredited programs and short courses for first responders. Courses are anchored on the standards established by the US Department of Transportation First Responder National Standard Curriculum, comprising seven modules.  

A typical first responder course comprises hours of lecture on patient assessment, medical emergencies and illnesses, patient preparation, airway management, childbirth and infants, emergency medical services, and mobile medical equipment operations. 

Generally, academic institutions accept enrollees for three levels of training; basic, intermediate, and advanced, or those intended for paramedics. Basic training focuses typically on managing trauma, respiratory and cardiac arrest, and the use of medical devices. Once you’ve earned a basic certification, you can move on and take an intermediate course to learn advanced patient assessment, pharmacology, and intravenous fluid treatment. Advanced training also covers more complex discussions on anatomy, resuscitation, and physiology.   

3. Get A License

Completing the required training program makes you eligible to apply for a state license and a certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). This agency issues basic, intermediate, and advanced EMR or EMT certificates to individuals who completed the program. 

Before getting NREMT certification, the agency will test applicants’ proficiency by administering written and practical exams. And once you’ve been registered and certified, note that you have to renew your certification every two years. Renewal for basic EMT certification can be through taking an examination or completing the required hours of continuing education.

4. Gain Enough Work Experience 

After being certified as an emergency medical technician, it’s time to test your skills and knowledge by getting a job. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sector comprising emergency medical technicians and paramedics is expected to grow by 11% from 2020 to 2030. 

Apply for jobs in a hospital so you can gain the best experience, although first responders are employed in other settings, including rural areas. Besides medical companies, certified responders can also apply in local private and public agencies or clinics.     

5. Level Up Your Skills And Career

Like other medical-related professions, obtaining a basic EMT certification is only the first step in a multi-level career. Once you’ve gained enough experience as a primary responder, find out the requirements for being an intermediate emergency medical technician for better opportunities and higher pay. 

After obtaining the requirements, you can consider becoming a paramedic to become an EMT team leader, manager, or administrator, among other positions. If interested, you can even take a nursing degree or study to become a physician. 


Before taking on any adrenaline-pumping tasks, responders must gain the essential skills and knowledge to perform their jobs well. Take the first step by checking the state requirements and enrolling in recognized training institutions. Then, gain appropriate work experience and hone your skills as you advance your career.  

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