Whether the thought of saving lives or Nicolas Cage’s “Bringing Out The Dead” made you want to become an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), having a passion for it certainly helps. But, you need more than just passion to become an EMT.

Discover the education, experience, and skills you need before you can begin your career as an EMT.

Educational Requirements to Become an EMT

Before you become an EMT, you must receive an education. Most EMT schools require at least a high school diploma or GED before you can enroll.

1. High School Diploma or GED

A high school diploma or a General Educational Development certificate (GED) is the first requirement for becoming an EMT.

You don’t need a college degree in any medical specialty. Although having one is helpful, it’s not required.

2. A State-Approved CPR Certification (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) 

Secondly, you’ll need to complete a state-approved CPR certification examination.

However, not all EMT training programs mandate you to pass a CPR certification. Some, like Elite Ambulance’s course, include CPR training and certification. But it can be an advantage to get it ahead of time and will certainly help you in the long run.

CPR certifications are typically offered by the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association across several states. 

Here in Illinois, you may take CPR certification courses and programs in person or online with the American Red Cross. It is also mandatory that you become recertified after every two years in the same state.


3. Complete an EMT Training Program

Signing up for an EMT training program, attending classes, and graduating is vital to becoming an EMT. 

First, you must pick an EMT training program from a state-approved training institution, community, or academy.

A typical EMT-B course takes 120 hours, which is around six months. These classes will involve studying the core tasks of an EMT officer, amongst other necessary information.

To be safe, ensure the program you choose is listed on the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program (CAAHEP) website. Some of the courses listed in the program include:

  • Cardiac arrest management
  • Patient assessment 
  • Oxygen administration
  • Shock management and providing emotional support to families and relatives. 
  • Bleeding control
  • Trauma care

Exams After Your EMT Course

After the program, you must pass two exams overseen by The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). These exams consist of both written and practical sections.

  • Written exam: The two-hour written exam consists of 70 to 120 questions. These questions examine your knowledge of medical care, breathing and ventilation, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology, general trauma, oxygen treatment, and basic EMT operations.
  • Practical exam: This test measures competencies such as immobilizing spines, repairing fractures, controlling bleeding, and handling cardiac emergencies.

If you fail the test, you can retake it after 15 days. You have six chances to retake the test and finish your program.

How to Get an EMT Certificate in Illinois

There are two important steps in getting an EMT certificate in Illinois: 

First Step: Get Trained

To become an EMT in Illinois, you must get training from an EMT school or academy approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Second Step: Examinations and Application

There are two ways to get certified as an EMT. You can take the Illinois State Examination or the NREMT examination. These two exams are given by EMT professionals.

Illinois is one of few states that does not require an aspiring EMT to pass the NREMT exam to practice. Instead, Illinois administers its own EMT test, which you must complete before you get certified.

Basic Requirements to Enroll in an EMT Program in Illinois

The EMT basic (EMT-B) is a six-month (120 hours) course offered throughout EMT training institutes and hospitals in Illinois. Here are the basic requirements:

  • You cannot be less than 18 years
  • You must have a high school diploma or a GED
  • You must apply and pass the state-approved EMT training 
  • You must be able to read and understand at an advanced level. 
  • As an EMT applicant in Illinois, you should be fluent in English
  • You must have a state-approved CPR certification
  • You must pass the mandatory background check
  • Instead of the six-month EMT-B program training, you can opt for an EMR course which takes only 56 hours. 

Skills Required to be an EMT

In this field, you’ll need patience, a willingness to keep learning, and tolerance. You must also be a problem solver and a quick thinker. Using your skills, experience, and intuition to create immediate solutions in critical situations will be a daily task. 

Still, there are three core skills that every EMT needs to be successful. 


Clear communication is essential in this field, and comprehension is even more crucial.

As an EMT, you’ll have to communicate with people often at their worst. Understanding their problems and communicating how you’re treating them is crucial to putting them at ease.

So, you’ll have to be good at communication and able to hold a conversation. You’ll need this skill to give hospitals correct information and connect with victims’ friends and families on an emotional level.

Physical Strength

As an EMT, your job may keep you on your feet for most of the day. You’ll also need to be in good shape to lift people physically.

Emotional Endurance

Being an EMT is not for the faint-hearted. You’ll need to be patient, kind, and understanding with your patients.

You’ll meet people on the worst days of their lives. And you can’t underestimate the emotional toll that can take on you. EMTs should always take care of their mental health, just as they would for a patient.

Plus, being emotionally stable also helps you make quick decisions that could save people’s lives.

Become an EMT in Illinois 

If you are in Chicago, Illinois, and want to begin your EMT career, start with us at Elite Ambulance. 

Our EMT course covers a broad range of professional insights, academic knowledge, and, most importantly, practical skills. 

What’s even better, once you finish your course, you immediately have a job lined up at Elite Ambulance. We’re a fast-growing ambulance service with over 130 years of healthcare experience.

Start your career by enrolling in our EMT academy today and get a job upon graduation!

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