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How to Become a Certified First Responder

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When a medical emergency takes place, people need help as quickly as possible. As a first responder, you are responsible for rushing to the scene and providing medical assistance. Becoming a first responder requires physical strength, mental fortitude and medical training that enables you to make rapid, life-saving decisions.

Necessary Skills and Abilities

First responders need strong listening skills and the ability to communicate clearly when working with patients and coordinating with members of their crew. You also need to empathize with people suffering through sudden, traumatic events. As a first responder, strong problem-solving skills help you determine the best course of action as quickly as possible, especially in situations where minutes or even seconds make the difference between life and death. First responders often perform physical work that requires strength, endurance, coordination and the ability to bend and lift frequently.

Education for First Responders

Before entering a post-secondary program for first responders, you need a high school diploma and CPR certification. Emergency Medical Technician programs require a minimum of a year of education and approximately 150 hours of basic instruction. Advanced EMT training usually involves around 300 hours of lessons with more complex equipment and medications. Education for paramedics requires upwards of 1,200 hours of instruction, increasing the scope of your abilities. These courses are typically taught at technical institutes, community colleges and facilities that specialize in emergency care training, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. EMT courses result in a certificate for completing the program, while paramedic education can lead to an associate's degree.

First Responder Training

First responder training teaches you how to assess emergency medical situations to focus first on the most serious issues. You learn how to use equipment that resuscitates, such as automated external defibrillators that help reestablish a pulse or ventilation devices that help patients breathe. Instruction on the administration of remedies teaches the use of needles, IV tubes, injectors and inhalers. First responders train for specific issues, such as how to avoid the transmission of disease through blood and body fluids.

Certifications and Licenses

Before working as a first responder, you can earn certification as an EMT or paramedic from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians by completing approved education programs and passing written and practical exams. Individual states have different licensing requirements, but most states accept NREMT certification as proof of competency. Before gaining permission to drive an ambulance, most first responders must complete an eight-hour driving course. Certification for specific types of EMT training, such as emergency oxygen administration, shows potential employers your full range of skills and training.


Kent Tukeli has been writing for business and media organizations since 2007, including Valnet Inc., Top Affiliate Publishing and Mirvish Productions. He honed his skills at the University of Toronto, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.

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