Taking an interest and considering EMT training is a big decision. Not only does your decision affect your direct future, but you will affect the lives of every patient you will come in contact with. Deciding on a proper institution to receive EMT education is essential to a rewarding career in emergency medicine. No matter what state you live in, all EMT training has to meet a certain level of criteria. There are federal guidelines in place to ensure that every program teaches a basic core curriculum. That curriculum can be found at: http://www.ems.gov/EducationStandards.htm. Considering that every program that teach EMS Education has to teach to a set guideline should mean that any class should do right? Well yes and no.

Where you go to class for EMT training matters. Not that you will land better EMT job or that companies are particularly picky when it comes to where an EMT got their training. The value matters in what your future plans are, or how quickly you need to be finished with class and get a steady paying job. It can be argued that there is a such a shortage in EMS workers that a trained and licensed individual will get a job. However, there are EMT is great entry into the medical field and if an aspiring medical professional wishes to advance to a higher field say Nursing or Physician’s Assistant, or even a Doctor then they will have to return to college or start college. Let’s discuss the difference between obtaining EMS training at a trade school or a college.

Trade School or College?

I can speak from my experience. I attended EMT training in Michigan. So the information I am about to provide might be different in your state. However, there are key aspects of trade schools and colleges that should be universal. Once again, where you chose to take your EMT or Paramedic class is important. There are some questions you should answer when considering what school to attend. These questions are:

  • How long is the class?
  • How much is the class?
  • Do I get college credits?
  • Will those credits transfer?

The Benefits of Trade School

Trade schools are institutions that specialize in training people in specified careers. You have probably seen commercials for these places on TV. I seem to remember the guy telling me to get off my couch and pick up the phone, and that I am on it all the time anyway. Trade schools are a fantastic option for people looking to gain rapid entry into a field be it IT or EMS. Trade schools tend to be cheaper in price and students are not required to take classes that have nothing to do with the career field they wish to enter. The quality of education will vary and it is usually tied to the instructor.

When I took my EMT Basic class and, of writing this article, my Paramedic class I took them at a trade school. My reasons for for selecting a trade school are mostly based upon my situation. At the time I was working as a butcher shop. I worked as a meat cutter and I made pretty decent money for a young man. Then after 9/11 happened the US economy began to tank. People were losing their jobs or taking pay cuts. Small meat markets like the one I worked at started seeing less and less customers. The larger supermarkets could charge much less for meat, while not as good of quality, then my store could. With the economy on a down turn, my customers needed to make cuts. I found my hours getting cut and I was having a hard time making ends meet. I needed to find a new career and fast. One of my friends told me about EMS education so I took the plunge.

This is where the main benefit of attending EMT training at a trade school. I looked into taking my class at a college and found that it would take about a year. At the time I didn’t know if I could survive for a year. Then I found a school that would be able to train me in just 16 weeks. It was also cheaper. At the time I beleive it cost me just under 1000 dollars to get trained. I am sure this figure has gone up as I took this class 10 years ago. The school I went to also put me on a payment plan which was a great help. I ended up having to live off my credit cards while going to school, but I did it. I passed the NREMT and got licensed. My shop closed the next year. I would have still been in college if I would have went to a community school.

In summary, going to a trade school worked the best for my situation but it may not be the best option for everyone.

Pros:

  • Shorter class times
  • Evening classes
  • Cheaper
  • Usually they have flexible payment plans

Cons:

  • College Credits, Many Schools do not count toward college.
  • Education Quality, In many cases the quality of education is not equal to a college.
  • Can be challenging for people returning to school as colleges teach fundamental study skills
  • Low Pass Rate
  • Have to self study a lot of materials

The Benefits of College

At some point in my EMT career I decided I wanted to attend college with the goal of becoming a physician assistant (a goal I am still working toward.) Many of the classes I have to take as prerequisites to get into the program are subjects I had to study while taking EMS classes. I have finished a bachelors as of this blog post, however, I still have another year or so of classes I am essentially relearning. If circumstances were different I would have just taken a collegiate EMT program instead of attending EMT school at a trade center. The experience I have gained from working in the EMS field as an EMT and soon to be Paramedic will serve me well. One of the recommended admission criteria for PA school is clinical experience. I would have had to become an EMT or some other health care provider before I could get into PA school anyway.

EMS Education in college is treated just like any other major. Students have a list of classes they have to take before they can take the core curriculum. As a result, college level EMT classes can take longer. Typically it will take a student about 2 years to finish an EMT basic course, where as a trade school student can finish in less than a year. However, the first year the student isn’t even taking EMT classes. The first year college student is taking general education requirement classes. These classes include: psychology, math, sociology, english, chemistry and other classes. Student will also be encouraged to take other health care related classes such as pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, and classes in other medical study fields.

Pros:

  • Counts for college credits
  • General Education classes give students an advantage in digesting the compressed information contained in EMS classes.
  • More structured class style
  • Better pass rates

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Longer Program
  • Some general education classes may not be flexible in time blocks. (Most are available online however)
  • Probably going to have to incur student debt via student loans.



Conclusion

When making the decision on where to attend EMT class it is important to analyse your situation. You need to ask yourself some fundamental questions.

  • How much time do I have to complete the class?
  • What are my finances?
  • Do I plan on doing anything in the medical field beyond the EMT or Paramedic level?

When I was starting out in my EMT career I had little choice but to change careers. The shop I worked at was going under, I saw the writing on the wall. As a consequence of my situation I did not have the time to complete a college program. As written earlier I would have been out of a job before my class was finished had I gone to college. I don’t regret my choice to take my EMT Basic at a trade school, nor am I regretting my Paramedic class at a trade school. The choice was situation dependant. Had I not had to chose the quicker route I would have prefered taking the class at a college. For the simple reason that I want to pursue a career as a higher licensed medical professional. There are other benefits to college like the psychology class. Many of the general education classes that student take teach the student how to learn and study. This was a revelation I did not notice till I attended my first year. In my opinion, if you have the opportunity to take EMT class at a college I would go that route. As it stands it would have saved me a year. Instead of finishing medic this year I would be starting my clinical rotations as a PA.