Working as an EMT isn’t easy. You’re responsible for saving lives and getting people the emergency medical treatment they need as soon as possible. Paramedics, doctors, nurses, and patients rely on EMTs to stabilize patients and get them safely transported from where they are to wherever they need to go to get the critical care they need.
You would think that an EMT salary would match the job’s requirements, but we all know that isn’t the case.
An EMT salary will vary based on things like location and experience. Even so, one thing many EMTs don’t realize is that their income is not always set in stone. There are several things you can do to increase your EMT salary, so you can continue pursuing your passion without worrying about how you’re going to pay your bills.
What is an Average EMT Salary?
We talk about an EMT salary, but most EMTs are paid by the hour. This is good when you consider how many EMTs rely on working overtime to increase their EMT salary rate.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 median EMT salary was $35,400, or $17.02 per hour. The lowest 10 percent of earners had an EMT salary under $23,490, and the highest 10 percent of earners had an EMT salary over $59,860.
In many places, an EMT salary barely provides a living wage. When you consider how much training is required to be an EMT, plus the fact that you are providing critical care to patients en route to the hospital, the EMT salary average can seem low. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to earn more money.
5 Ways to Increase Your EMT Salary
The road to earning a higher EMT salary is not necessarily easy, but it is possible. Here are five things you can do to add to your EMT salary.
1. Move to A Higher Paying State
Where you work makes a difference when it comes to how much you get paid as an EMT. According to a study by Ziprecruiter, the average EMT salary is much lower than the high end EMT salary. Their research shows that most people earn an EMT salary of around $21,000 to approximately $33,000. The five states with the highest average EMT salary are Washington, New York, New Hampshire, California, and Vermont.
Moving to a state with a higher EMT salary is possible, but it is always the best option. Keep in mind that a higher EMT salary might be due to a higher cost of living. If your EMT salary is low because of where you live, you might not end up with any additional cash if you move somewhere with a higher EMT salary rate. On the other hand, if you can arrange living conditions in line with your current situation, then moving to another state with a higher EMT salary range could be a good option.
2. Work for a Public Agency Instead of a Private Agency
One difference between a low paying and higher paying EMT salary is the type of agency paying you. On average, EMTs earn a higher EMT salary working for government agencies, including state ambulance services and fire departments. As of 2109, the median EMT salary for a government agency was $37,570. In comparison, the median EMT salary for a private ambulance service was just over $32,730.
That pay gap can make a big difference in your quality of life. It may also open up opportunities if you want to advance your career and be a paramedic or firefighter. Having experience working with a government agency can be beneficial to landing a different position inside of it once you have fulfilled your training requirements.
One thing to keep in mind is that government positions can be more challenging to find because they pay more. When you are just starting as an EMT, you might need to take a lower paying position and then transfer to another agency as you get the required experience to justify a higher EMT salary.
3. Embrace Overtime
Working overtime is usually in the job description for an EMT. A recent survey found that nearly 75 percent of EMS workers work overtime on a regular basis. If you are serious about raising your EMT salary because you are getting ready to make a big purchase, want to build your savings, then committing to overtime is possibly the quickest and easiest way to get there.
Most EMTs make 1.5 times their standard rate when they work more than 40 hours per week. That amount will add up quickly. In fact, one EMS worker doubled her salary by working overtime in 2015.
If you are working overtime and aren’t seeing a big jump in your paycheck, make sure your employer is adequately paying you. Cases of unpaid overtime are not uncommon. Mistakes happen, and issues related to unpaid overtime can often be resolved internally. In more extreme cases, you can get your unpaid overtime EMT salary through litigation.
4. Pursue Higher EMS Education
While you can make more money by working more hours, overtime work often isn’t a long-term solution. If you want to permanently make more money and stick closer to a 40-hour workweek, then consider furthering your studies in EMS. Most EMTs use their experience as a stepping stone to higher paid jobs, such as a paramedic or firefighter.
Paramedics start at the higher end of an EMT salary, with average salaries ranging from $40,000 to $71,000 per year. Some EMT employers may be open to paying for some or all of your education. This can be one way to negotiate a perk if getting a higher EMT salary is non-negotiable within your department.
If you are feeling frustrated, recognize that you are not alone in having a relatively low EMT salary. In general, people don’t stay an EMT for the duration of their career. Most people use their time as an EMT as training. Many paramedic certification programs require a certain amount of time spent as an EMT before they will accept applications. This is because EMTs get great on-the-job training that can help them in their future EMS careers.
5. Work a Side Job
Sometimes, getting a higher income comes down to working another job. Many EMTs find that their EMT salary is not enough to sustain them throughout the year. Finding a flexible second job can help make ends meet or provide additional money to cover an expensive payment.
Many online jobs allow you to work from home with flexible hours. Teaching CPR or safety training can net you several hundred dollars per session and give you a way to increase your EMT salary during your off time.
While you cannot completely alter your EMT salary, there are factors within your control that can increase it. If you genuinely enjoy what you are doing and want to continue working in an EMS department, then advancing your career through education and certification is the best way to get a higher EMT salary. In time, you will be able to earn enough money to live comfortably without working extreme overtime hours or having to rely on a second job to make ends meet.