Is It Possible To Live Off The Salary Of An EMT Or Paramedic?

Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are pretty much the backbone of any society. They’re the heroes at the scene of any emergency situation who save lives on a regular basis.

It’s certainly a thrilling and exciting job, as EMTs and paramedics never know exactly what kind of emergency situation they’ll be walking into. However, you might be considering whether it’s worth all the training and high intensity working environments for the salary.

Is it possible to live off the salary of an EMT or paramedic

Across the whole of the United States, EMTs and paramedics are paid enough to live off, and this is also the case for pretty much every other country too.

Salaries across the US for these jobs can differ massively, though. Things like location, employer, level of training and experience can all factor into how much you would earn in a role like this.

Here, we’ll be looking at all of these factors that affect an EMT or paramedic’s salary, explaining exactly what both of these roles do, and evaluate whether it’s worth going into it in certain states of the US.

What’s The Difference Between An EMT And A Paramedic?

These two roles are often confused, but there’s a good reason for that. Both involve arriving quickly at the scene of an emergency situation and delivering lifesaving medical care.


The major difference between EMTs and paramedics is the type of medical care that they can provide.

For example, an EMT will do things like administer CPR, stem bleeding from open wounds and apply neck braces. This is definitely stuff that requires training to be able to do properly, but it’s not as invasive or technical as what paramedics are able to do.

A paramedic, for example, might perform full resuscitations, apply breathing apparatuses and insert an IV into their patient. Basically, a paramedic will do all of the roles of an EMT, as well as a few more advanced first aid and lifesaving activities.


The other major difference between the two roles is, as you might expect, the level of education required of them.

The first stage both jobs must go through is becoming an EMT. To do this it takes around 120-150 hours of training, practical experience and passing exams to become qualified.

While you’ll likely only need a high school diploma or GED credential to be accepted onto an EMT course, you will still need to study hard to get your certification.

To become a paramedic, you’ll actually have to work as an EMT for at least a few months first.

That’s because you’ll need to be accepted into a paramedic school, which will require plenty of experience, a relevant degree and potentially up to $10,000 in tuition fees. Once accepted, you’ll need to complete 1200-1800 hours of various training and examinations.

So, as you can tell, there are some pretty big differences between EMTs and paramedics. Becoming a paramedic has this additional time and financial requirement as a barrier to entry. Naturally, though, this does mean they are paid more on average.

How Much Are EMTs And Paramedics Paid?

As we said before, the salary for an EMT or paramedic can vary massively depending on a number of variables, with the main one being location.

This is because larger states and cities with higher populations have more emergency situations that require these emergency responders more frequently.

However, it also has a lot to do with how many EMTs and paramedics already work in each state. As with almost any occupation in the world, a higher salary will be paid for a job that has more demand.

The median salary for an EMT in the US is around $37,000, while the average for a paramedic is a little over $45,000. As you can see, there is definitely a benefit to all the training and investments required to go from an EMT to a paramedic.

Let’s take a look at how the figure for paramedics varies between different states. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the top 5 states for EMT and paramedic salaries:

  • Hawaii - $58,580
  • Washington - $56,910
  • Maryland - $53,440
  • Alaska - $50,030
  • California - $48,280

Alternatively, from the same source, here’s the list of the bottom 5 states for EMT and paramedic salaries:

  • West Virginia - $30,520
  • Maine - $34,700
  • Vermont - $36,580
  • Wyoming - $36,700
  • Missouri - $38,170

Why Are EMT And Paramedic Salaries So Different In Each State?

EMT ambulance

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also collects two other types of data which tell us more about why some states pay their EMTs and paramedics more than others.

The first of these is location quotient, which is calculated as a ratio of the concentration of a certain occupation in one area, compared to the national average concentration of that occupation.

Basically, if this figure is higher than 1, it means that that area has a higher concentration of EMTs and paramedics than the typical average is in the US.

For example, the location quotient in Hawaii is 0.47, which is one of the lowest figures in the whole country. Comparing that with West Virginia’s 1.79, we can see why the difference in salary might be appropriate.

Similarly, the figure of ‘employment per thousand jobs’ indicates how many employees out of 1000 in a certain area are EMTs or paramedics. Here, the figure for Hawaii is 0.87 while in West Virginia it’s 3.31.

The take away point from this data is that states with very few EMTs and paramedics will pay a higher salary because there is more demand for them there.

Therefore, if you’re thinking about becoming an EMT or paramedic and you want to earn as much money as possible, you should do some research and find out how many are already working in your area first.

Is It Worth Going From Being An EMT To Being A Paramedic?

As we’ve already touched upon, the transition from being an EMT to being a paramedic requires a great financial and time investment, as well as a lot of hard work.

The two things you need to consider about paramedic training is that it can require 1200-1800 hours of training and tuition fees of $1000-$10,000.

Tuition fees will vary massively depending on the quality of paramedic school you enrol to, the amount of grants and scholarships you’re able to receive, and the amount of equipment you’re required to buy yourself.

For those reasons, it’s very difficult to determine even an average monetary cost of paramedic school training.

If we ignore the regional variations in salary and go back to the national averages of $37,000 for EMTs and $45,000 for paramedics, we can get a good understanding of whether or not the transition is worth it.

Essentially, after a year of working as a paramedic, you will have made around $8000 more than if you were an EMT, which is enough to cover the cost of some paramedic schools. However, even with a more expensive education, the difference can probably be worked off in under 2 years.

Therefore, in terms of financial investment, it is definitely worth going from being an EMT to being a paramedic.

However, the other factor of up to 1800 hours of training is less easy to determine the value of. The entire paramedic school process can take up to 2 years, in which time you won’t earn as high a salary as a paramedic.

That means you’d have to consider for yourself how much you value that time to determine if the step up is worth it for you.

EMT And Paramedic Salaries Compared To Living Costs

It’s all well and good earning more money by working in a different state. However, that higher salary is pointless if the state you move to is more expensive to live in.

That’s why we need to consider the cost of living in each area compared to an EMT or paramedic salary to determine which has the best balance.

To determine the cost of living in each state, we’ll look at the cost of living index data provided by World Population Review. The cost of living index is basically a comparison of how much it costs to live in each state based on the average for the whole country.

A figure of 100 represents the national average, so if a state has a cost of living index of 90, the cost of living there is 10% less than average.

Let’s take a look at the top and bottom 5 states for EMT and paramedic salaries again, and compare them with their cost of living index.

Top 5 salaries (with cost of living index):

  • Hawaii - $58,580 (192.9)
  • Washington - $56,910 (110.7)
  • Maryland - $53,440 (129.7)
  • Alaska - $50,030 (129.9)
  • California - $48,280 (151.7)

Bottom 5 salaries (with cost of living index):

  • West Virginia - $30,520 (91.1)
  • Maine - $34,700 (117.5)
  • Vermont - $36,580 (114.5)
  • Wyoming - $36,700 (89.3)
  • Missouri - $38,170 (87.1)

We know this seems like a lot of data and numbers to process but don’t worry, we’ll summarize what it all means!

The average salary of an EMT or paramedic in Hawaii is around 142% of the national average. However, the cost of living in Hawaii is 192% of the national average. This means that the increase in salary for working in Hawaii is not worth the increased cost of living.

Alternatively, Washington has an average salary for EMTs and paramedics that is 139% higher than the national average and a living cost that’s only 111%. This means Washington is a much more financially efficient state to work in as a paramedic.

We’re not going to go over every state’s average salary and cost of living index here, but just be aware that a higher salary might not necessarily mean you’re making more money.


Overall, it’s pretty definitive that you can live off an EMT or paramedic salary anywhere in the US. Even though Hawaii has a very disproportionate salary compared to living cost, emergency responders there are all paid enough to live in the state and still be able to save some money.

Make sure that if you’re thinking about becoming an EMT or paramedic and you want to be able to earn as much money as possible, that you consider the cost of living and the average salary where you want to work.

However, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you work as an EMT or paramedic because you’ll have one of the most exciting and important jobs in the world!