What Disqualifies You From Being An EMT/Paramedic?

Being an EMT or paramedic can be one of the most important and rewarding jobs in society. These people are the real life superheroes who rush to the scene of an emergency situation to save the day and peoples’ lives.

However, with such an important role comes a lot of responsibility, and the people in charge of hiring and training EMTs and paramedics have to make sure each and every staff member is up to the task.

What Can Disqualify You From Becoming An EMT Or Paramedic

That’s why there are a number of reasons why someone could lose their job as an EMT or paramedic and why some might not even be allowed to train in the first place.

Regulations set out by governing bodies in each state, as well as the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), ensure that all emergency response personnel are able to carry out their jobs and that they won’t pose a threat to anyone in their care.

In this article, we’re going to be going over all the criteria needed for a person to become an EMT or paramedic, look at what sort of things might disqualify you, and explain how these situations can be rectified in some cases.

How Do You Get Qualified As An EMT Or Paramedic?

Before we look at the qualifying criteria you need to become qualified, let’s take a look at the qualification process itself.

EMTs can get their certification after only a few months. They need to undergo some theoretical and practical training, as well as complete an examination. You won’t need a fancy degree for this certification, probably just a high school diploma or GED.

It’s a lot more difficult to become a paramedic, though. First, you need to have been working as an EMT for at least a few months and, more often, around 2 years.

Then, you’ll have to enrol in a paramedic school and pay tuition for it. There are grants available for most paramedic schools but it’s likely that you’ll still need to pay some money for tuition or equipment.

Paramedics must then complete around 1200-1800 hours of training and examinations before they can become qualified.

Depending on the school you enrol in, you might also need a relevant degree before you can even get started, as the course requires a lot of studious work, much like what you’d do at a university.

Physical Criteria

As you can imagine, EMTs and paramedics have pretty physically demanding jobs. Not only do they have to rush around to get to emergency situations quickly but, once there, they need to act and operate all their equipment under time pressure to save peoples’ lives.

All this means you’ll need to meet the following physical criteria to be able to gain your EMT certification and be able to carry out the job effectively:

Physical Strength

Of course, being able to move heavy things like equipment, unconscious patients and things in the environment of an emergency situation is an important asset.

EMTs and paramedics need to be able to lift around 100lbs of weight to be able to cope with the demands of emergency situations. 

They should also be able to push and pull heavy objects as well. This is a small part of the EMT course and is something that can be worked on at a gym or through repeated practice anyway.

Steady Hands

Medical surgeons are known for having the steadiest hands in the world so that they can perform complex procedures on a very small area of a patient’s body. Whilst EMTs won’t need this skill as much, paramedics will because they are the ones often tasked with administering IVs to patients.

Of course, steady hands are also important for treating wounds and applying bandages and braces to patients.


By eloquence, we basically mean the ability to speak clearly and effectively.

Communication is essential to this job as it requires you to coordinate with other emergency responders at an emergency situation, your own team of EMTs or paramedics, and doctors at a hospital when bringing in a patient.

Again, this isn’t often a make or break criteria for many EMTs or paramedics, but it is an essential asset to have in order to do the job effectively. Regional and international accents aren’t often a problem here, as long as you know all the language you’ll need to use while carrying out your job.

Eyesight And Hearing

Much like in the armed forces or for pilots, the ability to see and hear well is important to be able to carry out the job effectively.

Eyesight is slightly less important but you should still be able to see in color and be able to accurately determine the severity of an injury through sight alone.

Hearing is somewhat more important as it’s needed to identify a patient's heartbeat and breathing, as well as signals from other emergency responders and equipment.

General Health


It might seem obvious, but it can really hinder an emergency situation if the EMT or paramedic suddenly collapses or falls ill and needs saving themselves. That’s why all staff are given physical examinations by doctors before they can be qualified.

This examination mainly checks for overall levels of health and verifies any previous conditions like heart attacks or strokes that could have an adverse effect on your ability to do the job safely.

Similarly, all the important vaccinations and immunizations will need to be up to date to prevent EMTs and paramedics contracting and serious diseases from patients.

Criminal Disqualifications

As with pretty much any job, there are certain criminal offences and convictions that can prevent you from becoming qualified as an EMT or paramedic altogether.

These disqualifications are mainly enforced to ensure the safety of the patients at emergency situations, but they also protect the wellbeing of the emergency responders themselves, too.

The set of criminal offences that can disqualify you will vary somewhat from state to state, as some of these are not enforced by the NREMT, but rather the governing body in charge of emergency services in that state.

If you’re unsure about how much of an impact your criminal conviction will have on your ability to become an EMT or paramedic, you should always check what the specific regulations are in your state first.

The following are all criminal offences that will not be overlooked by the NREMT and are likely to result in an individual being disqualified from certification as an EMT or paramedic:

Use Of A Dangerous Weapon

Unsurprisingly, EMTs and paramedics need to work with a whole range of equipment that could feasibly be used as a weapon.

If an individual has proven that they are capable of using weapons or misusing other equipment as a weapon, it is unlikely that they’ll be deemed a suitable candidate for the job.

Property Crimes

This basically refers to theft of any kind but is particularly important with reference to burglary and home robberies. EMTs and paramedics are often required to enter citizens’ homes to provide medical care.

This means they need to be 100% trustworthy to carry out their healthcare responsibilities professionally and make their patient’s feel safe.

Individuals with a property crime conviction are seen as posing a greater risk of stealing from someone’s home while they are vulnerable and in need of medical care.

Abuse Of Vulnerable Individuals

Vulnerable individuals include children, the elderly and people with disabilities. Naturally, EMTs and paramedics are required to care for vulnerable individuals on a regular basis and, again, there must be a level of 100% trust between them and their patient’s to ensure everyone feels safe.

Those with a previous abuse conviction will not receive that level of trust from states or the NREMT.

Sexual Abuse Or Assault

Very similar to the previous crime, sexual abuse or assault convictions mean that an individual can not be trusted to care for vulnerable patients and make them feel safe.

Physical Assault

Again, this may seem obvious, but individuals who have demonstrated that they are capable of committing physically violent crimes can not be trusted with caring for vulnerable individuals.

This policy is enforced to make sure every citizen will feel completely safe when receiving care from an EMT or paramedic.

Substance Abuse

This crime has slightly different criteria and implementations to the previous ones we’ve discussed. EMTs and paramedics are found to be more likely to develop substance abuse issues than most other jobs.

This is likely due to the stressful and emotionally demanding conditions of their job and the ease of access they have to prescription drugs. For that reason, those who have a significant history of substance abuse issues may be disqualified from becoming certified as an EMT or paramedic.

It’s important to note that this measure is in place to protect these individuals rather than the general public.

Conditions To Become Qualified With A Criminal Conviction

All of the criminal offences we’ve listed above are unlikely to be overlooked by any governing body in charge of emergency services. However, some less serious arrests or convictions may not result in automatic disqualification if certain criteria are met.

Some states may require an individual with a minor criminal record to provide references from probation officers, previous employers or therapists to verify that person’s ability to carry out the responsibilities of an EMT or paramedic, despite their previous offence(s).

Similarly, the amount of time between an individual’s last criminal offence and the start of their EMT or paramedic training may also be relevant.

States are more likely to grant certification to previous offenders who have been back in society long enough to prove that they have been rehabilitated.

Finally, an in-person meeting with the state may be required of some individuals so that the governing body can verify for themselves that they can be trusted with the responsibilities of an EMT or paramedic.

This can also be done with written letters. It will often require the individual to explain their conviction and what steps they have taken to reform themselves since it happened.

Can I Be A Paramedic With A Criminal Record?

Yes, it is possible to become a paramedic or an EMT with a criminal record. However, there are certain other criteria that must be fulfilled.

In this article, we’ve listed the criminal offences that will disqualify someone from becoming a paramedic, but less serious crimes that aren’t listed are not likely to disqualify someone.

Can You Be A Paramedic With A Disability?

Yes, people with certain disabilities can become paramedics. However, it is largely dependent on their type of disability.

Those with serious physical disabilities would not be able to carry out the responsibilities of a paramedic safely and effectively, thereby putting the lives of others at risk.

However, minor physical disabilities and some mental disabilities will often be accommodated for by ambulance services and governing bodies.


So, those were the criteria for disqualification for becoming an EMT or paramedic in the US. As we said at the start, these disqualifications vary somewhat from state to state so don’t be disheartened if you think something in this article might disqualify you.

It’s always worth checking what the specific criteria are in your state before giving up hope.

EMTs and paramedics are jobs that will always be needed, so states and governing bodies are always on the lookout for individuals willing to step up and help save lives in their community.