Skip to main content

Press Release: EMTs Make An Average Living of Only $37,760 Per Year to Keep You Alive

February 4, 2020

When someone phones 911 for a medical emergency, EMTs and paramedics are usually the first to respond to the scene. EMTs (emergency medical technicians) tackle basic medical care, first-aid, and ensure the patient gets safely to the hospital. 

So, how much money are EMTs comped for bandaging up bloody wounds and stabilizing broken bones? Not as much as you’d think.  

On average, EMTs make only $37,760 per year. To put that in perspective, athletic trainers and carpenters both make an annual salary of about $40,000 per year. 

Meanwhile, Instagram influencers with small followings (10,000 to 50,000 followers) can make up to a whopping $60,000 per year. 

Let’s break it down more. EMTs make an average hourly wage of $18.15. To compare, first-time accountants make between $24 and $29 per hour.

The life-saving tasks EMTs perform on a daily basis are demanding and stressful—and their salaries are just as alarming. 

What’s the Difference Between an EMT and Paramedic?

Paramedics have more advanced training than EMTs, so they take on more complex procedures (think chest tubes and IV lines). In general, the rule goes that paramedics can break skin in order to perform a medical procedure, while EMTs can’t. Because paramedics require more extensive training, they earn more money than EMTs. 

Basically, being an EMT is a stepping stone to becoming a paramedic. Before you can become a paramedic, you have to be an EMT. 

Sound a lot like intern work? Sadly, it’s quite similar. EMTs are routinely overworked and underpaid, but because the job clocks decent medical experience, requires minimal training, and is a typical precursor to medical school and other professions, many still show up for the job.

What’s an Adjusted Salary?

Depending on where you call home, the cost of housing, fuel, medical care, and other factors determine how much it costs to live (i.e., cost of living). 

Since most major metropolitan areas are more expensive to live in than rural areas, employers will raise salaries to meet the cost of living (This is why EMTs in Hawaii make more money than EMTs in Kansas; you gotta pay to live in paradise.).

Interesting Data Finds

With an average annual salary of $67,600, EMTs in Washington make the most of any state. EMTs in the Pacific Northwest state get paid over double the amount EMT’s in Alabama get paid ($30,260).

EMTs are fielded through EMS agencies (emergency medical services), meaning EMTs aren’t always employees of the hospital they take you to. In fact, private ambulance services own a large share of the ambulances hospitals use, so ambulances don’t always belong to hospitals either.

3.345 of every 1,000 employed West Virginian is an EMT, making West Virginia the state with the highest percentage of EMTs per capita. West Virginia is currently pushing to allow its EMTs to carry guns, and with overwhelming state approval the proposal is heading to the Senate floor.

California boasts the highest difference between its actual and adjusted EMT salary. The average salary of an EMT in California is $39,350, earning the Golden State the 14th overall ranking. But after factoring in California’s cost of living, their rank drops to 47; California EMTs make an adjusted wage of only $34,277.

There are six different types of EMS agencies: 911 response with transport, 911 response without transport, non-emergency transport, specialty transport air, specialty transport ground, and emergency medical dispatch. 40% of EMS agencies are fire department-based, meaning firefighters actually respond to a good chunk of EMS calls.


To analyze how much EMTs make per state, we collected salary information from the May 2018 Occupational Employment and Wages report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics. 

To determine each state’s adjusted salary, we first calculated the Regional Price Parity (which measures the differences in price levels across states and metropolitan areas in a given year) based on 2017 Bureau of Economic Analysis data. From there, we divided each state’s annual average salary by the Regional Price Parity to determine each state’s adjusted annual salary.