#26 of 30in30: Lives are on the line for first responders



Screeching tires. Tearing metal. Sirens.  Who’s on call?  Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics are often first to the scene.  And where were they trained?  More often than not, at Virginia’s Community Colleges.

What is it?

More than half of Virginia’s Community Colleges offer some level of Emergency Medical Services training.

From Career Studies Certificates that lead to a Basic EMT certification, to intermediate and advanced certifications that provide highly qualified EMTs to the scene of accidents, to  an associate degree in Paramedic/Emergency Medical Services, Virginia’s Community Colleges are putting the first responders on the streets.

Nationwide, more than 80 percent of first responders with postsecondary credentials (paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, and police officers) are trained at community college, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

At the associate degree level, paramedics provide additional pre-hospital care, including administering medications, interpreting EKGs and operating complex equipment.

EMT/Paramedic work comes in #15 on the U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 list of “Best Jobs.”

Where is it offered?

Associate degree programs are offered at a number of Virginia Community Colleges.  Many times, like at J. Sargeant Reynolds, they work closely through the local fire services and EMS departments of the localities.


Four southwest Virginia community colleges work together to provide the emergency services training l their region needs.

Bill Aker at Southwest Virginia Community College heads up a consortium EMT program for four Southwest colleges:  Southwest Virginia, Virginia Highlands, Wytheville, and Mountain Empire.  Employment for his graduates is a breeze, he says, adding he’ll place all 100 graduates who get certification this year.

Who does it help?

All of us! We need our first responders!

What does the future hold?

Aging babyboomers mean job prospects should stay high for EMTs and paramedics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects EMT and paramedic employment will be growing by more than 30 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Editor’s Note: 30 Ways in 30 Days Virginia’s Community Colleges are Elevating Virginia is a month-long blog series dedicated to exploring some of the many creative and inspiring ways our colleges are helping people find and create opportunity. The series is part of the VCCS tribute to National Community College Month. To read more of the series just click on the “30 ways in 30 days” category.

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