What’s Fair Pay for EMTs and Paramedics?

The argument of what is and isn’t a livable wage has been a common topic for a few years and the medical industry is not excluded from this debate. EMTs and paramedics provide many critical services that sustain life and ensure fast and proper medical care. At Medcognition, we believe EMS should be compensated fairly for their dedication and services.  

In this article, we offer several reasons why EMTs and paramedics should earn a higher wage. As invaluable members in the medical field, it is our opinion that their mental health, work culture, and finances are crucial to them executing their jobs effectively.

EMS Takes a Toll on Mental Health

Imagine the things first responders see and endure on a daily basis. Anyone who witnesses death and violence regularly is bound to experience mental health issues. As a matter of fact, there are numerous studies that report the mental effects doctors and nurses experience as a result of their jobs. However, very little data is available on the psychological effects EMTs and paramedics endure as a result of their job.  

Thankfully, a few programs have been developed to measure the number of EMTs who experience depression, PTSD, and several other psychological disorders. As the Journal of Emergency Medical Services reports:

The CrewCare project and app is a program in which first responders report feeling depressed, down, or hopeless as well as feeling bad about themselves, like a failure, or as if they’ve let their family down. The results showed that 46% of the study group felt depressed, down, or hopeless and 39% felt bad about themselves, like a failure, or that they disappointed their family.     

You might be wondering what paying EMTs more has to do with their mental health. Well, higher pay means they can afford to take time off and rest. Currently, many first responders work overtime to make ends meet. Less work means they can spend more time with their families and even dedicate time to their mental health.

First Responders Do Not Make a Livable Wage

Most people enter the EMS field because they have a passion for helping others, but they are often paid similar rates as entry-level jobs that are less demanding. Let’s take a look at the comparison of poverty level wages and what first responders make.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2018 Poverty Guidelines reports the poverty level for 1 person is roughly 12 thousand dollars and about 29 thousand dollars for a family of 5. Meanwhile, “the average EMT or paramedic makes about $34,320 a year” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 report. That means the majority of EMTs are living at or just above the poverty level.

Low Wages Affect the Workplace Environment

It is no secret that low wages have a negative effect on organizational culture. Low pay puts EMTs in a position to work overtime or even secondary jobs often resulting in burnout and sleep deprivation. No one operates at full capacity when they are fatigued and in the medical industry mistakes are a matter of life and death.

Employees who are paid well do not need to work overtime nor do they need to work second and third jobs. As a result, they are more committed to their job, alert, and dedicated to providing quality services. In EMS, alertness, dedication, and focus mean the first responder can make decisions quickly and minimize errors.


We can help by supporting EMS charities such as the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation which supplies first responder organizations with necessary equipment and resources. You can donate as little as $10 or as much as you want. The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians is a charity that supports EMS careers and training including outreach programs, scholarships, and EMS research. We can also help by supporting advocacy programs like The American Paramedic Association (APA), “a newly formed advocacy organization.”