Using the GI Bill to Become an EMT

Updated: November 3, 2020

Table of Contents

    Due to the program’s outstanding educational benefits, veterans often ask if it’s possible to use the GI Bill to become an emergency medical technician, or EMT. It absolutely is, and in this article, we’ll explain how veterans can use their GI Bill benefits to become an EMT.

    Using the GI Bill to Become an EMT Specifically, we’ll cover the following topics:

    • GI Bill Overview
    • EMT Roles and Responsibilities
    • EMT Requirements
    • Using the GI Bill to Become an EMT
    • Final Thoughts

    GI Bill Overview

    Originally part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the GI Bill provides eligible military members and veterans education benefits.  Currently administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, today’s version of the bill – the Post-9/11 GI Bill – offers the following outstanding education and financial assistance benefits to qualified veterans:

    • Tuition and fees up to the in-state, public school maximum
    • A tax-free, monthly housing allowance while enrolled in classes
    • An annual book stipend up to $1,000
    • Potential access to the Yellow Ribbon program to cover tuition in excess of the GI Bill maximum

    To qualify for the above benefits, veterans must have served at least 90 days of active duty following Sept. 10th, 2001. To receive 100% benefits, veterans must have served 36 months or more of active duty or, if discharged due to a service-connected disability, at least 30 continuous days. For veterans meeting less than the 100% threshold, the VA awards benefits on a pro rata basis.

    However, the key takeaway from this article for veterans is that they don’t need to use their GI Bill benefits in a traditional degree program. Instead, veterans have the option to pursue non-degree programs – to include EMT-certifying programs – with their benefits, which we’ll discuss in the following sections.

    EMT Roles and Responsibilities

    Prior to discussing how to use the GI Bill to become an EMT, veterans should first understand the actual roles and responsibilities of an EMT.

    Broadly speaking, EMTs provide emergency medical care and transportation for patients outside of hospitals. More specifically, when critical and emergent patients require access to emergency medical services, EMTs act as first responders. The training EMTs receive allows them to fulfill this first responder role, as they possess the skills and knowledge to stabilize and move patients across the spectrum of care, from routine to life threatening.

    In the larger medical picture, EMTs serve as one part of the broader emergency medical response system. They provide medical interventions with the basic medical equipment found on ambulances and in first-responder medical kits, to include assessing a patient’s condition and managing cardiac, respiratory, and trauma emergencies. As such, EMTs represent the critical bridge between the actual emergency location and higher care in the healthcare system (e.g. emergency room surgeons).

    While an EMT certificate can help veterans applying for jobs in fire or police departments, most EMTs work in ambulances as first responders. And, with additional training, EMTs can earn advanced EMT and paramedic certifications, jobs with greater medical responsibilities – and pay.

    EMT Requirements

    While state-specific licensure requirements exist, the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) serves as the nationally-recognized provider of EMT certifications. Prior to issuing state licensures, nearly all states require their candidates to first receive this NREMT certificate. More precisely, every state recognizes the NREMT’s certification, and 46 states actually use this certification as the basis for state licensure.

    NOTE: The US government defines “certification” as the process by which a non-governmental organization (such as the NREMT) provides recognition to a person who has met the predetermined qualifications outlined by that organization. “Licensure” represents the state’s grant of legal authority, in line with the state’s powers, to practice a certain profession within a defined scope of practice.

    Having outlined the above, we’ll discuss the NREMT’s certification requirements below, as the vast majority of veterans will need to complete these steps prior to completing the state-specific administrative requirements necessary for EMT licensure.

    • Requirement 1 – Academic: Veterans must complete a state-approved EMT course that meets or exceeds the National Emergency Medical Services Education Standards for the EMT.

    NOTE: This course must have been completed within the past two years, and the course’s Program Director needs to verify the veteran’s successful completion of the course on the NREMT website.

    • Requirement 2 – CPR: Veterans must possess a current CPR-BLS for “healthcare provider” (or credential equivalent to this).
    • Requirement 3 – Psychomotor Exam: Veterans must pass a state-approved psychomotor (skills) exam, demonstrating competence in a wide spectrum of emergency care skills. These exams are not administered by the NREMT, and veterans will need to discuss the logistics of their state-specific exams with their academic instructors or state EMS office.

    Upon completing the above requirements, veterans must create an account and begin their formal NREMT application online at the Registry’s website. As part of the application process, veterans must pay a non-refundable $80 fee, which authorizes them to complete the final requirement:

    • Requirement 4 – Cognitive Exam: Veterans must pass the NREMT-administered cognitive (knowledge-based) exam, a computer-adaptive test consisting of 70 to 120 questions. After paying the above $80 fee, veterans receive an electronic Authorization to Test (ATT) and become eligible to take the exam at an authorized testing center.

    Upon successful completion of the exam, the NREMT provides veterans their official EMT certification.

    Using the GI Bill to Become an EMT

    Of the above requirements, the actual EMT course (Requirement 1) is the most expensive part of becoming an EMT. Fortunately, this is also what the GI Bill covers, and here’s exactly how veterans can use the GI Bill to become an EMT.

    Step 1: Apply for benefits with the VA

    Broadly speaking, using the GI Bill to pay tuition for an EMT course follows the same process as using these benefits to pay for undergraduate studies. Veterans first need to apply directly with the Department of Veterans Affairs to confirm their eligibility.

    To qualify for education benefits at a non-college degree program (e.g. an EMT course), veterans must:

    • Qualify for the GI Bill
    • Enroll (or plan to enroll) in a non-degree program at an approved school

    NOTE: Veterans should confirm directly with their school or use the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill Comparison Tool to determine whether their school has been approved by the VA.

    The VA confirms GI Bill eligibility via a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Once veterans receive their COE – and assuming 100% benefits – the Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay for training at non-degree schools up to the in-state tuition national maximum.

    Step 2: Apply directly to the EMT program

    As stated, veterans need to apply to an EMT program approved by the VA. Furthermore, in selecting a program, veterans should confirm that the curriculum includes both CPR-BLS (Requirement 2 above) and a state-approved psychomotor/skills test (Requirement 3 above).

    A quality EMT program will not only include both of these elements in its curriculum, it will also mandate that students complete them – in addition to their academic coursework – prior to sitting for the NREMT cognitive exam (Requirement 4 above). Completing these requirements first ensures that veterans enter the cognitive exam as prepared as possible.

    Additionally, from a financial perspective, by enrolling in an EMT program that includes both the CPR-BLS and psychomotor/skills tests, veterans save themselves from needing to pay for these requirements separately, as the GI Bill will cover them as a part of the EMT program tuition.

    Veterans should coordinate directly with their program’s VA certifying official or veteran services office to confirm the program-specific administrative requirements for using their GI Bill benefits for the EMT program.

    Step 3: Complete the EMT program and pass the NREMT cognitive exam

    After completing their EMT program, veterans next need to create an NREMT account online, enroll for, and pass the cognitive exam. Upon passing the exam, the NREMT will issue veterans their actual EMT certificates.

    And, while the GI Bill won’t pay the $80 non-refundable NREMT fee up front, the Department of Veterans Affairs will reimburse veterans this fee as part of their GI Bill benefits. To receive this refund, veterans should fill out the Application for Reimbursement of Licensing or Certification Test Fees (VA Form 22-0803) and submit it online with proof of payment for the $80 fee.

    Step 4: Apply for state EMT licensure

    As stated, the NREMT provides EMT certification, but individual states provide EMT licensure.  As such, veterans need to confirm their state-specific requirements for completing this final step.  However, assuming veterans complete an EMT program in their own state, program officials will be able to assist with this licensure process.

    Final Thoughts

    The GI Bill provides veterans absolutely unmatched education benefits. Even if veterans aren’t interested in pursuing a traditional college degree, other options exist to take advantage of these outstanding benefits.

    And, as the above article outlines, one of these options is to use the GI Bill to become an EMT, a great option for veterans who’d like to transition from military service into a first-responder role.


    About The AuthorMaurice “Chipp” Naylon spent nine years as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps. He is currently a licensed CPA specializing in real estate development and accounting.


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