AEMT education is fragmented, lacking national standards

To improve the current system, the CAAHEP and CoAEMSP plan to launch voluntary AEMT accreditation

Starting in January, 2025, voluntary programmatic accreditation will be available at the advanced emergency medical technician (AEMT) level, according to an announcement from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP ) and the Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the Emergency Medical Services Professions (CoAEMSP), which will provide the accreditation services. 

The announcement builds on two sets of industrywide recommendations.

The 2019 National EMS Scope of Practice Model, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in collaboration with numerous stakeholders, called for enhanced education standards for AEMT programs, including a proposed requirement that AEMTs successfully complete “a nationally accredited or CAAHEP-accredited AEMT program that meets all other state/territorial requirements” by Jan. 1, 2025. 

"Ensuring AEMT education programs have the professional resources to meet basic education standards is essential to the quality of AEMT education and the safety and wellbeing of communities nationwide," writes Hatch. (Photo/George W. Hatch)

Subsequently, in 2021, NHTSA released the National EMS Education Standards, which reaffirmed its support for offering AEMT program accreditation by Jan. 1, 2025 . Key stakeholders in the 2019 and 2021 efforts turned to CoAEMSP to develop a strategy to implement the recommendation. CAAHEP and CoAEMSP will continue to work closely with stakeholders to gather perspectives and recommendations on how best to implement the new option.

National standards

All EMS professionals must meet certain education requirements and pass a certification exam in order to be licensed. Paramedic students must graduate from a CAAHEP-accredited paramedic education program in order to be eligible to sit for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam to become a nationally certified paramedic. The National Registry is recognized in every state, and certification is required in 47 states and the five U.S. territories to be eligible for a paramedic license.

While paramedic education standards are consistent across the country, AEMT education programs are fragmented and vary by state and even local requirements.  Furthermore, the National Registry AEMT certification is optional.  As a result, though there are national AEMT education standards, they are not consistently applied, resulting in wide variations in the education of AEMTs by state and even community. 

NREMT pass rates indicate value of voluntary accreditation 

One way to measure the impact of the fragmented AEMT education system is to look at NREMT exam results.

Of the AEMTs who voluntarily took the NREMT exam in 2022, only 56% passed the test the first time, and 69% passed within a cumulative three attempts.  Among paramedics, all of whom attended an accredited paramedic education program in 2022, 71% passed the first attempt, and 85% passed within three cumulative attempts, according to data from the National Registry obtained on April 6, 2023.

When a student fails to pass the NREMT exam, it is an indication that they have not attained entry-level competency aligned to the key education standards outlined in the National EMS Education Standards and Guidelines, which form the basis of the accreditation process of continuous improvement. Accreditation offers educators the opportunity to strengthen their program, drawing from the knowledge and experience of others and leveraging resources that they may not even realize are missing.

Next steps

Ensuring AEMT education programs have the professional resources to meet basic education standards is essential to the quality of AEMT education and the safety and wellbeing of communities nationwide. Building on stakeholder feedback, beginning in 2025, the nation’s AEMT education programs will have the option to pursue accreditation, a voluntary activity that measures and assesses the quality of AEMT programs against agreed-upon standards. CoAEMSP is proud to lead efforts to develop this option for AEMT education programs nationwide as part of our work to foster a unified national EMS system of exceptional quality through accreditation.

Key milestones in advance of the launch include:

  • May-November, 2023 - Robust stakeholder engagement and feedback
  • Dec. 4, 2023 - Open for public comment the policies and interpretations of the CAAHEP Standards for AEMT education programs 
  • Jan. 18, 2024 - Public comment period closes
  • Feb. 4, 2024 - The CoAEMSP Board reviews the comments and approves the final draft
  • Mar. 4, 2024 - Publish policies and interpretations of the CAAHEP Standards for AEMT education programs 
  • June 1, 2024 - All documents and forms for AEMT education programs will be made available, including the Letter of Review (LoR) application, self-study report, site visit report, annual report, etc.
  • Jan. 1, 2025 - Accept LoR applications from AEMT education programs 

Additional information regarding voluntary AEMT accreditation beginning January 1, 2025, is available on the CoAEMSP website.

Read next:

Read next:

Do we really need degrees in EMS?

Why earning an advanced degree changed my mind

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2023 EMS1. All rights reserved.