“It’s one of those skills that’s needed if you’re a lifeguard or you’re out rescuing somebody in the mountains,” Ballinger said. “It’s often an entry level job that doesn’t pay all that well, but it’s a launching pad, a sort of stepping stone in the career ladder.”
Generally, an EMT position pays roughly $30,000 a year, a salary that usually leads to quite a bit of turnover, Ballinger said.
And yet, in today’s recessionary times, any job is a good job, and because there’s expected to be an EMT shortage in Orange County, the federal government has been generous in granting the community college the money, Ballinger said, noting that OCC is the only college in Orange County that qualified for such funds.
In just one semester, OCC can offer students EMT certification.
In all, the course lasts 156 hours, including lab and clinical work, whether it’s riding along in ambulances or working in hospital emergency rooms.
The EMT certification is paramount to getting your foot in the door, especially if you’ve got your eyes set on becoming a firefighter or a paramedic.
Scott Broussard, now the battalion chief for Costa Mesa Fire Station No. 5, knows the feeling all too well.
He took EMT classes at OCC in the early 1980s.
“It made me turn that corner and realize what I wanted in life,” said Broussard, 49, a Huntington Beach native.
At OCC, once the students take the class, which adds up to seven college units, they have to pass the EMT certification exam before they get hired, Ballinger said.
Ballinger said the money was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act under the Obama administration.
It was awarded to the college after Ballinger submitted a proposal for the grant late last year, citing state statistics by the Economic Employment Department that showed there would be a 28% increase in the demand for EMTs in Orange County between 2006 and 2016.
Did You Know?
There’s a sharp distinction between being a paramedic and an EMT. Paramedics can administer drugs on the spot and run intravenous drips. EMTs often are the first responders in rural outposts and can diagnose a patient, offering life-saving measures before the firefighters arrive. They can perform CPR, clear passageways and perform the Heimlich maneuver, which are all important skills.