Military helicopter delivering supplies

EMT to Combat Medic: EMT Career Guide

How to Become a Combat Medic: Duties, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary


Military helicopter delivering supplies

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is an outstanding field to enter for those who are looking for a meaningful and rewarding career. Demand for EMTs and paramedics is on the rise, and salaries for EMS professionals are relatively high for the amount of education required. Best of all, you get the satisfaction of helping others every single day!

For many, becoming an EMT is the job of a lifetime. However, your EMT training and experience may also qualify you for other jobs in emergency medicine, healthcare, and veterinary science. Your experience as an EMT can lay the foundation for continued education and re-careering into many related fields, including serving in the military.

This article explores the career of a Combat Medic and describes the pathway for re-careering from EMT to Combat Medic.

Click here to see our full list of alternative careers for EMTs & Paramedics.

Combat Medic: Definition

What is a Combat Medic?

Combat Medics save lives while serving their country. They are brave individuals who have dangerous and challenging jobs, especially when serving in combat roles. Combat Medics provides emergency care and evacuation services on the battlefield while also assisting medical officers with triage and providing medical services. They are responsible for emergency care in the field in both combat and humanitarian events. They also train other soldiers in providing first-response medical treatment.

The Combat Medic is one of the most critical jobs in any branch of the Armed Services because there are always injuries, accidents, and illnesses on and off the battlefield. When serving on a battlefield, Combat Medics face the same life-threatening dangers that all soldiers face, including bullets, shrapnel, and explosives. Yet, many Combat Medics risk their lives to treat and protect fallen soldiers and are awarded medals for bravery and service above the call of duty.

Each branch of the military has some form of a Combat Medic, although they may have different titles and job descriptions. For example, in the Army, they are called Combat Medic Specialists, but in the Air Force, they are known as Air Combat Medics or Pararescue. The Navy has Hospital Corpsmen who treat both members of both the Navy and Marines.

Combat Medic: Duties & Responsibilities

What Does a Combat Medic Do?

As a Combat Medic, you work under difficult and dangerous conditions to provide emergency care and assist medical officers with triage and providing medical services. You may also train other soldiers in providing first-response medical treatment.

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of combat medics include:

  • Providing emergency medical assessment and treatment to casualties on the battlefield
  • Assisting with inpatient and outpatient treatment and care
  • Providing instruction to soldiers during a Combat Lifesaver/First Responder training course
  • Managing medical supplies and equipment

Humanitarian medical assistance

Where Do Combat Medics Work?

As a Combat Medic Specialist, you’ll administer emergency medical care in the field in both combat and humanitarian situations. Because the goal of the U.S. Armed Forces is to deter and overcome various threats in locations around the world, Combat Medics can find themselves working in almost any region and can be re-assigned to numerous different locations. Combat Medics who receive additional training may join airborne Rangers in Special Operations or provide care under extreme conditions, including scuba dives and high altitudes.

Some of the factors that affect battlefield casualty care can include:

  • Hostile fire
  • Darkness
  • Extreme environments (mountains, deserts)
  • Limited medical equipment
  • Possible prolonged evacuation time
  • Unit’s mission
  • Tactical flow

Combat Medic: Equipment and Uniform

What Do Combat Medics Carry?

Combat Medics typically carry the equipment and medications needed to provide pre-hospital treatment for the most common preventable causes of death on the battlefield, including bleeding from extremity wounds, tension pneumothorax (lung collapse), and airway problems.

Historically, medics didn’t carry weapons, but today’s Combat Medics do carry a pistol or service rifle (M-16) at all times to be used for self-defense only.

Some of the supplies a Combat Medic might carry include:

  • Nasopharyngeal airway
  • Tourniquet
  • Needle decompression kit
  • IV fluid (saline, lactated Ringer’s)
  • Splint
  • Heating blanket
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Pulse oximeter
  • Chest seat
  • Stethoscope

Combat Medic: School, Training, and Certification

How Long Does it Take to Become a Combat Medic?

To join the military, you must meet certain qualifications for enlistment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although requirements for each branch of the military vary, the qualifications that are common to all branches include:

  • Minimum of 17 years of age
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident status
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Never convicted of a felony
  • Able to pass a medical exam

To enlist in the military, you must take a placement exam called the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which determines your suitability for military occupational specialties. To find out what military careers you are suited to, you can take the ASVAB without any obligation to join the military. The selection for a specific job specialty is based on ASVAB test results, the physical requirements for the job, and the needs of the service.

Applicants for the Armed Forces must pass the physical examination before signing an enlistment contract. The contract involves several enlistment options, such as the length of active-duty or reserve-duty time, the length and kind of job training, and the number of bonuses that may be earned, if any. Most active-duty programs have first-term enlistments of 4 years. Some programs have first-term enlistments of 2, 3, and 6 years.


What Training is Required to Be a Combat Medic?

Newly enlisted military members undergo initial training, known as basic training or boot camp. Basic training includes courses in military skills and protocols and lasts 7 to 13 weeks, including a week of orientation and introduction to military life. Basic training also includes weapons training, team building, and rigorous physical exercise designed to improve strength and endurance.

Following basic training, enlisted members attend technical schools to prepare them for a particular military occupational specialty. This training typically lasts from 10 to 20 weeks. Training for certain occupations—such as nuclear power plant operators—may take as long as a year. In addition to getting technical instruction, military members receive on-the-job training at their first duty assignment.

Army Combat Medics who join the Airborne Ranger battalions must complete  Ranger training and complete a Special Operations Combat Medics course. This 36-weeks training provides greater depth on the types of care that Special Operations soldiers may require. Certifications earned during this program include basic life support, pediatric education for pre-hospital providers and advanced cardiac life support.

A Combat Medic who becomes a Special Operations Medical Sergeant will undergo additional training, including dental medicine, including performing extractions, large-animal veterinary care, as well as training in cultural medical practices and healing, including herbal medicine. Special Operations Medical Sergeants also learn to provide care under extreme conditions, including training in dive medicine and the effects of high altitude on the human body.

Combat Medics typically receive ongoing training throughout their enlistment, often in response to changes in military strategy or conditions. In recent years, there has been a move toward having Combat Medics provide care for an extended length of time. As a result, the military introduced the Expeditionary Combat Medic certification course that trains Combat Medics to provide care for extended periods of time on the battlefield.

Though the roles and conditions are different between a civilian EMT and a Combat Medic, the training programs have much in common. Combat Medics with EMT training have a solid foundation for military training and may be preferred as Combat Medic recruits. Click here to learn more about the 14-Day EMT Boot Camp at Unitek EMT in Tempe, AZ.

Combat Medic: Salary

How Much Do Combat Medics Make?

Compensation for members of the military depends on rank and on the length of time in service. A combat medic at the 2022 E-4 pay grade (corporal, specialist, senior airman, petty officer third class) earns between around $28,000 to $35,000 per year, according to

These salary* earnings do not reflect other benefits, including bonuses, housing allowance, education, and health care.

Combat Medic: Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not cover employment projections for the armed services. The BLS does state that there is an ongoing need for recruits to staff positions in all branches of the military. The fact is, the US Department of Defense is the largest employer in the world, with more than 3.2 million employees in 2015, according to the World Economic Forum. Emerging conflicts and global events could lead to changes in the size of the military. The US Government is constantly looking for capable and courageous individuals to serve in the military and protect our country.

(Click here to learn more on How To Become an Emergency Medical Technician)

How Will My EMT Experience Help Me Become a Combat Medic?

Though a Combat Medic will typically be treating young, physically fit soldiers under difficult or dangerous conditions that require different protocols, the role is still very similar to a civilian EMT. All of your EMT training and experience will apply toward your additional military training to be a Combat Medic.

Laptop draped with a stethoscope

Start Your Career as a Combat Medic

All EMS jobs are difficult and dangerous. But the Combat Medic is a rare breed of EMS professional that knowingly risk their lives to treat fallen soldiers on an active battlefield. They must remain calm, think and act quickly, and be resourceful—all while their lives are in jeopardy. They are true heroes. If you want a job where you care for others, heal the wounded, and save lives—all while helping to defend your country—then Combat Medic may be the perfect job for you.

About Unitek EMT

Unitek EMT is one of the premier EMT schools in Arizona. Our mission is simple: training the next wave of top-notch EMT professionals. We offer a variety of training options to fit your needs, including an accelerated EMT program, to get you mission-ready and certified fast. We also offer EMS Continuing Education courses, to update your expertise and enhance your career. Unitek EMT instructors are experienced leaders in their fields, and our real-world training scenarios are ideal for aspiring EMT professionals.

Click here to learn more about our 14-Day EMT Basic Training at Unitek EMT in Tempe, AZ.