Career Tips for Emergency Medical Services Administrators

EMS professional wearing personal protective equipment and standing in front of an ambulance
Category: Careers

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As emergency medical services become a more integral part of the overall health care delivery system in the U.S., the need for qualified EMS providers and leaders is increasing. In addition to supervising ambulance staff, EMS administrators need to have a firm foundation in leadership, strategic planning management and other skills in order to be successful. Although many EMS directors and administrators achieve their positions by working their way up the ladder, most find that they need to develop additional skills to handle of all of the facets of their new jobs.

If you hold a leadership position in EMS, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of succeeding in the role. Here are some of our favorite tips from those who have been in the industry and have experience in what it takes to be a great EMS administrator.

Seek Education 

Ideally, candidates for EMS administration roles have experience in leadership and management functions and knowledge of how to apply key concepts to an emergency services scenario. Some of the most challenging aspects of transitioning from the field to a leadership role are learning how to supervise people, developing a vision for the organization, and facilitating the team’s ability to work toward that vision. Therefore, it’s important to focus on education and developing the key skills associated with EMS leadership, including communication, personnel management, resource managementrisk management, planning, leadership and finance.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in EMS administration is a good place to start, but also commit yourself to ongoing education and professional development to ensure you have the right skills and knowledge to meet all of the challenges of the role.


One thing that many experienced EMS leaders point to as a key to their success is networking. Networking matters for two important reasons:

  1. By building your network of professional contacts, you increase the chance of finding the perfect role; after all, the majority of jobs are filled via word-of-mouth and networking, not applying to job listings.
  2. Having a strong professional network also helps you do your job better. Strong mentor relationships are consistently mentioned as a factor in leader success, and most new EMS leaders note that having mentors made all the difference when it came to navigating the complexities of their role.

As you work toward your goals in EMS, focus on cultivating strong working relationships with your colleagues, classmates, professors and other leaders so you begin your career with a strong network that will only grow over time.

Stay Abreast of Trends

EMS is rapidly changing, and leaders must be ahead of these changes. When you interview for leadership positions, you’ll be expected to demonstrate your knowledge of the current industry and new developments on the horizon and how they will affect the day-to-day operations of the organization. And once you have the job, staying “plugged in” to what’s happening within the industry is vital to effective strategic planning and management of the organization. The Journal of Emergency Medical Services lists being willing to change as one of the top qualities of an effective EMS leader.

Again, ongoing education, conferences and networking can help you stay on top of the industry, but be sure to spend some time researching and reading on your own. Join industry-related groups on LinkedIn, for instance, and get involved in conversations related to the trends and challenges in EMS. Not only will you expand your knowledge base, but you can build your professional network at the same time.

Make Yourself Visible

Because so many EMS administrators do come from within their respective organizations, it’s important to make yourself visible. If you are working in the field, make it a priority to learn all of the regulations and protocols of the company inside and out. Position yourself as an expert, but be willing to admit when you don’t know something and take the time to learn it.

Develop your communication skills, in particular the idea of active listening. Effective communication, including both interpersonal and organizational communication, is vital to EMS leadership, so hone and demonstrate your skills every day.

Finally, leaders are responsible for motivating and coaching their team, so work on those skills by being a force of positive energy within your team. Devote yourself to constant improvement and serving as a role model among your peers, and you will be noticed.


Becoming an EMS administrator is a fulfilling and rewarding job, but like most leadership roles, it isn’t without challenges. Focusing on expanding your skills, building a network and developing your professional persona will put you on track to career success.

Learn more about Columbia Southern University’s emergency medical services administration degree options.

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