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State Department: Illinois

If you’re a paramedic or EMT who’s thinking of relocating, or you’d just like to learn more about life across the U.S., EMS World’s State Department is worth a look. We start with data-driven “snapshots” of each state, then add a few paragraphs about regional practices and lifestyle. Our goal is to highlight everyday aspects of potential destinations from a prehospital provider’s point of view.

Illinois Snapshot

  • Link to state EMS website
  • Average straight-time wages: EMT $12.76/hour, paramedic $17.491
  • State area: 57,914 square miles (Rank: 25)
  • Approximate state population: 12,741,000
    • Rank (↓): 6
    • Change since 2010: -1%
  • Most populous cities (approximate): Chicago 2,716,000, Aurora 201,000, Joliet 148,000
  • Violent crime one-year change: Chicago -8%, Aurora +2%, Joliet -18%2
  • State violent crime rank (↑): 343
  • State property crime rank (↑): 173
  • Health rank (↓): 264
  • Average temperatures: Summer 73ºF, Winter 28ºF5
  • Top state income tax: 4.95%6
  • Average sales tax: 8.7%6
  • Average property tax: 1.95%6
    • Rank (↓): 26
  • Median home value: $181,2007
    • One-year change: +3.5%8
  • Median monthly rent: $1,6507
  • Average cost of electricity: $0.14/kwh8
  • Cost of living index: 94.5 (U.S. average = 100)9
  • Best states rank (↓): 3510
  • Approximate annual retirement cost per household: $59,00011

A Microcosm of America

In the early ’90s, before EMS was more than a hobby for me, I used to take two kinds of business trips to Illinois.

One was to Chicago. I’d fly into O’Hare, rent a car, and take I-290 to Palatine, an upscale suburb where my client was headquartered. Having grown up just outside of Boston, I felt comfortable with the white-collar congestion of Palatine. There was plenty to see, plenty to do.

My other regular trip was to Carbondale, 300 miles southwest of Chicago. In those days Carbondale was home to Southern Illinois University and not much else. To get there via anything resembling regular air service, I’d fly to St. Louis, then drive 100 miles southeast through some of the most rural landscape I’d seen.

Chicago and Carbondale—north versus south. Same state, different worlds. Add central Illinois, and you have a montage of all things American: transportation, agriculture, industry, and natural resources. There’s a lot to like about living only a few hours from all that.

Most of you who move to Illinois for EMS will end up in Chicagoland—not an amusement park featuring Roaring ’20s speakeasies, but the unofficial name of metropolitan Chicago and home to 65% of the state’s population. If you live in the city, your lifestyle will depend partly on whether you’re on the north or south side. The latter is home to more working-class families and lifelong Chicagoans, while the former features more students and young people.

A visit to Chicago leaves little to the imagination. Urban sprawl, enhanced by the diversity of ethnic neighborhoods, leaves plenty of room for the kinds of recreation one expects in the nation’s third-most populous city. Local specialties include some of the best museums in the world and six major-league sports franchises.

Chicago is a place you can get to from almost anywhere. Three major airlines plus Amtrak have hubs in the Windy City. There’s even an Atlantic port if you don’t mind navigating the St. Lawrence Seaway via the Great Lakes. And the Mississippi River is less than 200 miles away.

EMS: Reciprocity Plus a Year or Two

Illinois is well-positioned to welcome incoming EMS providers. Unlike some states, the “Land of Lincoln” has a formal procedure for reciprocity that not only involves a choice of incoming credentials but also adds a year or two to more conventional recertification cycles.

To become one of Illinois’s 15,000 paramedics or 20,000 EMTs, you must be nationally registered or certified in another state for at least 60 days beyond your application for reciprocity. You’ll also need confirmation of good standing from your former system and approval by a local medical director.

Licenses are good for four years and require the following CME for renewal:

  • EMTs: 60 hours
  • AEMTs: 80 hours
  • Paramedics: 100 hours

Applicants can earn up to 16 hours of credit for each alphabet course and 50% of time spent teaching lower-level providers. No more than 20% of CME can be applied to any one subject—e.g., trauma, medical, cardiac, etc.

A quirk of Illinois EMS is the distinction between “independent” and “affiliated” providers, the latter being associated with a state agency. Make sure you download the proper forms. Then go see Chicago and root for the Cubs if you’re on the North Side or the White Sox if you’re on the South.


1. EMS World. EMS World Salary Survey 2018,

2. FBI. Uniform Crime Reporting System, 2018 National Incident Based Reporting System,

3. Public Safety Rankings,

4. America’s Health Rankings, United Health Foundation. 2018 Annual Report,

5. Current Results. Average Annual Temperature for Each U.S. State,

6. Tax Foundation Facts and figures 2019,

7. Zillow. United States Home Prices & Values,

8. Choose Energy. Electricity Rates by State,

9. Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. Cost of Living Data Series, 2019 Average,

10. Best States 2019: Ranking Performance Throughout All 50 States. U.S. News & World Report, 2019.

11. Hill C. This is exactly how much it will cost to retire well in every state in America. 06/28/19.

Mike Rubin is a paramedic in Nashville and a member of EMS World’s editorial advisory board. Contact him at

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