Do you want to help people in their time of need? Are you compassionate and have a strong desire to help others? Then, a career as a paramedic may be the perfect fit for you! This guide will give you an overview of what it takes to become a paramedic, including the necessary education and training requirements. It’s a challenging and rewarding career, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s what you need to know about becoming a paramedic.
How to Become a Paramedic
Paramedics are the highest level of emergency medical technicians (EMTs). They respond to emergency dispatches and provide advanced life support to the injured and ill while en route to the hospital, whether by ambulance or helicopter. Unlike other EMTs, paramedics can administer intravenous medications and manage other complex emergency care procedures. Some of these professionals work weekends and overnight to make emergency care available around the clock; many work very long shifts.
Career Requirements for an EMT-Paramedic
|Degree Level||Certificate or associate's degree|
|Degree Field||EMT-Paramedic or paramedic studies
|Licensure||Paramedics must be licensed; most states accept certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT); others require passing state-issued exams|
|Experience||Varies by employer; could range from 1-3 years of experience
|Key Skills||Compassion, excellent communication and problem-solving skills, stress management, physical strength and stamina
|Median Salary (2020)||$35,400 (for all EMTs and paramedics)
|Employment Outlook (2019-2029)||6% (for all EMTs and paramedics)
Steps to Becoming an EMT-Paramedic
1. Earn an EMT-Basic Certificate
Many paramedic schools have prerequisites requiring applicants to complete EMT-Basic training before enrolling. High school graduates at least 18 years old and who have a current CPR certification are often accepted into these entry-level programs. The training focuses on the essential skills needed to provide pre-hospital medical treatment.
Students learn how to evaluate a patient’s condition, reduce bleeding, manage airways, and respond to cardiac problems. Completing a portion of the training in an ambulance, hospital emergency room, or labour ward can provide valuable hands-on experience. Typically, EMT-B training programs last around 150 hours. It’s also essential to get fit, as EMTs and paramedics need to be in good physical condition. In addition, many of their job duties require them to position patients or lift them into ambulances.
2. Pass the EMT Licensing Exams
Applicants to paramedic training programs may be required to be licensed EMTs. After completing training, you must pass a state-issued exam or receive certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). In addition, EMT-Basic certificates are offered to applicants who complete this professional organization’s cognitive and psychomotor skills exams.
3. Gain EMT Work Experience
Before enrolling in a paramedic training program, aspiring paramedics should explore working as EMTs. Some colleges only accept applicants who have worked full-time for six months to a year. Others accept students who have worked in related fields such as lifeguarding or firefighting.
4. Complete a Paramedic Training Program
Paramedic training programs are typically 1-2 years long (approximately 1,200 hours of teaching) and lead to a certificate or associate’s degree. Students are taught how to give medications, start IVs and suture wounds. Pediatric and obstetrical crises, cardiac care, and trauma are other advanced course topics. Students must also do field experiences and clinical practicums in most programs.
It’s also a good idea to take a couple of communications classes to improve your listening and speaking skills. For example, paramedics must effectively explain processes to patients and their families during a crisis.
5. Obtain State Licensure
Paramedics are required to be licensed in every state. The process for obtaining a paramedic license is similar to that of obtaining an EMT license in that it requires passing state-issued tests or earning credentials from the NREMT. The written and practical portions of the latter’s two-part certification exam cover topics like pharmaceutical skills, patient evaluation, and cardiac management. Paramedics must renew their qualifications every 2-3 years by earning continuing education credits and attending refresher courses.
- Be sure to study for the exam. Any material and notes taken in class can be saved and reviewed before the exam. The NREMT also offers skill sheets and a list of exam topics on its website.
6. Gain Experience and Education for Career Advancement
Paramedics with advanced training, particularly leadership and management, can apply for supervisory jobs. Furthermore, as the US population ages, the demand for age-related care and services will increase. Paramedics can stay on top of job needs by using continuing education to specialize in age-related diseases like heart attacks and strokes.
To summarize, EMT paramedics must complete formal paramedic training, meet state license criteria, and have any experience that companies require.