Ambulance Technician: Learn What IT Takes to Be an Ambulance Paramedic

Research what it takes to become an ambulance paramedic. Learn about the job duties, training process, employment outlook and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Ambulance Paramedic?

Paramedics are the highest level of emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Those who are based in ambulances provide medical care at the scene of emergencies, depending on the patient's needs. They are qualified to perform a wider range of medical tasks than EMTs, including medication administration and interpretation of electrocardiogram tests on heart function. Sometimes, paramedics drive the ambulance to the hospital after an incident, or they may continue to monitor and treat patients in the back of the vehicle.

The table below provides information for this career:

Education Required High school diploma; some employers prefer an associate's degree
Training Required EMT-Basic training AND paramedic training program
Key Responsibilities Dispensing intravenous medications, transporting patients, checking vital signs during emergencies, suturing wounds
Licensure/Certification Licensure required by all states; EMT-Basic certification, paramedic certification and CPR required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 24% (for all emergency medical technicians & paramedics)*
Median Salary (2015) $31,980 (for all emergency medical technicians & paramedics)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are a Paramedic's Duties?

Unlike other healthcare professionals, you are not confined to a hospital when delivering medical care as a paramedic. Your primary task is to provide emergency aid and transportation for patients in a medical crises, such as car accidents, shootings, premature childbirths or household accidents. Often, you serve as the first line of medical support by checking vital signs, giving life support, and reporting the patient's condition to waiting physicians and hospital staff. You may work irregular hours as you're dispatched to emergency scenes by 911 operators.

What Are My Training Requirements?

As a paramedic, you are the most highly trained of EMTs. You need to progress through EMT-Basic certification before moving on to paramedic training. Successful completion of training and certification requires passing examinations administered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).

EMT-Basic

You usually need to be at least 18 years of age and possess a high school diploma to enter an EMT-Basic course. These courses are offered through community colleges and emergency medical aid providers. Your course topics include managing airways, fractures, wounds, cardiac arrests and emergency childbirth, as well as acquiring practical ambulance and emergency room experience. You need to pass a computer adaptive test (CAT) and practical exam, administered by the NREMT, to complete your EMT-Basic certification (www.nremt.org).

Paramedic Training

Upon completing EMT-Basic certification, you can seek out community colleges or technical schools with paramedic training programs, which typically take 1-2 years to complete. You may take coursework in anatomy, cardiac life support, ethics, resuscitation, trauma management and ambulance operations. In addition to learning advanced medical care and equipment procedures, your program usually includes supervised clinical practice and paramedic field time.

After graduating from paramedic training, you need to pass a NREMT CAT and practical exam at the paramedic level. The CAT focuses mostly on adult patient care, and the practical exam ensures you have the necessary EMT skills through various scenarios. State requirements for paramedic licensure can vary, so you may want to research your state's specific requirements.

Is This Career For Me?

As a paramedic, you don't want to be squeamish around bodily fluids, such as blood and vomit. Lifting and sometimes having to restrain patients can be physically demanding. You may witness a high number of trauma incidents that can be difficult to process and risk being exposed to communicable diseases. Peoples' lives may depend on how efficiently you can deliver medical aid, so this challenging career requires competent compassion.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you would rather get a slower-paced job in the medical field, you could consider becoming a medical assistant. Instead of being based out of an ambulance, you would work in the office of a clinic or hospital, where you would perform a mixture of administrative tasks and basic patient care procedures, such as taking vital signs. Medical assistants need to complete a postsecondary certificate program in order to work. Alternatively, if you want to work in emergency services, you could consider becoming a dispatcher. Your job would be to answer 911 calls and send out ambulances, police and/or firemen, depending on the incident. Dispatchers need to have at least a high school diploma.

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