Critical Care Paramedic: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a critical care paramedic. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Critical Care Paramedic?

A critical care paramedic is someone who cares for patients who are en route or being transferred between healthcare facilities. Depending on the patient's needs, they may perform a variety of procedures, such as CPR or EKG tests, or they may administer medications. Throughout the trip, they must monitor the patient's vital signs and breathing, with particular considerations of the mode of transportation. For instance, they must be aware of ventilation issues in ambulances or physiological changes that occur during helicopter flights. After a trip, critical care paramedics record the nature of the emergency and the services they provided.

See licensing and certification requirements, and learn more about job duties and salary potential in this table:

Education Required Certificate or associate's degree
Education Field of Study Paramedicine or emergency medical services
Licensure Required Paramedic licensure
Key Skills Quick thinking, calm under pressure, medical knowledge and patient care
Job Growth (2014-2024) 24% for all EMTs and paramedics*
Average Salary (2015) $35,430 for all EMTs and paramedics*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Critical Care Paramedic?

Critical care paramedics provide high-level care to critically ill patients while transporting them to healthcare facilities. In this position, you can expect to perform life-saving tasks in stressful situations. You may drive an emergency vehicle or ride in a helicopter to reach the scene of an incident. Once you arrive, you can expect to assess a patient's condition, record vital signs and relevant medical history or perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). You may need to administer intravenous medications, manage physical trauma or monitor a patient's cardiac and respiratory performance.

Once you reach the medical facility, you will move the patient into an emergency room and report your findings to emergency personnel. The situation may require that you continue to provide medical assistance. Once the patient is secured, you will complete a detailed report about the trip. Typically, critical care paramedics clean and restock the emergency vehicle after each incident.

What Education, Licensing or Certification Will I Need?

Every state and the District of Columbia require you to be licensed in order to work as a paramedic. Many states require licensing conferred by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). You must be at least 18 years of age and possess the NREMT's EMT-Basic certification at the time of your application. You must also complete a state-approved EMT-Paramedic program before you can gain EMT-Paramedic certification.

While enrolled in an EMT-Paramedic program at a community college or vocational institute, you can expect to take courses in physiology, anatomy, pharmacology and patient assessment. Most programs require the completion of an internship. Once you successfully complete the program, you can inquire about taking the licensing examination through your educational institution.

How Much Can I Expect to Earn?

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics earned an average annual salary of $35,430 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Most workers in this occupation earned between $20,860 and $55,110 per year. Your salary will vary depending on your location and employer.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You could also consider a slower-paced job as a medical assistant based in a hospital or clinic. In this job, you would divide your time between office administration work and basic patient care, like assisting doctors with examinations and taking vital signs. Medical assistants need to complete a postsecondary certificate program. Alternatively, if you want to work in emergency services, you could become a dispatcher. In this position, you would take 911 calls and send out police, firefighters and/or ambulances, depending on the nature of the emergency. The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma.

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