How Can I Become a Paramedic?

Research what it takes to become a paramedic. Learn about education requirements, training, certification, and job duties 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 Paramedic?

Paramedics provide emergency care for individuals and often care for patients as they are being transported to a hospital via ambulance or helicopter. These providers have a higher degree of training and responsibility than emergency medical technicians (EMTs). This comes with greater responsibility when responding to emergency scenes, and also means the scope of practice of a paramedic is larger than that of an EMT. As a paramedic, you will be trained to give medication and use complex monitors and machinery, in addition to all the tasks of an EMT.

Being a paramedic can be a physically strenuous job, and it can be emotionally stressful as well. You should be ready to work in all weather conditions and with all types of people, and be on your feet for long periods of time. See the table below for information about training, licensure, and potential salary for this career.

Education Required Completion of a paramedic program to earn associate's degree or certificate
Certification Required Must pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification exam
Job Growth (2014-2024) 24% (for all EMTS and paramedics)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $31,980* (for all EMTs and paramedics)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training Do I Need?

Before you can become a paramedic, you must first become certified as an emergency medical technician (EMT) by completing a basic EMT program through a college or medical center. You may then attend a paramedic training program, which typically lasts 1-2 years and leads to a certificate or associate's degree. This is the highest level of training for emergency responders and prepares you to administer advanced pre-hospital care to patients.

In a paramedic program, you'll receive both classroom instruction and practical training. You might take courses like pre-hospital pharmacology, special patient cases, advanced life support and traumatic emergencies. You'll also complete internships or rotations, which allow you to gain hands-on, supervised experience in clinics and in the field. This program can prepare you to take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification exam for paramedics.

What License Do I Need?

After completing a state-approved training program, you must obtain paramedic licensure from your state. This entails passage of the NREMT certification exam for paramedics or a state-administered licensing exam. Most states require you to renew licensure every 2-3 years by earning a set number of continuing education credits.

Where Might I Work?

Paramedics can work in all types of settings, and they often work irregular hours. As a paramedic, you're part of a team that includes EMTs, police, firefighters, physicians and other medical professionals. You might find positions in hospitals, fire departments, private ambulance companies and other rescue services. You could also work as a crew member on a helicopter that transports patients to hospital trauma centers.

This is a physically demanding position in which you're exposed to a high risk of injury and illness. Working in emergency situations can be emotionally exhausting, though many people find the chance to save lives rewarding.

What Duties Would I Have?

As a paramedic, you provide first aid or life support to victims of injuries or illnesses. You assess the conditions of patients at emergency scenes, provide preliminary treatments and transport patients to nearby medical centers. You may report the treatments you used and your observations to the staff of a medical center's emergency department. You also maintain the inventory of the ambulance.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Firefighters are another type of lifesaving professional, who can become qualified to work by completing a training program. Firefighters respond to medical and other emergency situations, especially those involving fires or explosions. If you are particularly interested in the healthcare field and are willing to earn a bachelor's degree, you could also consider a career in nursing. Registered nurses work in a hospital or clinic to provide direct patient care and advice.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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