Paramedic Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a paramedic. Learn about job duties, education requirements, training, and salary potential 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 are the highest credentialed level of emergency medical service providers. Paramedics often provide care as patients are being transported to a hospital or clinic via helicopter or ambulance. They are dispatched by the police after 911 calls. They also must document the care provided and report observations. Unlike EMTs, paramedics can distribute oral and intravenous medication.

See the table below for information about education requirements, training, and salary for this career.

Education Required Certificate or associate's degree
Education Field of Study Paramedicine, paramedic technology, emergency medical services
Certification Required Required in all 50 states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 24% for all emergency medical technicians and paramedics
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $31,980 for all emergency medical technicians and paramedics

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Paramedic?

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) classifies paramedics as the highest credentialed level of emergency medical service providers (www.nremt.org). As a paramedic, you would be responsible for providing medical care to people in a crisis before they can reach a hospital.

The 911 system would notify you to go to the scene of an accident or other medical emergency. You might be faced with someone who is having a heart attack or was severely injured in a car crash. Quickly creating an intervention plan, you would use first aid treatments, such as administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and intravenous medications, or even more specialized procedures, to prepare patients to be transported to hospitals. You would then transport the patient to a medical facility where you would provide doctors and nurses with a detailed explanation of the patient's medical emergency.

Because each emergency is unique, you could perform many different medical procedures in a given day. Your work may also vary depending on the state in which you work because states have different laws regarding the responsibilities of paramedics. For instance, if you work for a private ambulance company rather than the public emergency medical system, your responsibilities may include transferring patients from a primary medical facility to a nursing home.

What Kind of Training Do I Need?

You'll need to complete an emergency medical technician (EMT) training program before you can complete a paramedic training program. Most programs include up to 1,000 hours of classroom and clinical training. You can train in a variety of settings, including community colleges, vocational schools and even hospitals. Paramedic certificate programs typically take about a year to complete, while paramedic associate's degree programs typically take two years to complete. For most training programs, you will need at least a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate to enroll.

How Do I Get Licensed?

You'll need a license to work as a paramedic. Some states administer their own exams, while others use the examination administered by the NREMT. You will need to graduate from an educational program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) to obtain certification from the NREMT.

What Salary Could I Make?

Becoming a paramedic requires more training than other EMT designations, so you could expect to earn a higher salary. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median salary for EMTs and paramedics in 2015 was $31,980. The majority of paramedics are employed in ambulance services that operate in larger cities, and your salary can fluctuate by location and employer. If you work with city government agencies you may also be eligible for additional benefits, such as a pension or disability insurance.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Someone interested in being a paramedic may also consider a career as a firefighter, who often works as an EMT or a paramedic on the side. Firefighters are sent out to extinguish fires, and also tend to other emergency situations. They may lecture on fire safety and prevention as well. Their job requires either training at a fire academy or four-year apprenticeship with experienced firefighters. One can also earn a bachelor's degree and become a registered nurse. They complete nursing school and then go on to work in hospital settings where they provide and organize patient care.

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