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How to become a paramedic

Published: Friday 27th November 2020

Paramedic smiling standing in front of an ambulance

Have you ever wondered how to become a paramedic? You’re not alone. There tens of thousands of people looking to get into this exciting field every year. Let us take you through everything you need to know, from education, training, experience, and more.

What is a paramedic?

A paramedic is someone who provides critical and/or emergency medical care. Paramedics have vast amounts of knowledge and skills in order to deliver that care, often in very challenging environments. They often also provide transportation services to patients that need to access medical facilities quickly. When called to a location, paramedics often come equipped with a variety of basic and advanced medical equipment to help them provide care.

What education do I need to become a paramedic?

Two paramedics doing CPR on a patient

The education you may need to become a paramedic will depend on the state you work in. Paramedic training programs can last between six months to four years. Two year associate degrees are the most common courses, with some people opting for a full four-year program. You can find paramedic training programs at most community colleges and/or technical schools. These programs consist of classroom training and clinical training at ambulance companies, hospitals, and other locations. Students will be trained in subjects like anatomy, physiology, life support, and trauma support. All paramedic training programs are required to meet national standards.

Do I need any other experience or certifications?

Students must take a state licensing exam, the National Registered Paramedics Exam, and a psychomotor exam. You may also be required to be certified in subjects like advanced life support, pediatric prehospital care, trauma life support, and advanced cardiac life support. You can get certification in these subjects and others from organizations like the American Heart Association. If you want to drive an emergency vehicle, you will need to get a separate certification. Other paramedic certifications you can get include:

  • Critical Care Paramedics: Board for Critical Care Transport Paramedic Certification
  • Flight Paramedic Certification: Board for Critical Care Transport Paramedic Certification
  • Certified Medical Interpreter: The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters

Main duties

Three paramedics rushing to a helocopter

Paramedics respond to emergency calls from people who need immediate, and often life-saving, assistance. Duties while on the job can include:

  • Driving an ambulance
  • Operating medical equipment and other machinery
  • Assessing patient state and needs, often using medical tests and equipment
  • Providing basic life support and CPR
  • Providing advanced life support through the use of defibrillators, intravenous medication, and other techniques
  • Communicating with hospitals regarding the state of incoming patients
  • Supervising EMTs
  • Providing detailed written documentation of each case

Where are all the paramedic jobs?

You can work in a variety of locations. You can work in hospitals, clinics, airlines, police departments, or ambulance organizations. Public sector organizations offer the lion’s share of these jobs, although there are private sector options.

Salary

Starting salaries for paramedics are set at around $25,000-$30,000. These can rise to between $40,000-$50,000 with more training and experience. Paramedics can sometimes make up to $65,000-$70,000 in certain areas.

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