How to Become a Wilderness Paramedic: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a wilderness paramedic. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career in emergency services.

Do I Want to Be a Wilderness Paramedic?

Wilderness paramedics are highly trained emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who provide trauma care and other emergency services in remote areas. This occupation may be physically demanding, with sometimes needing to lift or carry patients, or dealing with combative individuals who may be confused or in pain due to injuries.

Job Requirements

Aspiring EMTs and paramedics need to have graduated high school and must complete a formal training program for licensure. All states require these professionals to be licensed prior to employment.

Paramedics are the most highly trained of all EMT levels and can perform the broadest and most advanced range of medical skills. Training can be found at community and technical colleges, usually as part of associate degree programs. Specific wilderness medical care training can be earned subsequently through a certificate program. The following table shows typical requirements for wilderness paramedics:

Common Requirements
Degree Level No degree required, but formal training necessary for licensure*
Degree Field Paramedicine or related***
Licensing Paramedic licensure required in all states*
Experience Entry level; some employers desire at least 1 year of related experience***
Key Skills Physical strength, strong relational skills, excellent communication skills, compassion, critical thinking and problem solving ability*
Computer Skills Familiarity with medical software, information retrieval software**
Technical Skills Airway suction units, cots and stretchers, intravenous IV pumps, laryngoscopes, oxygen equipment and masks, splints and spine boards**
Additional Requirements Current CPR certification, criminal background checks, various immunizations and tests, prerequisite exams, valid driver's license, drug testing***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine, *** Job postings by employers (October 2012)

Step 1: Complete a Paramedic Training Program, Including Relevant EMT Licenses When Necessary

Paramedic training programs can be completed in more than one way. If an individual is interested in becoming trained as an EMT while studying to become a paramedic, he or she can enroll in a series of programs composed of an EMT-Basic, an EMT-Intermediate and a paramedic certificate program. Each program in such a series would act as a prerequisite to the next level, and each program will prepare an aspiring EMT or paramedic for a separate level of state licensure. In some cases, licensure at one level may be required before moving on to the next level of education. Although states may have variances in requirements for paramedic licensing, all states require licensees to sit for the licensing exam given through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).

In addition to this EMT-to-paramedic format of programs, an aspiring paramedic may choose to enter directly into an associate's degree program in paramedicine after high school. These programs typically take two years to complete and can be enrolled in without any previous academic or work experience in the emergency services. Due to the hands-on nature of the work, programs are typically structured to include lectures, labs, clinical sessions and field internships. Some typical areas covered in these types of programs include anatomy, pharmacology, cardiology and trauma.

Success Tips:

  • Develop strong communication skills. Paramedics and EMTs need to have effective communication with patients and other medical workers due to the time-sensitive and intense nature of the work. A student may opt to take elective courses in areas like writing, public speaking or public relations to build speaking and listening abilities.
  • Keep physically fit. Being an EMT or paramedic requires physical strength, endurance and good overall health. Build physical health by being active, participating in exercise or considering supplemental or elective courses geared toward physical fitness.

Step 2: Get the Paramedic License

After completing paramedic training, an individual is ready for licensure as a paramedic. This process entails passing the paramedic-level exam administered by the NREMT. Once the exam and has been completed and additional state requirements have been met, an individual can get a paramedic license and consider searching for paramedic job openings to acquire work experience.

Step 3: Consider Additional Wilderness EMT Training

Although some positions may not require specific training in wilderness emergency medical services, getting specialized training can improve job prospects and qualify an individual for a broader range of positions. A licensed paramedic might consider taking a 2-day intensive course designed to train licensed EMTs. In addition, wilderness training courses may count toward continuing education required by states to maintain licensure.

Step 4: Maintain License Renewal Requirements

Paramedic licensure must be renewed every 2 years. This process requires a paramedic to take approved refresher training or continuing education courses that meet the objectives set by the National Standard EMT-Paramedic Refresher Curriculum. The last step entails successfully passing the cognitive and psychomotor exams required to maintain licensure.

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