Paramedic Certification and Certificate Program Information

Read about the requirements and courses involved in paramedic certification programs. Get information about exams, licensing, and career options for certified paramedics.

Essential Information

Paramedic certification is the highest level of pre-hospital emergency care certification. Paramedic programs are offered through community colleges and sometimes also through hospitals in cooperation with a college or university. Programs vary in length, but generally take 8-17 months. Students take both lecture and clinical courses covering areas such as airway control, advanced life support and pharmacology.

Applicants must hold current emergency medical technician (EMT) certification, and they may need to have work experience and to pass health, drug and background checks. To become certified, graduates must pass a national licensing exam and complete any applicable state requirements. Continuing education and re-certification is normally required.

Education Prerequisites

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a student interested in a paramedic certificate program typically needs a high school diploma or its equivalent. Additionally, applicants should have completed EMT training at the basic level and hold a current state EMT or National Registry EMT (NREMT) certification. A minimum amount of practical experience is also required by some programs. Physical exams, drug screening and background checks are also common prerequisites.

Course Topics

This type of program typically includes traditional classroom instruction, laboratory practice and clinical experience components. Coursework may cover:

  • Human anatomy
  • Airway control
  • Physiology
  • Managing medical emergencies
  • Trauma emergencies
  • Special needs patients
  • Advanced life support
  • Pharmacology

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to 2008-2018 BLS projections, employment for paramedics has an average growth rate of 9%. Two factors aiding this growth rate are more emergency calls coming from an increasing elderly population and the overcrowding of hospitals, which requires paramedics to spend more time with patients. Individuals with advanced credentials should have the most opportunities. May 2010 data from the BLS indicated that EMTs and paramedics earned an annual average salary of $33,300.

Certification and Continuing Education Information

Paramedics must be licensed in each state; however, state licensing requirements vary. The BLS reported that certification from NREMT suffices for many states, but some require paramedics to pass a state exam. To earn NREMT paramedic certification, candidates must be 18 years old, hold current basic level NREMT certification or state certification, complete an approved paramedic training program and have a current professional-level cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

Students can pursue their studies by taking additional courses to earn an associate degree. Additionally, some credits may transfer to other health-related bachelor's degree programs, such as health science or health care administration.

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