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Requirements to Be a Paramedic: Career Roadmap

A paramedic is a first responder in medical emergencies, automobile accidents and other emergency situations. Paramedics are required to be state-certified and they often work in specialized areas. Formal education generally takes two years to complete.

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Should I Become a Paramedic?

Paramedics are medically trained personnel (EMTs) who are skilled in treating trauma or medical emergencies. They are normally the first-on-the-scene care providers who render life-saving treatment to accident victims or to those suffering medical events such as heart attacks or strokes. Paramedics generally work in hospital or government emergency services, frequently in ambulances, rescue vehicles or even helicopters.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Paramedic training may result in an associate's degree; EMT-Basic and EMT-Intermediate training must be completed first
Degree Field Emergency Medical Services
Licensure and Certification Both are required; certification through the National Registry of EMTs and/or a state exam is a prerequisite for licensure
Key Skills Strength, stamina, trauma assessment, first aid, airway management, IV administration, endotracheal intubation
Salary $31,700 per year (median salary for EMTs and paramedics)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), Online job postings

Step 1: Meet Requirements for Emergency Medical Technician Training

A person interested in EMT training must have a high school diploma or GED and be at least 18 years of age. Applicants must pass a physical examination and undergo a screening for tuberculosis and hepatitis B. States often require a background check for criminal activity.

Step 2: Complete EMT-Basic Training

Education requirements for becoming a paramedic begin with EMT-B training, a requirement for all paramedic certification. This paramedic requirement can be earned at many 2-year and community colleges. EMT courses are developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). EMT-Basic education requirements include training in cardiac emergencies, airway management, trauma and patient assessment.

Step 3: Complete EMT-Intermediate Training

EMT Intermediate training builds on skills learned in the EMT-B training program. An EMT-Intermediate has the training to administer intravenous fluids, analyze heart rhythms and administer appropriate medications. Requirements for EMTs at the intermediate level vary from state to state. Depending on scope of practice, training can take 30-350 hours to complete.

Step 4: Complete Paramedic Training

Training in an EMT-Paramedic program covers advanced medical skills, anatomy and physiology. The program usually takes 1-2 years to complete. Students participate in clinical rotations and ambulance runs. A paramedic has the ability to perform all the duties of the lower EMT levels. In addition, he or she can read EKGs, use a wide range of sophisticated equipment and perform endotracheal intubations.

Step 5: Become Certified and Licensed

Paramedics in all states must be licensed, and certification is typically a prerequisite for licensure. When all education requirements for becoming a paramedic are met, certification may be earned by successful completion of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam. Some states also offer licensing exams for paramedics.

Step 6: Maintain Credentials and Update Training

Most states require licensure to be renewed every 2-3 years. Continuing education and refresher courses are often required for renewal. Through these courses, paramedics may keep their training up to date with developments in medical care and technology, as well as advancing their treatment skills.

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