How to Become an Ambulance Worker

Research the requirements to become an ambulance worker. Learn about the different job levels and see the step-by-step process to start a career in direct patient care. View article »

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 Replay
  • 0:02 Ambulance Worker Career Info
  • 1:03 Meet Prerequisites
  • 1:30 Pass an EMT-Basic…
  • 2:35 Complete Paramedic Training
  • 2:55 Earn Certification & Licensure
  • 4:40 Continue Education

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Video Transcript

Ambulance Worker Career Info

Degree Level Certificate or associate's degree
Licensure and Certification EMTs and paramedics must obtain certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) and obtain state licenses
Key Skills Problem-solving and communication skills, ability to handle intense pressure; physical dexterity and stamina; patience and attention to detail; proficiency with specialized tools and technologies
Salary $31,980 (2015 median for EMTs and paramedics)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, Ambulance worker education training programs

There are two types of ambulance workers: emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. Ambulance workers are dispatched to people who require medical assistance, such as those involved in car accidents or who are having medical emergencies. Once on site, ambulance workers help stabilize patients and prepare them for transport to a hospital. Ambulance workers often work alongside other emergency services providers, such as firefighters, doctors, nurses and law enforcement officers. In the face of critical situations and injuries, these professionals must have the ability to remain calm and focused.

They should also have problem-solving skills, communication skills, the ability to handle intense pressure, physical dexterity and stamina, patience and attention to detail. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, EMTs and paramedics together earned a median salary of $31,980 per year.

Meet Prerequisites

Also according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the admission requirements for an EMT-Basic program include a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) card and a high school diploma or equivalent. Universities that offer EMT or paramedic training programs may have other prerequisites. Some of these include passing criminal background checks, taking drug screening tests and demonstrating proof of up-to-date immunizations.

Pass an EMT-Basic Training Program

According to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), EMT-Basic programs consist of at least 150 hours of coursework. Most programs include classroom lectures and hands-on clinical training. Courses discuss basic life support topics, such as spinal immobilization, patient assessment, CPR, vital signs, bandaging and techniques to control bleeding. Clinical experience allows students to practice what they've learned.

After passing the EMT-Basic training program and becoming a licensed EMT, professionals may want to gain work experience before enrolling in the advanced training program. Basic EMTs may become advanced EMTs or may pursue a paramedic training program.

Advanced EMT programs include another 150 hours of training to learn how to treat such medical problems as chest pain, diabetes, allergic reactions and shock. These programs also teach students how to administer medication to patients, including intravenous medications, and to administer advanced lifesaving techniques.

Complete Paramedic Training

To be eligible for paramedic training programs, individuals must complete the EMT-Basic training program. Paramedic training programs take about a year to complete. Courses may include pharmacology, trauma, cardiology, human systems, neurological issues, special patient populations and first responder duties.

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Earn Certification and Licensure

After completing a training program, individuals must take an NREMT certification exam. To be eligible for the EMT certification exams, individuals must have a current CPR card and pass the EMT-Basic or advanced training exit exam. Paramedic certification eligibility includes being a licensed EMT, passing a paramedic training program and having an up-to-date CPR card.

All EMT and paramedic exams are divided into five main sections: cardiology and resuscitation; airway, respiration and ventilation; emergency medical services operations; trauma; and gynecology/obstetrician. All exams include questions pertaining to both child and adult patients.

Individuals who become certified EMTs or paramedics through the NREMT are usually eligible to obtain licenses for employment as ambulance workers in their respective states. Professionals must apply for licensure and complete any additional licensing requirements. In order to actually drive the ambulance, EMTs and paramedics must complete an 8-hour training course and apply for a separate license.

Ambulance workers must take refresher courses to renew their credentials every few years. For example, the NREMT requires ambulance workers to either take continued education coursework or pass recertification exams. All states require ambulance workers to renew their licenses periodically, and license renewal may include submitting paperwork, paying additional fees and taking continued education coursework.

Continue Education

Experienced paramedics, and in some cases EMTs, can be promoted into supervisory positions. Qualifications can include three years of field experience. Job candidates who have completed a business or healthcare-related bachelor's degree program might be preferred by employers. Additionally, as the population ages, there will be more emergencies caused by health conditions affecting the elderly, including heart attacks and strokes. Ambulance workers who can treat these patients and transfer them to specialized facilities will be in demand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Both EMTs and paramedics can become ambulance workers, though both jobs require different levels of training. For instance, EMTs must complete an EMT-Basic course, while paramedics must complete paramedic training before they can work in the field.

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