Paramedic: Career Summary and Educational Requirements for Paramedics

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a paramedic. Get a quick view of the requirements - as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure - to find out if this career is right for you.

Paramedics are required to complete postsecondary training in their field, pass the national registry of emergency medical technicians exams and meet state licensing requirements. This is a high-stress career field that involves treating the sick or injured in emergency medical situations and can involve life-or-death decisions.

Essential Information

Paramedics help save lives by stabilizing and transporting people who have been injured in an accident or experienced a medical crisis, like a heart attack or stroke. While employment prospects are expected to be strong, limited advancement opportunities are available. In addition to classroom training, prospective paramedics must also complete extensive field work.

Required Education Paramedic certificate or associate degree
Other Requirements Pass National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exams
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 24% (all EMTs and paramedics)
Average Salary (2015)* $31,980 (all EMTs and paramedics)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Summary for Paramedics

Paramedics are first responders who provide the most advanced emergency medical care to patients, then communicate what they observed on the scene and during transport to medical professionals at a hospital. They respond to emergency calls and perform life-saving procedures at the scene and during transport, and may administer intravenous medications and advanced medical treatments that emergency medical technicians (EMTs) with basic and intermediate licensure are not trained to use. Paramedics must be able to work under pressure and have a broad understanding of injuries and treatment options. They need to be comfortable working more than 40 hours a week, being on-call and working irregular hours.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for paramedics and emergency medical technicians is expected to increase 24 percent for the years 2014 through 2024, which is notably faster than average. Growth is spurred by an increasing number of elderly citizens who need medical care.

Salary Information

The BLS reported in 2015 that the average annual salary for paramedics and emergency medical technicians was $31,980. The highest-paid individuals earned $55,110 or more annually in 2015, while the lowest-paid workers earned $20,860 or less annually.

Educational Requirements for Paramedics

Prospective paramedics may choose between undergoing a training program and earning an associate's degree. These programs require students to complete coursework and field training, so students must first have valid EMT-Basic licensure. Individuals who complete paramedic training must obtain multiple medical procedure credentials, such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support Provider, Advanced Life Support Provider and Neonatal Resuscitation Provider. Associate's degree programs may include classes in biology, chemistry, psychology, anatomy and physiology.

These programs require many hours of supervised experience in hospitals and with paramedic teams. This portion of the curricula familiarizes individuals with the real-world applications of the equipment and procedures they were introduced to in lectures. At the completion of a program, graduates may take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) EMT-Paramedic/Paramedic cognitive and psychomotor exams to complete certification.

Licensing Requirements

All states have varying standards of licensure for paramedics. Most states require the completion of an approved program and passing scores on the NREMT exams, although some states may have their own exam that applicants must pass. Once licensed, paramedics will likely need continuing education to maintain their eligibility.

The job growth rate for paramedics and emergency medical technicians is expected to be 24% through 2024, which is much faster than average. The high demand for qualified personnel means that those who complete the postsecondary training and pass the NREMT exams and state licensing requirements should have employment options in their field.

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