Should I Be a Paramedic?
Emergency medical personnel, including paramedics, provide patients with emergency medical care before they are admitted to the hospital. Common duties include assessing patients, performing CPR, and safely transporting patients to hospitals. Paramedics are the most highly qualified emergency medical technicians (EMTs), so they are usually allowed to perform more complex tasks, like starting IVs and suturing wounds. Safety procedures must be followed when dealing with blood exposure and potentially contagious diseases.
|Degree Level||Associate's degree most common; training programs may also lead to a certificate|
|Degree Field||Emergency medical technology|
|Training||At least 1,200 training hours|
|Licensure and Certification||All states require licensure; CPR and ACLS certification required|
|Key Skills||Listening, speaking, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills; physical strength; compassion|
|Salary||$31,980 (May 2015 median annual salary for paramedics and EMTs)*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics, Online Job Postings (August 2015), Payscale.com (July 2015)
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Steps to Become a Paramedic
Here are the steps you'll need to take to become a paramedic.
Step 1: Complete EMT-Basic Training
Since most states require paramedics to obtain a lower-level EMT certification before beginning paramedic training, aspiring paramedics must start out by completing the first level of emergency medical training, known as EMT-1 or EMT-Basic. These programs combine classroom education with clinical experience, and usually can be completed in a few weeks to a few months. Courses typically cover trauma response, use of basic medical equipment, and EMT ethics. Programs commonly require applicants to be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma/GED, maintain CPR certification, and pass a drug screening and background check.
Step 2: Obtain State EMT Certification
Although procedures vary by state, new EMTs typically need to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) EMT-Basic exam to obtain state licensure. This exam includes a psychomotor component as well as a cognitive portion. The BLS reports that applicants for state licensure are usually required to undergo drug screenings and criminal background checks as well.
Step 3: Acquire On-the-Job Experience
Some paramedic training programs may stipulate that applicants have six or more months of experience as an EMT-Basic. Some programs do not require experience, but give preference to applicants with prior training.
Step 4: Complete a Paramedic Training Program
The next step is to complete a paramedic training program, which may last up to two years. Paramedic training programs commonly lead to a certificate or an associate's degree. During paramedic training, students take classes and complete field experiences. Students enrolled in paramedic training programs may study topics such as cardiology, anatomy, and medical terminology.
As a success tip, take communication courses. Students pursuing an associate's degree may benefit from enrolling in communication courses, since paramedics are responsible for clearly communicating instructions to patients and their families. They must also possess excellent listening skills.
Step 5: Obtain State Paramedic Licensure
The process for obtaining state paramedic licensure is similar to that for EMT-Basic licensure. After completing a relevant training program, licensure candidates usually need to obtain NREMT certification by passing both psychomotor and cognitive exams. They then apply directly to their respective state agency for licensure. Some states have their own paramedic exams.
It's important to prepare for the exam. Students should review any materials obtained during training before the test date. Information exam topics may be found on the NREMT's website.
Step 6: Consider Career Advancement Options
Since paramedics are the highest level of emergency medical responders, working toward a more-skilled allied health profession or becoming an EMT educator may be the only possible job growth options. Paramedics may consider building on their training by becoming a registered nurse, physician assistant, or physician. Those who would like to eventually teach EMT classes should enroll in a paramedic training program that results in an associate's degree.
In summary, you'll need to complete a training program in emergency medical technology, meet training hour requirements, get licensed, and earn certifications to become a paramedic.