Paramedic Career Advancement Opportunities

Paramedics must be able to remain calm and make critical decisions in high-pressure emergency situations. This article explains requirements for advanced paramedics to make a career change.

Advancement Opportunities for Paramedics

Paramedics occupy the highest level an emergency medical responder can reach, providing comprehensive prehospital care in critical situations. To become a paramedic, you must already have emergency medical technician (EMT) certification, complete more than 1,000 hours of instruction, and possibly acquire an associate's degree. At some point, experienced paramedics may begin to seek more advanced career opportunities by completing further education and training. Check with your state for specific certification requirements if you're thinking of making a change in your career.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)* Certificates or Education
Firefighter $49,080 7% Postsecondary nondegree award
Emergency Management Director $72,760 8% Bachelor's degree
Registered Nurse $70,000 15% Associate's degree
Medical Assistant $32,480 29% Postsecondary nondegree award
Physician Assistant $104,860 37% Master's degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information


One of the core training areas for firefighters is in emergency medicine. Many firefighters are required to have EMT certification, possess a high school diploma or its equivalent, and be 18 before they can enter a fire academy for training. Because of the strenuous and stressful situations firefighters deal with, being physically fit is necessary, and firefighters must usually pass a medical exam, including a drug test to join a fire department.

Emergency Management Director

Emergency response experience is vital to becoming an emergency management director, enabling you to make critical decisions in a brief time frame. This job's responsibilities include assessing and minimizing potential hazards and responding to large-scale emergencies, like earthquakes or tsunamis. To become an emergency management director, you usually need a bachelor's degree and previous employment in related fields. Smaller locations may accept a high school diploma or its equivalent, along with vast experience in a related field, such as law enforcement or emergency medicine.

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses (RNs) are the patients' link to their healthcare team and can work in a variety of specializations, such as critical care or addiction. RNs must be licensed and usually require a nursing-related diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree consisting of courses in anatomy, psychology, biology, leadership, and nutrition, as well as clinical experience. All US states and territories require RNs to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) after graduating from an approved program before being eligible to apply for a license.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants must have a high school diploma or equivalent, and many prospects use postsecondary education programs to gain the advantage of a certificate or diploma. Although there are few states with regulations for becoming a medical assistant, on-the-job training is criticalmdash;a medical assistant must be good with patients, understand and use medical terms and equipment efficiently, learn coding systems, and keep patient records.

Physician Assistant

In order to become a physician assistant (PA), you usually need a science-centered background and a master's degree from an approved program, which entails roughly two years of full-time study beyond a bachelor's degree. Healthcare experience is foundational, as well. To be eligible for nationwide licensing requirements, you must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and have a licensed physician to work alongside. Biannual continuing education and recertification every 10 years are required for keeping an active license.

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