There are three levels of training and certification for those wanting to become a paramedic: EMT-Basic (EMT-B), EMT-Intermediate (EMT-I) and EMT-Paramedic (EMT-P). To become a paramedic, you must first certify as an EMT-Basic (EMT-B) by completing an accredited course and passing an exam, gain experience working as a paramedic, and complete an accredited program and pass an exam for the EMT-P. The EMT-I is an optional step to becoming a paramedic.
Paramedics are responsible for providing emergency medical care to people who are sick or have been injured. Working with emergency medical technicians, also known as EMTs, paramedics perform medical services, answer emergency calls, and transport patients to the appropriate medical facilities. These workers often deal in matters of life and death, and as such they are subject to extensive training. Aspiring paramedics start out as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) before advancing to the paramedic level through licensure, study and training.
|Required Education||High school diploma, postsecondary non-degree award|
|Other Requirements||NREMT certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||24%*|
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Training Levels to Become a Paramedic
There are three main levels of training students need to complete in order to become a paramedic. The time that each level takes involves factors such as the dedication of the student, schedule and completing licensing examinations.
Training Level 1: Emergency Medical Technician - Basic
After earning a high school diploma or equivalent, students interested in becoming a paramedic can seek training to become an EMT-B. An EMT-B program can be completed in as few as three weeks or last several months, depending on the course schedules. Students need a valid CPR certification before they are trained in EMT fundamental life-saving skills. EMT-B certification is necessary to become a paramedic.
Training Level 2: Emergency Medical Technician - Intermediate
At this level, students are educated in trauma management skills. They learn how to administer intravenous fluids, use advanced airway devices, and deal with various clinical and medical emergencies. EMT-Intermediate programs generally require anywhere from 30 to 350 training hours, based on state requirements. Once certified as an EMT-Intermediate, students have the opportunity to train to become paramedics.
Training Level 3: Emergency Medical Technician - Paramedic
Paramedics receive the most training of all emergency medical responders. As a result, students may receive an associate degree in emergency medical services from a community college or technical school. Students may also complete a paramedic certificate program; however, it will not include general education requirements or offer an opportunity to transfer into a bachelor's degree program.
In order to be eligible for entry into any paramedic program, students must be certified as an EMT-B. Some institutions may require students to have six months to 1-year experience working as a EMT-B. Students are required to take courses in:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Patient assessment
- Airway management
- Medical and cardiac emergencies
After students complete EMT training and obtain the necessary emergency skills, they must pass a certification exam. These exams are administered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). Students must successfully complete a written and practical exam in order to be certified at each level. To remain certified, paramedics must recertify every two years.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paramedics and EMTs are projected to experience 24% growth in employment from 2014 to 2024, due in large part to growth in the middle-aged and elderly population that will necessitate care for events such as heart attacks or strokes. The BLS states that paramedics and EMTs earn a median income of $31,980 per year, with the top ten percent bringing in more than $55,110 and the bottom ten percent earning less than $20,860 (www.bls.gov).
Those on a paramedic career path first certify as an EMT-B by completing a program lasting one to several months as well as passing an exam. Paramedics are sometimes required to gain six months to one year of experience working as an EMT-B before entering an EMT-P program. A student then enters a two year associate's degree program to train for EMT-P certification taking an exam after completion of their studies.