Requirements to Be a Paramedic: Career Roadmap

A paramedic is a first responder in medical emergencies, automobile accidents, and other emergency situations. Learn what it takes to pursue a career as a first responder. View article »

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  • 0:03 Should I Become a Paramedic?
  • 0:36 Career Requirements
  • 1:15 Steps to Becoming a Paramedic

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Paramedic?

Paramedics are medically trained personnel (emergency medical technicians or EMTs) who are skilled in treating trauma or medical emergencies. They are normally the first-on-the-scene care providers who render life-saving treatment to accident victims or to those suffering medical events such as heart attacks or strokes. Paramedics generally work in hospital or government emergency services, frequently in ambulances, rescue vehicles, or even helicopters.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Paramedic training may result in an associate's degree; EMT-Basic and EMT-Intermediate training must be completed first
Degree Field Emergency medical services
Licensure and Certification Licensure and certification are required
Key Skills Physical strength and stamina; skilled in trauma assessment and performing life-saving actions on patients, including first aid, airway management, IV administration, and endotracheal intubation
Median Annual Salary (2015) $31,980 (for EMTs and paramedics)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Online job postings

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Steps to Becoming a Paramedic

Becoming a paramedic requires several formal education and training steps, including professional licensing and certification.

Step 1: Meet Requirements for Emergency Medical Technician Training

A person interested in EMT training must have a high school diploma or GED and be at least 18 years of age. Applicants must pass a physical examination and undergo a screening for tuberculosis and hepatitis B. States often require a background check for criminal activity.

Step 2: Complete EMT-Basic Training

Education requirements for becoming a paramedic begin with EMT-B training, a requirement for all paramedic certification. This paramedic requirement can be earned at many 2-year and community colleges. EMT courses are developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). EMT-Basic education requirements include training in cardiac emergencies, airway management, trauma, and patient assessment.

Step 3: Complete EMT-Intermediate Training

EMT-Intermediate training builds on skills learned in the EMT-B training program. An EMT-Intermediate has the training to administer intravenous fluids, analyze heart rhythms, and administer appropriate medications. Requirements for EMTs at the intermediate level vary from state to state. Depending on scope of practice, training can take 30-350 hours to complete.

Step 4: Complete Paramedic Training

Training in an EMT-Paramedic program covers advanced medical skills, anatomy, and physiology. The program usually takes 1-2 years to complete. Students participate in clinical rotations and ambulance runs. A paramedic has the ability to perform all the duties of the lower EMT levels. In addition, he or she can read EKGs, use a wide range of sophisticated equipment, and perform endotracheal intubations.

Step 5: Become Certified and Licensed

Paramedics in all states must be licensed, and certification is typically a prerequisite for licensure. When all education requirements for becoming a paramedic are met, certification may be earned by successful completion of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam. Some states also offer licensing exams for paramedics.

Step 6: Maintain Credentials and Update Training

Most states require licensure to be renewed every 2-3 years. Continuing education and refresher courses are often required for renewal. Through these courses, paramedics may keep their training up-to-date with developments in medical care and technology, as well as advancing their treatment skills.

Paramedics complete a rigorous education and training path that includes basic and intermediate emergency medical technician (EMT) training, followed by paramedic training in providing emergency medical care on-site at the scene of accidents or sudden medical events. Licensing is required; certification requirements vary by state. Licensing renewal requirements vary; however, continuing education and training is common.

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