What Schooling Do I Need to Become a Paramedic?

Aspiring paramedics need to fulfill specific education and certification requirements before they can start working in the field. Find out about the steps in the schooling process to become a certified paramedic. View article »

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Video Transcript

Paramedic Training Levels

Paramedics are emergency medical professionals that must go through a series of training levels before becoming certified. We'll go through these levels and also cover the certification requirements for paramedics.

Paramedics are required to go through a three-part series of training before reaching paramedic status. These three levels include emergency medical technician (or EMT)-Basic, EMT-Advanced, and paramedic training. Paramedics must also pass a two-part certification exam that covers emergency medical situations, operations, and equipment.

EMT-Basic Program

The first level, known as EMT-Basic provides introductory training to work in the emergency services field. Students usually complete about 150 hours of instruction. Students learn how to assess patient conditions and to respond to common emergency conditions, including trauma, cardiac arrest, airway obstruction, bleeding, and fractures. EMT-Basic students must also fulfill hands-on training requirements, so they often spend time training in ambulances or hospital emergency departments.

In order to become certified, EMT-Basic students must pass a test administered by the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians) or by the state in which they reside.

EMT-Advanced Program

The second level of EMT training, known as an Advanced EMT program, enables certified EMT-Basic professionals to expand their skills and expertise in providing emergency services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this level requires students to complete roughly 400 hours of training. Some of the topics of study include intravenous fluids, medication, and airway devices.

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Paramedic Program

The third and final level of training prepares graduates to become paramedics. Coursework at this level often focuses on advanced topics in emergency medical technology. Training typically takes place at technical or community colleges. Students often earn an emergency medical technology associate's degree, but paramedic certificates also exist.

In associate's degree programs, students must fulfill general education requirements and complete field experiences and clinical rotations. Some of the common course topics include anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, clinical pathophysiology, medical emergencies, treatment of special populations, and healthcare law and ethics. The paramedic program prepares students to take the certification exam administered by the state or by the NREMT. Licensure or certification for paramedics is a requirement in the United States, although criteria vary by state.

Paramedic Certification Process

Candidates seeking paramedic certification must be at least 18 years old and certified at the EMT-Basic level at minimum. They must also possess a valid CPR-BLS credential for healthcare providers, according to the NREMT. The certification or license process for paramedics consists of two examinations: the cognitive exam and the psychomotor exam. The cognitive exam covers topics such as breathing, pediatrics, trauma, obstetrics, and emergency medical services operations. The psychomotor exam presents topics in a scenario format and test takers must demonstrate their level of competency on each subject. These subjects include ventilators, medication, cardiac management, and trauma assessment.

In order to become a paramedic, it is necessary to complete lower-level emergency services training and then fulfill the requirements of a paramedic training program to prepare for the required certification exam.

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