A career as a paramedic is an appealing choice for people looking to save lives through a dynamic and exciting job. You may have seen paramedics rushing into emergencies with stretchers and wondered how you could become one yourself. This article will provide you with the information to do just that.
This article will also help those of you who are on the fence about the job by going over the essentials. What is a paramedic? What education do you need to become a paramedic? What career paths are available to aspiring paramedics? What is the average paramedic salary?
When a medical emergency comes about, paramedics are the first responders on the scene. They use their advanced medical skill set to provide emergency medical care to patients before and while they are being transported to the nearest medical facility.
Paramedics work with police officers and firefighters to help people in need during all sorts of emergency situations. Paramedics save lives when there are accidents, sudden illnesses, fires, shootings, and many other dire scenarios.
Paramedics possess a unique and versatile skill set. They use complex medical equipment, such as electrocardiograms (EKGs). They administer drugs orally and even intravenously. They bandage wounds, stabilize blood pressure, perform CPR, among a whole host of other tasks.
The life of a paramedic is notoriously difficult. They regularly work during life and death situations, and they must endure seeing many of their patients die. Their work is extremely stressful, and they must be able to work under intense pressure.
A paramedic’s work hours are long and irregular. Paramedics must stay on call, often working over 40 hours a week at odd times. As a result, establishing a work-life balance can be difficult for many paramedics. This, coupled with the natural stress of the work, presents a significant emotional challenge to most paramedics.
Considering these sorts of conditions then, why would someone want to become a paramedic? Well, for most people, it isn’t the paramedic salary that sways them. What draws many people to the profession is the opportunity to save people’s lives and the sense of fulfillment that the job offers. Paramedics can go into work every day knowing that they are contributing to society in a major way.
There are a number of qualities that aspiring paramedics should have. They should be resilient to adversity. They should be able to stay calm under pressure. They should be flexible, comfortable with rushing to work at a moment’s notice. They should also be empathetic enough to take the lives they serve seriously, but emotionally stable enough to persevere through setbacks.
Those with the necessary characteristics will be glad to learn that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paramedic employment should rise by 24 percent between 2014 and 2024. Experts attribute this increase to the growing number of elderly citizens requiring medical care.
Education & Certification
For most formal paramedic training programs, candidates will need at least a high school diploma. Then, the first step toward a paramedic career would be an EMT-B certification.
EMT-B is the first and most basic level of Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training. This training is available at many community colleges and other institutions. Usually, it takes around six months to complete, comprising a total of 120 to 150 hours of training. Following that, you would need to take a state certification test.
Once you earn your EMT-B certification, you will be able to begin entry-level work in the same vein (though at a lower level) as that of a paramedic. You will be able to provide emergency treatment in ambulances and various other settings.
Usually, aspiring paramedics spend a few years at the EMT-B level to gain the necessary experience. Many paramedic programs require candidates to have worked as an EMT for at least six months. After working as an EMT, many people decide to remain despite the higher paramedic salary and other benefits.
Once you are EMT certified, you can enter a paramedic training program. Many colleges and universities offer these programs. They require 1,200 hours of instruction and often lead to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The training required to become a paramedic is more substantial than that of an EMT, which explains the increased paramedic salary.
The requirements of different paramedic training programs will vary depending on the school and the state. Sometimes, you will need to take a number of prerequisite college-level courses in biology, math, and English.
During paramedic training, you will further develop the education you’ve received from your EMT training. You will learn how to administer medications, start intravenous lines, provide advanced airway management, resuscitate patients, and apply other advanced techniques to save people from various emergencies and traumas.
Paramedic trainees will work in receive training at their schools, local hospitals, ambulance companies, and fire departments. During their training program, they will also learn about human anatomy and physiology.
The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) Exam
After successfully passing your training program, you will need to take and pass an exam called the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) Paramedic exam. This test can be taken online.
The NREMT exam has two parts: the cognitive exam and the psychomotor exam.
The cognitive exam has anywhere from 80 to 150 items. Exam takers are given 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete this exam.
It covers the following topics:
Candidates have a total of six opportunities to pass this exam. They can apply to retest 15 days following their last exam. Candidates who fail the exam 6 times will need to retake the entire paramedic course.
The psychomotor exam tests aspiring paramedics on six skills.
- 1The first part is on the patient assessment of trauma. In this section of the exam, candidates will need to perform a physical assessment and provide voice treatment for a simulated patient. They will also be judged on their scene size-up, primary survey and resuscitation, history taking, and secondary assessment.
- 2The second part of the exam is called dynamic cardiology and tests a candidate’s cardiac management skills. Candidates will need to manage a cardiac arrest situation, including the actual delivery of electrical therapy. They will need to orally explain their interpretations and treatments throughout the scenario.
- 3The third part of the exam is called static cardiology. During this portion, candidates will receive four ECG tracings, along with the patient’s information. Candidates will need to explain their interpretation of each rhythm and demonstrate the necessary treatments.
- 4The fourth section is called Oral Station Case A. Candidates will be tested on their skills in verbally managing an out-of-hospital call. They will be tested on scene management, patient assessment, patient management, interpersonal relations, and integration (verbal reports, field impressions, and transport decisions).
- 5The fifth section, Oral Station Case B, is a second iteration of the previous section.
- 6The final exam portion is called the Integrated Out-Of-Hospital Scenario. Here, candidates will act in a scenario involving a pediatric, geriatric, or adult patient. Candidates will work with a professional paramedic and be evaluated while they act out a simulation. They will be tested on how they manage calls, lead a team, communicate, and demonstrate professionalism.
After passing the two parts of the NREMT exam, paramedics earn national certification. Depending on their state, they may also need to earn a state license, which they would qualify for at this point.
There are a number of common career paths that paramedics take.
Some paramedics decide after a while that the job is not for them. They become weary of the adrenaline rush and the somewhat underwhelming paramedic salary. Many of the people in this category transition into technician roles, such as by becoming an emergency room technician. Others decide to return to school, building on the credits they already earned along their paramedic education route.
On the other hand, there are many paramedics who become emboldened by the work and decide to further develop their skills in other similar positions.
Here are some of the common careers that paramedics move onto.
Average Paramedic Salary
The paramedic salary is usually not what brings people to the profession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median paramedic salary is $32,670. At the 25th percentile, paramedics earn $25,850 a year. At the 75th percentile, paramedics earn $42,710.
The work can be fulfilling (albeit stressful), but due to the lackluster pay, many paramedics eventually go back to school to take on higher paying medical positions.
With the expected growth of the profession, job prospects for aspiring paramedics are promising. The work is stressful, exhausting, and often emotionally taxing, but for those who have a strong desire to save lives and are willing to be flexible, a career as a paramedic can be an excellent choice.