Paramedics serve a crucial function in our society; they are the first line of defense in many accidents and situations where immediate healthcare is required. Many people’s lives have been saved by the advent of quick-thinking paramedics who stabilize patients for transport to a hospital. While paramedics are not doctors, they often have a wide scope of medical knowledge that enables them to deal with most crisis situations quickly and effectively.
In order to become a paramedic, or an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), candidates must complete training courses and pass a test to become licensed. While licensing requirements vary from state to state, all states have minimum requirements for levels of EMT certification that gives a paramedic the right to practice certain levels of emergency management.
Most training programs for paramedics involve study at an approved school that offers courses which comply with the state’s licensing requirements for EMTs. While each state’s requirements are slightly different, most states require the same basic level of training in order to apply for a license as an EMT.
Potential paramedics must have a high school diploma or a GED and training in basic CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation before being accepted to an EMT program. CPR certification can be obtained through a Red Cross class at any technical school or community health program. High school students who do well in EMT classes often have a background of biology classes or anatomy and physiology. Some healthcare occupation classes through your high school’s vocational program may also be helpful.
Formal training to become an EMT is offered through vocational schools and junior colleges. There are three levels of training paramedics can receive; each usually requires its own separate test and license by the state. Most EMTs take the most basic level of certification first then move on to higher levels of certification, often working during the time they study for a higher degree.
Paramedics can obtain three different levels of licensing based on the number of hours they spend in the field and the courses they have successfully completed. These levels are:
This level include training in assessing conditions and dealing with emergencies. Basic-level EMTs learn to deal with the equipment on an ambulance and how to handle triage or evaluation of emergency situations. They also work with higher-level professionals and must have around 100 hours of supervised training in most states. This training usually takes place in a hospital emergency room or on an ambulance with a certified crew.
Also known as the EMT-Intermediate 1985 or the EMT-Intermediate 1999 level in some locations, this certification requires much more knowledge and training than the Basic EMT level. Most states require at least 1,000 hours of on-the-job training in addition to coursework on giving intravenous fluids, administering medications, and the use of highly technical resuscitative equipment. Most hospitals require advanced EMT certification in order to ride without supervision on an ambulance.
The technical term “paramedic” is applied to the highest level of certification available for an emergency medical technician. Paramedics hold the lower EMT certifications as well as 1,300 additional hours of in-field experience and up to two years of additional coursework. Most paramedics hold associate’s degrees from junior colleges or vocational schools that have accredited paramedic programs. Paramedics must also pass a more stringent state exam in order to receive this certification.
Paramedics and EMTs are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the job growth rate for paramedics and EMTs is expected to top 33 percent in the next ten years, far greater than the average job growth rate for all jobs in the United States.
EMTs and paramedics earn a median salary of $30,360 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,710, and the top 10 percent earned more than $51,370.*
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm#tab-5)