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Paramedic Career Guide

Are you someone who is unafraid to make life-changing decisions while in a stressful situation?

If the answers yes, then a job as a paramedic will be very rewarding for you.

Paramedics have the huge responsibility of being the first to attend to the scene of an emergency and providing life-saving assistance. They work as part of a team to make quick decision about the medical care provided. To become a fully qualified paramedic, you will firstly need to be a qualified EMT. You will then need to complete a paramedical training program at a community college or university.

 

When you save a life. It can be as simple as a diabetic person that took too much insulin and their sugar dropped. After about six hours of having your sugar too low, it’ll absolutely kill you, but it’s an easy fix. It’s something that we can fix in the field, and so we’ll start an IV. We’ll give them some glucose in their vein and five minutes later they’re awake. That’s one of the simple ones, and it’s just kind of a quick little boost. You get those pretty frequently: You have saved a life. Somebody noticed that they were unconscious, and we were able to give the right medication, and figure out what was going on. By the time we are ready to leave, they are back to normal. That’s a cool thing.

Jason Hernandez

Paramedic Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Paramedic Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Paramedic field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33512 EMT Female 31 $32,000 Minden, LA 01/01/2010
33445 Communications Officer (911 Dispatcher) Female 26 $42,000 Whitmore Lake, MI 01/01/2010
33301 Emergency Medical Technician Intermediate Male 27 $32,000 Schererville, IN 01/01/2010
32761 Lieutenant/Paramedic Male 38 $94,000 Orlando, FL 01/01/2010

Overview

What does a paramedic actually do?

At the scene of a horrific car accident, paramedics are the first to respond and lend life-saving assistance. Paramedics provide the basic medical care that may be responsible for saving someones life. Paramedics are also qualified to give medications orally and intravenously, interpret electrocardiograms (which monitor heart function) and use other monitors and complex equipment. For people unafraid to make life-changing decisions while in a stressful situation, a job as a paramedic can be rewarding.

For paramedics, there are no average days. On any given day, you may help deliver a baby before breakfast, perform CPR on a drowning victim after lunch, and treat a burn victim before dinner. Most paramedics work for their local governments, either directly or as an employee of a private ambulance company on a government contract.

The typical duties and responsibility of a paramedic includes:

  • Responding to 911 calls for emergency medical assistance
  • Assessing a patient’s condition at the scene and determining a course of treatment (could be first-aid treatment or life support care)
  • Transporting patients safely to the hospital in an ambulance
  • Transferring patients to the emergency department of a hospital or other healthcare facility
  • Reporting what treatment the patient has already received to emergency physicians, nurses, or other healthcare facility staff
  • Documenting medical care given to patients
  • Tracking stock and replacing and cleaning supplies and equipment after use

Why they are needed

Human life is the most precious and important thing on earth and it needs to be protected. However, accidents are always lurking and emergency can always occur. Paramedics are needed to respond to these accidents and emergencies. They are, quite literally, life-savers. During scary emergencies, paramedics have the unique skills to handle the situation in a safe and effective manner. They play a huge role in our society by providing the initial care that is needed in order to protect and prolong human life.

Pros and cons of a career as a paramedic:

Pros:

  • You get to help people every single day
  • It is an incredibly rewarding job… saving lives really does feel good!
  • Paramedics work in a supportive and cohesive work environment
  • There is a lot of variety (e.g., one day you might be helping someone give birth, the other day you’re attending an elderly person whose had a fall)
  • It is a well respected and regarded job and people in your community will be very thankful for the work you do
  • No two days are the same and you’ll never be bored
  • It is a thrilling job (driving fast is fun!)
  • Like many healthcare professions, there is high job security!

Cons:

  • There a lot of paperwork – for every bit of care a paramedic gives, they have to document it in detail
  • It can be frustrating as people will call for silly reasons, that aren’t life threatening, each day
  • Paramedics work long and antisocial hours, which can be tough on your home life
  • Some of the people you will have to deal with aren’t very nice or grateful for the work
  • It is a high risk job as there is often the threat or work-related injury and illnesses
  • There is a risk of getting sued

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of emergency medical technicians (paramedics but with less responsibility) and paramedics is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

This increased employment growth is expected because all types of emergencies (e.g., car crashes, violent attacks or natural disasters) will continue to occur, and will require the skills of paramedics to provide critical care. The growing and aging population will also lead to an increase in age-related health emergencies, which creates a demand for paramedics to attend to these. Finally, an increased number of specialized medical facilities will require more paramedics to transfer patients to them for specific treatment.

Career paths

The career path to becoming a paramedic beings with completing a high school diploma (or equivalent) and a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

After completing this, you can apply to do a postsecondary educational program in emergency medical technology. During these programs, you will learn about assessing patients’ conditions, dealing with trauma and cardiac emergencies, clearing obstructed airways, using field equipment, and handling emergencies. Formal courses include about 150 hours of specialized instruction, and some instruction may take place in a hospital or ambulance setting.

Most of these programs last a year, but some may last two. These programs are offered at technical institutes, community colleges, universities and facilities that specialize in emergency care training. To find out which programs are accredited, check out the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

After completing this initial EMT training, you will then want to progress up the ranks. T0 get to an advanced EMT level, you are typically required to do about 400 additional hours of instruction. At this level, candidates learn EMT-level skills as well as more advanced ones, such as using complex airway devices, intravenous fluids, and some medications.

The final stage to becoming a paramedic is to complete the most advanced level of education. To enter specific paramedical training programs, you must already be a certified EMT. Paramedic training programs are offered at community colleges or universities. Paramedic training programs require about 1,200 hours of instruction and may lead to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Paramedics’ broader scope of practice may include stitching wounds or administering intravenous medications.

Example Job Titles for Paramedic

Below is a list of common job titles in the Paramedic field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for paramedics in the United States was $35,400 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,490 per year, and the highest 10 percent earning more than $59,860 per year.

The local government was the top paying industry for paramedics, with a median annual salary of $37,570. This was followed by hospitals ($37,570) and ambulance services ($32,730).

Autonomy and Flexibility

Paramedics work in teams and are often supervised. They will be told, by dispatchers, what emergencies to respond to and in what time frame. Based on this, autonomy may at times feel low. However, once on the scene of the emergency, paramedics have the unique skills to make on-the-spot decisions about the medical care needed. In these situations, paramedics are responsible and in control of every decision they make, which offers a huge sense of autonomy.

Flexibility is low. Paramedics will work shifts and will have little choice over which shifts they work. The days and schedule of a paramedic are unpredictable, and thus there is little flexibility in a paramedics daily schedule.

Locations and commute

According to Zippa, the best states to be a paramedic, which is where the annual pay is the highest and the number of job opportunities are the highest, are:

  1. Iowa, where the average annual salary is $62,844
  2. Kansas, where the average annual salary is $62,448
  3. Indiana, where the average annual salary is $49,492
  4. New Mexico, where the average annual salary is $48,458
  5. Illinois, where the average annual salary is $64,362

The worst states, according to Zippia, are New Hampshire, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah and Vermont.

Work environment

46% of paramedics work for the ambulance services, 28% work for the local government (excluding education and hospitals) and 19% work for hospitals (state local and private). Most paramedics work shifts and their hours equate to full time work, however overtime is common.

Paramedics will work both indoors and outdoors, in all types of weather. Their work is physically strenuous and can be stressful, sometimes involving life-or-death situations.

EMTs and paramedics have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. They are required to do considerable kneeling, bending, and lifting while caring for and moving patients. They may be exposed to contagious diseases and viruses, such as hepatitis B and HIV. Sometimes they can be injured by combative patients. These risks can be reduced by following proper safety procedures, such as waiting for police to clear an area in violent situations or wearing gloves while working with a patient.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Paramedic careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Paramedic career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Paramedic.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

There has been no exploration as to what personality types will make a successful paramedic. However, it is very possible that a successful paramedic will show openness to experience. These types of people tend to seek new things and new adventures, which means they will be adaptable to all the different types of situations that a paramedic will find themselves in. Paramedics are also likely to be highly conscientious, as they must be able to follow rules, and they are likely to be extraverted.

Accomplishment and mastery

A career as a paramedic is one that offers huge levels of accomplishment and mastery. Every single time a paramedic provides the essential care that saves a patients life, they will leave feeling accomplished. Many paramedics say that their favourite thing about the job is the accomplishment they feel when they single-handedly save someones life. Furthermore, skill mastery is high as a paramedic will start off as an EMT and they then learn the advanced skills they need to become fully qualified relatively quickly.

Meaning and contribution

Paramedics are the first people at an emergency scene. It goes without saying that their work has huge meaning and contribution to society. Without paramedics, people involved in accidents or disasters would die very quickly. Paramedics perform incredibly meaningful work and are well respected due to this.

To make the work even more meaningful, paramedics may decide to volunteer in rural or deprived areas and help service people who need it the most.

Life fit

Most paramedics work full time, with some working more than 40 hours per week. Because paramedics must be available to work in emergencies, they may work overnight and on weekends. Some paramedics work shifts in 12- or 24-hour increments. Overall, it is a career that may provide a difficult life fit to many, due to the long hours worked.

Who will thrive in this career?

To truly thrive as a paramedic you cannot be faint hearted. From major car accidents, to broken bones or childbirth, paramedics will witness it all. Thriving paramedics will also be able to remain calm and collected under pressure, as each day they will be faced with stressful and/or traumatic emergency situations.

To thrive as a paramedic, you must also be able to make life-changing decisions under immense pressure. Without this ability, you will crumble and make life-threatening mistakes. Finally, thriving paramedics must be able to work as part of a team and communicate well with others.

Who will struggle in this career?

Those who do not have a strong stomach will struggle with the blood and gore of working as a paramedic. Similarly, those who are not naturally excitement or thrill seeking may struggle with the fast driving and unpredictable nature of the work. Similarly, those who get travel sick will probably hate constantly being in a vehicle and driving around!

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as having a genuine passion for helping others, paramedics will need skills and talents such as:

  • Empathy, as paramedics will deal with patients who are in great pain and are very distressed. They will need to be understanding and compassionate to these patients
  • Listening skills, as paramedics will need to listen carefully to their patients to determine the extent of their injury
  • Teamwork skills as paramedics will works as part of a small and cohesive team with other paramedics
  • Physical strength, as paramedics need to keep up with the demands of the job, which involves bending, lifting patients and kneeling
  • Decision making skills, as paramedics are responsible for making on the spot decisions that could save a patients life
  • Interpersonal skills, as paramedics need to coordinate and work with others and patients

Education

To become a paramedic, you will firstly need to be a qualified EMT. To become an EMT, you will need a high school diploma, a cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification and to complete a postsecondary education program in emergency medical technology.

To become a fully qualified paramedic, you will then need to complete a paramedical training program at a community college or university. These training programs require about 1,200 hours of instruction and may lead to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Paramedics are likely to drive ambulances, so will have to take a course that requires about 8 hours of training.

Certifications

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certifies EMTs and paramedics at the national level. To become NREMT certified, you must have completed a certified education program and passed the national exam.

All states require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed. Requirements vary by state but in most states, an individual who has NREMT certification qualifies for licensure. In other states, aspiring paramedics may have to pass an equivalent state exam. Usually, an applicant must be over the age of 18. Many states require background checks and may not give a license to an applicant who has a criminal history.

How to Become

Summary

Paramedics have the huge responsibility of being the first to attend to the scene of an emergency and providing life-saving assistance. They work as part of a team to make quick decision about the medical care provided. For people unafraid to make life-changing decisions while in a stressful situation, a job as a paramedic can be rewarding.

Immediate action

If you want to become a paramedic and are a high school student, then we recommend taking courses in anatomy and physiology and consider becoming certified in CPR. On top of this, gathering relevant work experience will make you stand out from the crowd when applying for EMT programs. Work experience can include things such as volunteering in a medical facility or working in a lower healthcare role (e.g., as a dispatcher).

Education and learning

To become a paramedic, you will firstly need to be a qualified EMT which requires completing postsecondary education program in emergency medical technology. You will then need to complete a paramedical training program at a community college or university.

Skill development

Paramedics learn the skills they need through their education and supervised training. They can also take courses to learn the driving skills they need. Throughout their career, paramedics will continue to develop their skills and knowledge.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Paramedic careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33512 EMT Female 31 $32,000 Minden, LA 01/01/2010
33445 Communications Officer (911 Dispatcher) Female 26 $42,000 Whitmore Lake, MI 01/01/2010
33301 Emergency Medical Technician Intermediate Male 27 $32,000 Schererville, IN 01/01/2010
32761 Lieutenant/Paramedic Male 38 $94,000 Orlando, FL 01/01/2010

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