- Certificate or Associate's degree
Table of Contents
All EMTs and paramedics must complete a formal training program. All jurisdictions require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed - requirements vary by location.
Both a high school diploma or equivalent and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification are prerequisites for most formal education and training programs. High school students interested in entering these occupations should take courses in anatomy and physiology.
How long does it take to become a Paramedic?
Formal training is offered by technical institutes, community colleges, and facilities that specialize in emergency care training. At the EMT-Basic level, training includes instruction in assessing patients' conditions, dealing with trauma and cardiac emergencies, clearing obstructed airways, using field equipment, and handling emergencies. Formal courses include about 100 hours of specialized training. Some training may be required to take place in a hospital or ambulance setting.
The EMT-Intermediate typically requires 1,000 hours of training based on the scope of practice. At this level, people must complete the training required at the EMT-Basic level, as well as more advanced training, such as training in the use of complex airway devices, intravenous fluids, and some medications.
Paramedics have the most advanced level of training. They must complete EMT-level and Advanced EMT training, as well as training in advanced medical skills. Community colleges and technical schools may offer this training, in which graduates may receive an associate's degree. Paramedic programs require about 1,300 hours of training and may take up to two years to complete. Their broader scope of practice may include stitching wounds or administering IV medications.
Separate training and licensure is required to drive an ambulance. Although some emergency medical services hire separate drivers, paramedics take a course requiring about eight hours of training before they can drive an ambulance.
Should I become a Paramedic?
A career as a paramedic can be incredibly rewarding for a compassionate, courageous and driven person. It can offer a number of benefits for those suited to a career in the medical profession. While there is no denying that the stress of being a paramedic can be intense, it's also one of the most important positions one can fill in their community.
Pondering the question of whether to become a paramedic using pros and cons as a guide is a good way to determine if this career choice is right for you.
- Paramedics typically work in pairs and rely on teamwork to perform effectively. The relationship and camaraderie between paramedics is unlike any other - they know what each other is thinking (especially in emergency situations) which enables them to treat and take care of patients in a timely, safe, and efficient manner.
- Paramedics are able to quickly assess medical conditions and provide expert medical care that can make all the difference when faced with a life and death situation. There is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes from helping others in the community and playing an important role in society.
Building a Foundation
- Being a paramedic can provide a solid foundation for moving onto better paying careers - many doctors, nurses, and firefighters begin their careers as paramedics. Valuable hands-on experience can be gained treating patients who suffer from a wide variety of injuries and illnesses and will help those who'd like to pursue advanced medical training and educational pursuits.
- The paramedic career is expected to experience rapid growth which should result in numerous job opportunities (increasing by approximately 33 percent between 2010 and 2020 according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics). The increase in the number of elderly people and their related health problems is a major reason why the demand for paramedics should remain high.
- This is not a good career for people who value regular work schedules and short work days. A paramedic's work schedule often requires days away from home and unpredictable hours (for example, 24 to 48 hour shifts, followed by two days off). This means a work week that varies every week, with some weeks being heavier on weekdays and lighter on weekends, then cycling to being heavier on weekends and lighter on weekdays.
Dealing With Volatile People
- Paramedics understandably are in contact with people who are not having the best of days. Patients and their family members might be offensive and/or rude due to the stress that an emergency situation can cause.
Injuries and Illnesses
- Paramedics are at risk for suffering from work-related injuries and/or illnesses as a result of all the bending, lifting, and kneeling that they frequently do. They may be coughed/spit on, come into contact with a patient's vomit, feces, or urine, or come into contact with people who are infected with diseases like hepatitis-B or AIDS.
Dealing With Stress
- Paramedics must have a steel constitution for some of the extremely stressful and traumatic situations they encounter. They need to be able to operate quickly, calmly, and efficiently under crisis situations (such as car accidents, heart attacks, shootings, stabbings, drownings etc.,) where keeping one's cool can make the difference between life and death for a patient. Not only may you meet someone having the worst day of their life, sometimes it's also the last day of their life. You'll have to be prepared for that, physically and emotionally, every day that you go in to work. If you are someone who gets easily rattled or stressed, becoming a paramedic might not be the right choice for you.
What are Paramedics like?
Based on our pool of users, Paramedics tend to be predominately investigative people. Take our career test to see what career interest category best describes you.
Paramedics by Strongest Interest Archetype
Based on sample of 1895 CareerExplorer users
Are Paramedics happy?
Paramedics rank in the 57th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.
Paramedics weave back and forth between that precarious line of life and death, and unlike the people who can drive by crash scenes and look away, they have to jump in and help. For those who like to work under pressure, be put out of their comfort zone, and who relish a challenge, this job can bring an immense amount of satisfaction and reward to one's life.
At the same time, it's difficult work - there's no doubt about that. It will undoubtedly take a toll mentally and physically. There are various ways of dealing with the stress, from talking with workmates to using internal support services.
Paramedic Career Satisfaction by Dimension
Percentile among all careers
Education History of Paramedics
The most common degree held by Paramedics is Biology. 15% of Paramedics had a degree in Biology before becoming Paramedics. That is over 4 times the average across all careers. Psychology graduates are the second most common among Paramedics, representing 9% of Paramedics in the CareerExplorer user base, which is 1.3 times the average.
Paramedic Education History
This table shows which degrees people earn before becoming a Paramedic, compared to how often those degrees are obtained by people who earn at least one post secondary degree.
Paramedic Education Levels
|High school diploma||11%|
How to Become a Paramedic
- Certificate or Associate's degree
Find your perfect career
Would you make a good paramedic? CareerExplorer's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!