How to Become a Paramedic – Requirements and Top Training Schools
Most of the candidates assume that paramedics and EMTs are the same professionals. As a matter of fact, most of the skills and job duties of Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics are similar, but they differ concerning the scope of practice, earning potential, and training. The training of basic EMTs gets completed in 120-150 hours whereas the training of paramedics lasts for 1,200-1,800 hours. Moreover, paramedics earn more salary than EMTs.
Paramedics deliver advanced patient care such as medications, injections, intravenous fluids, etc., and handle medical devices like oxygen, epinephrine auto-injectors, airway management equipment, etc. EMTs, on the other hand, are restricted to provide advanced patient care and handle medical equipment.
EMT Paramedic is the highest level of Emergency Medical Technician certification. In addition to performing primary EMT duties including patient assessment, CPR and wounds treatment, EMT Paramedics also perform advanced functions such as administering IV fluids, medications and injections, advanced life support, and advanced respiratory procedures.
As EMT Paramedics lead the members of a rescue team, they must have the ability to make quick decisions and strong leadership skills. These professionals undergo rigorous training to gain competencies in managing stressful and critical situations, and carrying out complex life-saving activities. Training programs comprise both clinical and classroom components.
Aspirants are expected to fulfill the below-given paramedic requirements to apply for the paramedic course.
- A GED or high school diploma
- CPR certification
- Some programs require students to have at least six months of work experience as an EMT
- You must have studied English, Math, and Biology at the college level, and
- Possess a valid driver’s license and qualify the drug screening test
How Long does it Take to Become a Paramedic?
The paramedic training course completes in 6 months to 2 years. If you are working as an Emergency Medical Technician, you will have to take 1200-1800 hours of additional training to become a paramedic.
Fee and Cost
Various factors determine the cost and charges of the paramedic program such as state, city, college, type of course (certification or degree), etc. The tuition fee for in-state students is generally less than out-of-state students. In general, the paramedic program may cost you between $1,000 and $10,000. The fees include laboratory fees, books cost, criminal record check, etc.
Aspirants are supposed to possess the following paramedic qualifications and skills:
- Good physical fitness
- Emotional stability
- Quick decision-making skills
- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
- An outgoing personality
- Problem-solving and critical thinking skills
Paramedic Job Description
Paramedics are the professionals who are trained to respond to medical emergencies such as strokes, cardiac arrests, accidents, etc. They typically perform the following duties and responsibilities:
- Educating the people about how to use the first aid techniques appropriately
- Using and managing defibrillators, ventilators, and other specialized medical devices
- Dressing injuries and wounds
- Responding to emergency calls
- Administering intravenous fluid, pain relief infusions, and medications
- Driving emergency vehicles such as the ambulance
- Providing treatment while transiting patients to hospitals
- Communicating with patients’ friends/relatives and providing them with information about the patient’s condition and treatment
- Working with firefighters and police on emergency scenes to provide immediate medical care to injured and sick individuals
How Much does a Paramedic Make?
According to the reports of the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), as of May 2017, the mean hourly wage of EMTs and paramedics was $17.64 whereas the mean annual salary was $36,700. The average hourly salary of paramedics in the United States as of 12 December 2018 was $18.74 while the average annual wage was $51,596 (according to indeed.com). As per the statistics of payscale.com, the average pay for paramedics was $49,378 per year and $18.36 per hour (as of 15 December 2018).
How to Get Paramedic Certification?
Follow the below-given steps to obtain paramedic certification:
Step 1 – Get a High School Diploma
Students are required to complete GED or a high school diploma to enroll for the paramedic training course. Those who want to make a career as a paramedic must opt for anatomy, health studies, and sciences in their high school.
Step 2 – Earn CPR Certification
Obtain certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR training programs prepare students to provide timely assistance in cases of breathing emergencies and cardiac arrests. Some programs offer first aid certification along with CPR certification. It takes 60-90 minutes to complete the CPR training.
Step 3 – Undergo EMT-B Training
An EMT-B training program covers various aspects of emergency medical situations such as heart attacks, childbirth, bleeding, broken bones, choking, riding in ambulances, etc. Students also learn to use medical devices like backboards, oxygen masks, stretchers, splints, etc. Upon completion of the coursework, apply for the EMT-B certification from the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians).
Step 4 – Obtain Work Experience as an EMT
Some paramedic courses enroll only those candidates who have six months to one year of work experience as an EMT. You may work for hospitals, fire departments, ambulance services or other rescue services.
Step 5 – Complete Paramedic Training
As per your career aspirations, you may choose to take a certification course, associate’s or bachelor’s degree course. The training is divided into in-class lectures and clinical practice. The coursework is designed to equip aspirants with advanced medical applications and techniques such as intravenous medications, wound stitching, cardiac care, etc.
Step 6 – Obtain Paramedic Certification
After successful completion of an accredited paramedic program, aspirants must apply for the NREMT paramedic certification which is recognized at the national level. You need to pass a computerized cognitive test that comprises questions about Emergency Medical Services (EMS), pediatrics, trauma, breathing, airways, etc. The hands-on portion (psychomotor) of the exam tests the ability of the candidate to deal with the real-world situations and tests the aspirants on the following six skills:
- Integrated Out-of-Hospital Scenario
- Oral Station Case A
- Oral Station Case B
- Static Cardiology
- Dynamic Cardiology
Based on their career aspirations, aspirants can pursue any of the following certifications:
1. EMT-Basic (EMT-B)
EMT-B certification prepares students for entry-level jobs. For obtaining this certificate, you are supposed to complete a minimum of 100 hours (3-11 weeks) of training in childbirth, respiratory, major disasters, cardiac emergencies, and other medical emergencies. Some training programs admit only those candidates who possess CPR certification. Patient assessment, trauma management, airway management, human anatomy, etc., are some topics that are covered in the EMT-B program.
2. EMT-Intermediate (EMT-I)
This level is separated into EMT-I 1985 and EMT-I 1999. Aspirants must complete 200-400 hours of training to obtain this certification. Some interesting topics covered in the curriculum are endotracheal intubations, medication administration, life support, IV treatment, trauma management, etc. However, the responsibilities and scope of practice of EMT-I certified professionals vary from state to state.
3. EMT-Paramedic (EMT-P)
EMT-P is the highest level of certification that completes in 6 months to 24 months. The certification programs are divided into classroom studies, field practice, and clinical rotation. The curriculum extensively emphasizes on various interesting topics including manual defibrillation, psychology, wound cleaning, emergency service management, drug administration, etc.
Paramedic Bachelor Degree
Paramedic bachelor’s degree program is a 4-year course that equips students with the required skills and knowledge to respond to emergencies along with providing pre-hospital care to patients. The coursework prepares students for state certification. The program comprises a comprehensive internship program, field experience, clinical experience, and classroom studies.
You must have a high school diploma or GED as well as a background in physiology and anatomy to enroll for a bachelor’s degree in paramedic. The program covers the subjects that are there in paramedic associate’s degree but in detail. Some of the topics that you can expect to study in paramedic bachelor’s degree are:
- Pre-hospital life support
- Emergency behaviors
- Emergency medicine
- Medical emergencies
- Life support – pediatric and cardiac
- Basic healthcare
After completing the bachelor’s degree, students can undertake further training in air medical (this training prepares aspirants to perform duties in a plane or helicopter), drug overdose, disaster response, etc.
Paramedic Associate Degree
Paramedic associate’s degree program completes in 2 years and comprises field experience, practical lab, and classroom discussions. Some colleges offer this degree in courses such as AAS (Associate of Applied Science) in Paramedic Medicine.
After completion of this degree, you will learn to manage patient care while transporting the patients to medical facilities, provide lifesaving interventions, perform extensive patient assessments, etc.
The curriculum consists of the following subjects:
- Patient Assessment
- Introduction to Paramedic Care
- Airway & Respiratory
- Paramedic Pharmacology
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Introduction to Cardiology
Aspirants can get entry-level jobs and assume the job titles of Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Paramedic, Cardiovascular Technician, Cardiovascular Technologist, etc., after graduating with associate’s degree. These professionals are mostly hired by intensive care units, doctors’ offices, hospital emergency rooms, laboratories, etc. Those who want to advance their career in the field can enroll in higher education and pursue paramedic bachelor’s degree.
Candidates who want to become a paramedic but can’t attend on-campus classes due to family commitments or other reasons can opt for online learning option. Various community colleges and technical schools provide online paramedic programs that prepare students for the NREMT exams and state certification.
Some of the paramedic courses that are available online are ECG Interpretation, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Introduction to Pathophysiology, Cardiology, First Aid and CPR, Medical Terminology, etc.
As paramedics require comprehensive hands-on training to perform their duties effectively, paramedic courses are not offered entirely online. However, these courses are offered in a hybrid format where students learn theoretical part online while practice clinical skills in-person in a hospital or medical facility, under the supervision of an experienced paramedic.
Paramedic online programs offer the following benefits:
- These programs are flexible and can easily fit around your lifestyle
- You do not need to quit your job to pursue your education
- Aspirants can schedule classes according to their convenience
- Online classes save you money in tuition fees and transportation
- Candidates can also enroll in online programs that are conducted outside their state
- Some accredited online courses also provide transferable credits
Although online paramedic classes offer several unique benefits, these are not for everybody. Students with basic computer skills and self-discipline will find these classes more interesting.
Job Outlook for Paramedic
As per the BLS, the growth of 15% in the employment for EMTs and paramedics is projected from 2016 to 2026. Certain factors like growing population of middle-aged and older people; increase in heart attacks, strokes, and other age-related health emergencies; natural disasters, car crashes, and other emergencies; specialized medical facilities; etc., will increase the demand for these professionals. The projected employment for paramedics and EMTs by the year 2026 is 285,400.
After obtaining paramedic certification, candidates have a plethora of career opportunities. As mentioned above, paramedics have a broad scope of practice than Emergency Medical Technicians. These professionals are employed by private and public emergency service providers, including law enforcement agencies, hospitals, fire departments, ambulance services, police departments, etc. They can choose any of the following job titles:
- Critical Care Paramedic
- Advanced Life Support Paramedic
- Ambulance Attendant
- Medical Assistant
Top Paramedic Training Schools
Here is the list of schools providing paramedic degree programs and certification.
1. Creighton University
Creighton University has excellence in EMS (Emergency Medical Services) and provides cutting-edge training to students to enable them to make a difference in the lives of people. The university on boards experienced EMS faculty with extensive medical backgrounds.
- Address: 2500 California Plaza, Omaha, Nebraska
- Course Offered: Certificate Program
- Key Highlight: The yearlong paramedic certificate program comprises 650 hours of lectures, case studies, practical skills sessions, and labs. Students study trauma, pharmacology, pediatrics, obstetrics, EMS operations, advanced patient assessment, fundamentals of paramedicine, etc.
2. Hillsborough Community College – SouthShore Campus
The SouthShore Campus provides a student-centered learning environment to empower students to attain their educational goals. The college stays at the forefront by proactively responding to the emerging educational needs and focuses on the overall development (personal, academic, professional, social, etc.) of the students.
- Address: 551 24th Street North East, Ruskin, Florida 33570
- Course Offered: Certificate Program
- Key Highlight: The paramedic certificate program covers various interesting subjects like physiology, airway control, human anatomy, etc., and prepares students for the state certification exam. In addition to paramedic certificate, the college also offers associate in science degree in Emergency Medical Services and other degree and certificate courses.
3. Miami Dade College – Medical Campus
Sprawling across 4.3 acres, the Medical Campus of Miami Dade College serves as the backbone of the health care community of Miami. The campus aims to prepare students for challenges in the medical career through its specialty courses in allied health and nursing. For paramedic aspirants, this campus offers a certification program.
- Address: 950 North West, 20th Street, Miami, Florida 33127
- Course Offered: Certificate Program
- Key Highlight: The paramedic certificate program equips the students with required technical competencies to render effective healthcare services in the pre-hospital environment. Credits earned in the certificate program can be transferred to the A.S. degree.
4. The University of South Alabama
The paramedic program is accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the EMS Professions and the Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. For paramedics who obtained their paramedic education in some other state or country, the university has a track that requires students to take a 6-hour bridge course.
- Address: Mobile, Alabama 36688
- Course Offered: Certificate Program, Bachelor of Science in EMS
- Key Highlight: According to the State EMS Rules, each aspirant must have state EMT license before commencing AEMT instruction, and must have AEMT license before starting paramedic instruction.
5. The University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC)
The UMBC blends innovative learning and teaching to bring excellence in higher education. The university offers different courses in human services, information technology, public policy, engineering, and science. The emergency health services program of the university focuses on leadership and interpersonal skills, clinical and academic abilities.
- Address: 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, Maryland 21250
- Course Offered: Graduate Program in Emergency Health Services
- Key Highlight: The EHS graduate program prepares students for various job titles such as EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians), managers, consultants, educators, paramedics, etc.
6. Kingsborough Community College (KCC)
Kingsborough Community College was founded as part of the City University of New York in 1963. The college offers four certificate and 38 associate degree programs in various streams as well as continuing education programs. The KCC paramedic program is approved by the New York State Department of Health Bureau of EMS.
- Address: 2001 Oriental Boulevard, Brooklyn, New York 11235-2398
- Course Offered: AAS in Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
- Key Highlight: The paramedic program is available in 3 tracks: Track A – 60-credit AAS in EMS for students with no college credits, Track B – 54-credit paramedic program for EMTs, and Track C – 26-credit program for professionals who are working as a paramedic.
Other Accredited Paramedic Schools
1. The University of Texas – Health Science Center at San Antonio
- Address: 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78229
2. Utah Valley University
- Address: 800 West University Parkway, Orem, Utah 84058
3. University of New Haven
- Address: 300 Boston Post Road, West Haven, Connecticut 06516
4. University of Sioux Falls
- Address: 1101 West 22nd Street, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57105
5. The University of New Mexico
- Address: Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131
6. Central Washington University
- Address: 400 East University Way, Ellensburg, Washington 98926
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