Become a paramedic: a 2024 guide

Last updated: May 28, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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Become a paramedic: a 2024 guide
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First on the scene and first to respond, paramedics are essential to making sure challenging (and often life-threatening) medical emergencies receive priority care, fast.

These first responders are called to accidents and medical emergencies, and they also transport patients to hospitals.

This is a rewarding, fast-paced role, but it also comes with a lot of pressure. It’s a job for people who are compassionate and able to adapt to ever-changing,high-octane situations. After all,lives could depend on it!

As of 2021, there were a total 261,000 paramedics in the U.S., and the career outlook for these healthcare workers is on the rise. By 2031, projections expect a 7% increase in jobs, adding 17,900 to the current total levels.

If you’re considering a career as a paramedic, it’s time to learn about the job. In this article, we’ll tell you how to become a paramedic and share a list of the top skills required. Plus, we’ll give you a salary guide so you can know what to expect.

What is a paramedic?

Paramedics are healthcare professionals. They respond to emergency calls and can be required for a wide range of situations. Responding to heart attacks, traffic accidents, and even arriving on site to care for victims of natural disasters, paramedics play a vital role in their communities.

Paramedics talk to dispatchers, drive ambulances, and get to each incident as soon as possible.

Once they arrive in an emergency situation, these team members provide medical care to people who are ill or injured on-site. They may also provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other life-saving treatments while there or en-route to a medical center or hospital.

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Paramedics can also dress wounds and administer medications. Once the patient is stable, they’ll transport them to a hospital.

Paramedics work closely with emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, police officers, and hospital staff.

Most paramedics work full-time. The hours can be long, with both day and night shifts. Emergency response is a service that’s available every day of the year, and paramedics often have to be on call.

What’s the difference between a paramedic and an EMT?

EMTs and paramedics work together. The roles are similar, but paramedics have more training and responsibilities. In fact, they often supervise EMTs.

We’ll go into the educational requirements shortly, but before you become a paramedic, you’ll need to learn to be an EMT.

EMTs can provide basic medical care, including CPR and wound dressing. However, a paramedic can do much more. For example, they can perform manual defibrillation and intubation. They can also administer medications and make senior decisions.

Because paramedics have more training, they commande higher salaries than EMTs.

How much does a paramedic make?

In the U.S., the average annual salary for a paramedic is ​​$46,770.

The type of workplace at which a paramedic works can impact their salary. For example, those who are employed by private hospitals typically make the most. The average salary for these paramedics is $47,000 per year.

If you get a job in ambulance services, the average yearly salary is $46,660. Paramedics in local hospitals make slightly less at $46,460 a year.

The salary can also vary between locations. The highest-paying state for paramedics is Washington, where the average annual salary is $82,810. New Jersey also has a competitive yearly salary with an average of $71,180.

If you’re in the District of Columbia, the average paramedic salary is $64,940 per year. In Connecticut, it’s $62,210, and in Maryland, it’s $59,520.

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How to become a paramedic

If you get a job as a paramedic, you’ll have a unique, fast-paced career. You’ll need to complete the following steps to get started:

1. Meet the minimum requirements

On the journey to becoming a paramedic, your minimum requirements begin with a high school diploma or equivalent. If you’re still in school, think about taking a few science, anatomy, or physiology courses to give you that extra edge.

Depending on where you live, you’ll typically need to be at least 18 or 21 years old to work as a paramedic. And before you can start your training, you’ll have to get a CPR certification.

And it’s not just about these essential skills or medical knowledge.

Working as a paramedic can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful, so you should think carefully before deciding on pursuing it as a career. You should be able to work well under pressure and remain calm and confident in any situation.

2. Finish an EMT program

Next, you’ll need to complete an EMT training program. This is a requirement for entry into a paramedic course (the next step).

EMT programs can take between six months and two years to complete. Courses may be available through a local community college or technical school, and some universities also have this option. You’ll learn a variety of skills in the program, including basic emergency treatment and how to insert an IV.

Upon successful completion of the EMT program, you’ll need to get a certification. Keep in mind that the rules for this can vary between states.

The certification process includes a multiple-choice exam to prove your ability to do the job. You can apply for certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).

Once you’re certified, you can start working as an EMT. Alternatively, you can continue your studies and become a paramedic.

3. Enroll in a paramedic program

If you decide to continue on the road to becoming a paramedic, you’ll need to keep studying. Depending on your goals, you may choose an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Paramedic school will take a year or more to complete. You can expect between 1,200 and 1,800 hours of training time.

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During paramedic school, you’ll learn about a wide range of topics, and much of your course will expand on what you learned during your EMT training. Specifically, you’ll gain more knowledge about medical procedures, cardiac emergencies, and patient stabilization.

This program will include both theoretical and practical topics. Make sure you choose a reputable school in which to complete it.

4. Complete clinical placements

Paramedics are hands-on professionals, so you’ll need opportunities to practice your new skills. Specifically, you’ll need to complete clinical rotations during your studies.

This means you’ll get real job training and work under the supervision of certified paramedics and other healthcare professionals.

Take this opportunity to network with others in the industry. Finding a job can be competitive, and any contacts you make during your placements may be useful in the future. For example, someone you train with might refer you for a job once you graduate.

5. Get a paramedic certification

Once you’ve completed your training program, and gained some field experience, you can apply for certification. This may be a state or national certification, depending on the laws in your area.

One common option is to go through the National Registry for Emergency Medical Technicians. In this case, you’ll need to apply for National Paramedic Certification.

You’ll need to pass an exam — specifically, a comprehensive test with both written and practical components — to get certified. You’ll also need to pay a fee and schedule a time to take the exam in person.

If you don’t pass the exam, you can retake it at a later date.

Then, you’ll need to apply for a license. Proof of your education and certification may be enough, but rules can vary between states. You’ll also need to pass a background check that looks at your criminal history and driving record.

You’ll need to pay an annual fee to keep your certification active. Ongoing training may also be a condition.

6. Start work

Made it to this point? By now, you’ll have met the educational requirements. So congratulations! You’re ready to go through the job application process.

You can start your job search by browsing paramedic positions on our job board. You can also check with your local ambulance service to see if there are any vacancies.

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If you made professional connections during your time as a student, now is a good time to reach out to them. Do they know of any jobs? Would they be happy to give you a reference?

And don’t forget to revamp your resume. Add your education, clinical experience, and certification details.

What skills do paramedics need?

While you’ll learn technical skills during your training program, you’ll also need a few soft skills. Here are five of them:

Communication skills

Paramedics provide emergency care in a range of situations.

Patients and their families may be feeling stressed, scared, upset, or angry. A paramedic will help put everyone at ease with their excellent communication skills. They’ll explain the steps they’re taking to address the patient’s problem and answer questions.

Paramedics need to be confident and understand how to speak to people from all backgrounds. They need to be good listeners and able to translate medical jargon.

They need to speak to dispatchers on the phone and update hospitals. They also need good written communication skills to keep accurate notes.

Leadership skills

Through the course of navigating the job’s unique challenges, paramedics will inevitably need to call on an innate sense of leadership. Not only do they supervise EMTs, but they also need to direct the public.

Safety is a priority, and paramedics may give instructions to bystanders. For example, if there’s been an accident, they may ask people to move away from the scene.

A paramedic never knows what they’ll face during their shift. As a good leader, they will be calm and make sure everyone on the team is doing what they should. They’ll also know when to delegate tasks and ask for help.

While leadership skills are essential during stressful situations, teamwork is also important. Paramedics need to be team players and work with others to stabilize and transport patients as quickly as possible.

Problem-solving skills

Next, there are problem-solving skills. Emergency medicine can be complicated, and paramedics must make patient assessments on the go.

For example, a patient may be trapped as a result of a natural disaster. Paramedics will need to use their critical thinking skills to treat the patient without risking their own safety.

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Paramedics have access to different medications and equipment. However, they don’t have the same selection as a medical facility. Sometimes, paramedics need to work with what they have until the patient can reach the hospital.

Physical fitness

Working as a paramedic can be hard on your body, as stretching, bending, and lifting are often required. As such, you’ll need physical strength and stamina to be successful in this role.

Manual dexterity is also essential for your paramedic career. From driving an ambulance to giving injections, you’ll need a steady hand.

You can work on your manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination by painting, drawing, or sewing.

Physical activity can also be a good stress management tool. Working out regularly can clear your mind and prepare you for the demands of the job.

Compassion

Compassion is a must-have skill for any healthcare professional who provides direct care to patients.

Paramedics should be understanding of other people and prepared to help, regardless of the situation.

For example, if a drunk driver got into an accident, the paramedic would still need to treat them. No matter the background of the situation, these team members need to be understanding.

Patients want to feel like they are being cared for by someone trustworthy who isn’t judging them. So if you’re a compassionate person, this could be the role for you.

Where to get a job as a paramedic

Finished your paramedic training program? Met the certification requirements? You can kick off your career by browsing paramedic positions on our job board. Alternatively, you can look for emergency medical technician roles.

Did you know that signing up for Jobcase is free? You can use our platform to create a profile, set up job alerts, and chat in our community discussions.

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We even have a resume builder that takes the guesswork out of creating a professional resume.

Working as a paramedic

If you become a paramedic, you’ll have an action-packed career. You’ll also be helping your community as part of a team.

The path to becoming a paramedic comes with a few steps. You’ll need to meet the minimum age requirement and get your high school diploma. Next is an EMT training program, followed by EMT certification.

Once you’ve completed your education and obtained EMT certification, you can enroll in a paramedic training program. Here, you can expect both classroom hours and ambulance rotations. Before you can start work, you’ll have to pass a background check and a certification exam. Finally, you’ll have to apply for a license.

Communication skills, leadership skills, and compassion are all required for a career as a paramedic. You’ll also need physical fitness and strong problem-solving skills.

Want to know who is hiring near you? Visit our job board. And if you want interview and resume tips, head to our resource center.

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