How to Become a Paramedic

Paramedics are responsible for providing emergency medical interventions outside of the hospital. They are the first to respond to an emergency call and treat anybody that needs immediate medical care. Although they know how to perform medical procedures and use certain hospital equipment, they are not doctors. Their main goal is to stabilize a patient for further treatment.

The life of a paramedic is everything but routine. They work shifts, often switching from day to night during a single work week. Despite being part of ambulance or hospital staff, they rarely work in a hospital environment. The workspace of a paramedic is everywhere: streets, households, buildings, etc.

If you’re wondering how to become a paramedic, keep reading. This article looks into the responsibilities and requirements of this dynamic career.

The Difference Between EMT and Paramedic

While all paramedics are EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians), not all EMTs are paramedics. EMT is just the beginning of a paramedic’s career. While EMTs are skilled enough to provide immediate first aid and simple procedures, paramedics are responsible for more complicated interventions.

What Is a Paramedic

Paramedics are part of a hospital staff that performs immediate medical care at the point of incident. They give people initial treatment and prepare them for more complex interventions. Paramedics are also responsible for transporting patients to medical facilities.

Main Responsibilities

Paramedics save lives. Their main responsibility is to react as soon as possible to an emergency call. They need to make quick decisions once they are aware of a patient’s condition. Paramedics often work in a stressful environment and sometimes find themselves at the center of major accidents and disasters. This career requires courage, composure, and focus.

A paramedic must be able to:

  • Organize his emergency team
  • Perform CPR
  • Read an ECG
  • Triage patients
  • Perform different needle procedures
  • Operate a defibrillator
  • Treat severe injuries and control bleeding
  • Perform onsite blood transfusions
  • Deliver babies
  • Apply more than 30 medications

The responsibilities of a paramedic depend on the situation at hand.


Although paramedics learn most of their skills from education, practical training, and work experience, it would be valuable if you have:

  • Excellent stress management: Paramedics are constantly put in stressful situations. You will have to challenge your mind and body in working shifts and adapting to different situations.
  • Organizational, analytical and leadership skills: Scanning the situation and making quick decisions in the face of chaotic environments that require your action rather than indecision.
  • Communication skills: You will have to speak with the victims and bystanders to clearly assess the state of injuries and events. You will also have to talk calmly to assure those who are in a state of shock.
  • Driving license: Paramedics have got to transport a patient to the hospital.

Education Track

After you get your high-school diploma, it may take you anywhere from 3-6 years to become a paramedic. It consists of:

  • 120 hours of EMT training
  • Practical training in an emergency team
  • 2-year paramedic program
  • Passing a national exam and obtaining a certified license

Passing an EMT course

You have to be 18 years old and own a high school diploma to get accepted to an Emergency Medical Technology course. During this 120-hour program, you will learn everything needed to provide immediate help to people in need.

At the completion of this course, you should know how to perform CPR, check vital signs, treat minor wounds, burns and fractures and perform other basic life support. You’d have to get a driver’s license before finishing this course. Transporting people is one of the main responsibilities of an EMT.

After completing the course, you will have to pass a national exam that will make you a registered EMT.

Practical EMT Work

Before you dive into a paramedic program that might take up to 2,000 hours, you should spend some time honing your practical skills as an EMT. The experience of working with other paramedics and technicians will be valuable. Usually, registered EMTs spend one or two years working as an EMIT before applying to a paramedic program.

Passing a Paramedic Course

The path to a paramedic license is much more difficult than getting an EMT license. It consists of lectures, tests, and practical training. The program may last up to two years.

You will build on your EMT knowledge. Paramedic programs cover anatomy, psychology, and more complex medical procedures: needle procedures, managing medications, etc.

After finishing the course, you must pass a test to obtain your paramedic license. After getting your certification, you can start helping people and saving lives!

Career Path and Salary

When you get your paramedic license, you’d probably already have some practical knowledge thanks to your EMT history. Once you earn your certification, you can further steer your career in a particular specialization. Do you want to be a firefighter paramedic, flight paramedic or maybe military paramedic? Different work environments require different certifications and specialized skills.

The job outlook for a paramedic in the United States is positive. Trends like the ever-growing population, higher life expectancy, and medical advances result in higher demand for paramedic services. Since fewer people are entering this line of work due to its unique demands, the average salaries are on the rise.

A paramedic’s salary may vary depending on work experience, but the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show an average salary of $33,000-$35,000 a year (before any overtime). If you work your way to a high-level paramedic consultant, your salary may double.

Is This the Right Career for You?

So, how to become a paramedic? Through hard work and taking responsibility. You can start as soon as you finish high school. You also don’t need a college degree. The job is not for everybody, though. It can be traumatic and chaotic. You will have to work long shifts and often change your sleeping routine.

You will face challenging environments and sometimes tough decisions. As a paramedic, you will have to know how to react based on previous experience. And you will have to decide quickly and correctly. Also, you will have to get good at organizing your team and other people involved. Other people’s lives will depend on you.

A paramedic career will reward you with the irreplaceable feeling of saving somebody’s life or helping people in trouble. EMTs and paramedics are the unsung heroes and the first line of hope for victims of accidents. So, if you relish the challenge and dynamism of being a paramedic, you are a great fit for this job.