To become a paramedic requires commitment and training through the right program. A lot of work goes into landing a job in this field, but once you do you get to enjoy a career that is meaningful and that makes a difference to people every single day. You will actually save people’s lives doing the work you trained to do. In order to become an EMT (emergency medical technician) or a paramedic, you need to follow a few important steps: find out if you are really cut out for this work, find and enroll in an academic and training program, pass the necessary exams, and find a job. To get started, first find out exactly what paramedics and EMTs do, so you can make an informed decision about your future career.
What is the Demand Like for Trained Paramedics?
All areas of healthcare are booming right now, but few industries are growing faster than allied health. Positions in allied health are those that support physicians and nurses and include everything from radiology technicians to medical office assistants to EMTs and paramedics. About 60 percent of health care workers have positions in allied health. By 2020, there are expected to be nearly 22 million people working in health care, with more than 11 million working in allied health.
Among all health and allied health care careers, those for paramedics and EMTs are growing in number at a rapid pace. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth rate for paramedics is much faster than average job growth across the country. These jobs are growing at a whopping 24 percent. By 2024 the BLS expects that there will be more than 58,000 new jobs for paramedics.
These statistics mean that the demand for trained and skilled EMTs and paramedics is high. Across the country and in every state, including Florida, more paramedics are needed to fill the positions that are becoming available. With an aging population and greater emphasis on health, all kinds of medical workers are in demand and paramedics are no exception. If you are able to get trained and meet all necessary requirements, finding a job in this field will not be difficult.
What Do Paramedics Earn?
EMTs and paramedics earned a median annual salary of $32,670 in 2016, which can be broken down to a median rate of $15.71 per hour. There is room to earn more in these careers, and the top ten percent of earners make more than $56,000 per year. A greater income can be achieved with more training and also with more experience and time spent on the job. Most EMTs and paramedics work full time, 40 hours per week, or more than full time. They often work weekends or overnight shifts. Shifts for paramedics are typically 12 to 14 hours long.
In Florida, the average annual salary for paramedics and EMTs is $31,750 or $15.27 per hour, similar to the national statistics on earnings. As with paramedics in all other states, the potential to earn more is based on training and experience. Working more hours and working overtime are also ways that paramedics and EMTs may choose to earn more money.
What Does a Paramedic Do?
EMTs and paramedics are first responders and medical care givers. This means they are often the first to arrive on the scene of an accident or in a situation in which someone is hurt or sick. They are responsible for evaluating that person or people, making quick decisions about what’s wrong, and then administering medical care and transporting the person to an emergency room if necessary.
Another important role for EMTs and paramedics is in transporting patients from one medical facility to another and providing care or ensuring the patient remains stable along the way. Paramedics mostly work in ambulances, driving to respond to emergency calls or transporting patients. They may also work in airplanes and helicopters, though. Paramedics typically work in pairs, with one person operating the vehicle and the other caring for the patient during transport.
Some of the more specific duties of a paramedic or EMT include the following:
- Responding to emergency 911 calls for medical help.
- Evaluating patients and assessing the type of medical care they need.
- Providing first aid and possibly life support to patients who need it.
- Moving patients from the scene of the call to a hospital.
- Transporting patients from one medical facility to another.
- Documenting and communicating information about patients to doctors and nurses.
- Cleaning, inventorying, and stocking instruments and supplies.
What Is the Difference Between a Paramedic and an EMT?
In the most general sense, a paramedic has more training and more responsibilities on the job than an EMT. Different states have different requirements for training and certification, but the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) provides the most commonly used examinations to certify individuals. The NREMT offers three levels of examination and certification: EMT, advanced EMT, and paramedic.
EMT, or EMT-Basic
The first level of certification is sometimes called EMT-basic. The training and examination that certifies individuals as EMTs ensures that they can provide basic first aid and life support care when helping patients on calls. EMTs are trained to assess patients and to manage trauma, cardiac, and respiratory emergencies as well as to transport patients to emergency rooms and hospitals.
An advanced EMT has been trained to be able to do everything an EMT-Basic can do, as well as other responsibilities. They have had the training that allows them to perform more advanced medical treatment and care, including things like administering intravenous fluids and giving certain medications.
A paramedic is the highest level of certification for first responder emergency care. They can complete all the tasks that EMTs can and have received more advanced training in medical procedures. They can give medications, for instance, and use and interpret health monitors such as electrocardiograms to monitor and assess heart function.
What Traits and Qualities Are Important for Being a Paramedic?
Working as a paramedic is a rewarding job, but it isn’t easy. It is physically- and emotionally-demanding work that requires quick thinking and making decisions that could affect the health and the lives of patients relying on you for assistance. One of the most important traits of a good paramedic is the ability to remain calm and focused under extreme stress and pressure. Scenes of calls are often chaotic, people are emotional, and scared, and paramedics must remain calm in the midst of it.
Paramedics must also be able to make quick decisions, even under all the pressure and stress of the situation. You cannot be someone who forgets training under pressure or who is unable to make an important decision because of the fact that could mean life or death for the patients. Quick thinking and calm in the storm are very important for being a paramedic.
Paramedics and EMTs care for people every day on the job. To be good at this job you must have compassion for people. You must be able to treat people with kindness and be able to communicate with them. Emergency medicine can be dirty work too. To be able to do it you must have a strong stomach and be able to face the physical reality of people who are hurt or sick. You also need to be physically strong. Paramedics must lift people and equipment, which can be very heavy.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Paramedic?
If you do have what it takes to work as a paramedic or EMT, and you get the right training, you will soon realize that there are so many benefits to this job:
- The satisfaction of helping people every day.
- Knowing that you are making a real and positive impact in people’s lives.
- The excitement of always being on the go, doing something active every minute of a shift—there is no room for boredom in this job.
- Earning a real and regular income.
- The training only takes two years or less, as compared to careers that require four-year degrees or even more education.
- Job stability—there are no signs that the growth in this field will slow or stop.
- Being part of a team that works together to help people.
- Having the training and knowledge that can give you a leg up in other medical careers, or get you started in a career in nursing and other fields.
Perhaps most of all, by working as a paramedic or EMT you will get the satisfaction of having taken charge of your life, of making the change needed to get a career you actually enjoy and that has meaning.
What Training and Education Is Needed to Become a Paramedic?
One of the great things about becoming an EMT or paramedic is that it does not take years and years of additional training and education. You can become a certified paramedic in two years or less. A post-secondary program is absolutely essential to working in this field. You cannot learn on the job, although you will add to your knowledge once you start working. Training in the classroom and in hands-on, real-world situations is important to preparing you to save lives.
The length of program or the type of degree or diploma awarded is not necessarily important. What is important is that the program prepares you to pass the necessary certification exam. If you want to stop at EMT-basic, your program will be shorter than if you want to become certified as a paramedic. Choosing the latter may take longer, but it will give you more options. EMT programs are generally diploma or certificate programs, while paramedic programs usually lead to an associate’s degree.
How Do I Become a Paramedic in Florida?
All states are allowed to set their own standards and requirements for paramedics and EMTs. All states require certification and most require that individuals pass one or more of the NREMT examinations. In Florida, EMTs and paramedics are certified through the Department of Health, Division of Medical Quality Assurance. Individuals who received their training in Florida must pass one of the three NREMT exams within two years of completing a program. How an individual is certified, as an EMT or paramedic, depends on which exam is taken and passed.
Someone who was certified through the NREMT exams, but in another state, only have to show proof of that certification to the Department of Health to become certified in Florida. For those who received paramedic or EMT training in the military, it is possible to become certified through the VALOR program. These applicants have to have been honorably discharged from the military within the last six months and show certification through NREMT.
Finding a Paramedic Training Program
In order to become a paramedic in Florida, you need to get the training that will teach you how to do the job and prepare you to pass one or more of the NREMT examinations. The Emergency Medical Services program at City College, for example, is a nearly two-year program that will train you and prepare you to pass the both the EMT and paramedic certification exams. It includes two terms preparing the student for the EMT certification examination and then progresses into Paramedic courses. The student has four terms of Paramedic courses with lecture, lab and extern time at hospitals and fire stations. The program culminates in a term of externship where the student will take the role of team leader and function as a paramedic with a fire station. It will also award you an associate of science degree.
Now is a great time to get started in the exciting field of emergency medical services. To work as a paramedic or EMT means having a job you can be proud of and enjoy while making a real difference in the world. It’s time to change your life for the better. Learn more about on how to start an Emergency Medical Services program that will help you start your journey toward becoming a Paramedic.