The roles and responsibilities of paramedics differ from nurses, but they play an essential part in the healthcare industry as the first responders providing emergency pre-hospital medical care. They can assess and react quickly, listen and communicate with patients, and are compassionate. Paramedics fall under the umbrella term allied healthcare workers, and today we're shining the spotlight on paramedics. We'll talk about how much paramedics earn, how to become a paramedic, their roles and responsibilities, and how they differ from EMTs.
What Are the Requirements to Become a Paramedic?
Paramedic training is an excellent introduction to the healthcare industry that doesn't require as much investment of your time or money as a nursing school does. Let's start with what it takes to become a paramedic. You must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a high school diploma
- Have a valid driver's license
Once you've met the age and education requirements, you need to do an EMT (emergency medical technician) course approved in your state, which is usually around six months long, but that's just the foundation for becoming a paramedic. Additionally, you'll be expected to complete an accredited CAAHEP paramedic program.
There are four different types of programs for paramedics: certificate, diploma, associate's degree, and bachelor's degree. As of January 2021, there were 790 paramedic programs (accredited by CAAHEP) within the U.S. You can search for a CAAHEP paramedic program near you here.
What's the Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic?
EMTs and paramedics often work on emergency medical services (EMS) teams. Typically, there are more EMTs on a team than paramedics—the difference between the two lies in their respective scopes of practice. Simply put, paramedics have a broader range because they have the additional training and education of their paramedic program, typically over 1,000 hours, compared to 120-150 hours of training for EMTs.
EMT scope of practice may include:
- EMTs are responsible for patient transfers to other facilities.
- They assist in patient stabilization en route to a hospital.
- They communicate to the hospital the condition and number of incoming patient(s)
- They are trained to use backboard and restraints for patient safety while in transit.
- They are trained to provide CPR.
Paramedic scope of practice may include:
- Paramedics are responsible for patient stabilization en route to a hospital.
- They treat patient injuries or wounds.
- They are trained to assist mothers in emergency births.
- They prioritize medical care for all injured persons at the scene of an accident.
- They are trained to perform tracheotomies.
- They administer IV medications.
- They are trained to decompress collapsed lungs.
- They are trained in applying and using ventilation devices and breathing tubes.
The lists outlining paramedic and EMT scope of practice are a general guide. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that each state defines the scope of training for EMS personnel and will vary. Many states prefer or even require that EMTs and paramedics certify nationally with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREM). Additionally, there is an EMS compact in place with 22 member states. EMS personnel licensed in member states and nationally certified are granted what is called the privilege to practice, which allows them to work across state lines with other member states.
Furthermore, EMTs and paramedics must renew their certifications every two years. EMTs can resume with continuing education hours (40) or the recertification exam. Similarly, paramedics can renew their certification by completing 60 continuing education hours or passing the recertification exam.
How Much Do Paramedics Earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, paramedics earned an average annual salary of $49,500 or $23.80 per hour. Compare that to their EMT counterparts, who made an average salary of $36,690 annually or $17.64.
The top paying sector for paramedics is non-scheduled air transportation, while ambulatory health services have the highest level of paramedic employment within its industry and the highest demand.
The highest paying states on average for paramedics are:
- New Jersey
- District of Columbia
The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) has projected a 17% increase in demand for EMTs and paramedics by the year 2030, which is encouraging for any considering following a paramedic career path but worried about job security. Paramedics can find jobs with an ambulance service, a hospital, a fire department, summer camps, or other children's seasonal programs. They can also work PRN jobs on an as-needed basis for different EMS agencies and hospitals.
Paramedics Can Bridge to Nursing
Paramedics don't have to stay paramedics forever. The medical training and the experience gained in emergency response situations that paramedics have are valuable foundations for a degree in nursing. As a result, paramedic to RN bridge programs allows paramedics to fast track to a degree in nursing. You can learn more about these bridge programs here.