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Increasing your career options with more education

Due to on-the-job injury, family demands or burnout, many EMS professionals eventually need to find work outside of EMS

In a recent article on unemployment and education, experts in employment and job placement explain that unemployment levels among job seekers with college diplomas is half that for those with only a high school diploma.

In his March column, Dr. David Ross shared his opinions about the value of a college degree for paramedics, especially in advancing their EMS careers. While I share some of Dr. Ross's misgivings about the worthiness of a degree, it increases options for a career outside of or after EMS.

The reality is that due to on-the-job injury, family demands or burnout, many EMS professionals eventually need to find work outside of EMS. There are simply fewer and fewer opportunities for workers who lack specialized vocational training, an associate's degree or a four-year college degree.

If — not when, as the politicians like to promise — manufacturing jobs return to the United States, they will require skills, knowledge and initiative beyond what was obtained in high school or the back of the ambulance.

There is probably never a "good" time to go back to school or get started with more education, so you simply need to begin. Here's how:

  1. Research other fields. EMS professionals visit a variety of workplaces to pick up patients. Is there a business sector that draws your interest? Find out more about the work in those industries. Visit employers' career websites to learn about the minimum qualifications and skills for job applicants.
  2. Identify general education requirements, the foundation of any degree program, by talking to an admissions officer at your local community college or public four-year college. You will almost certainly need coursework in math, communication and science.
  3. Save money for tuition and books. As Dr. Ross said, the costs of college are rapidly rising and being burdened with debt could hamper your options for decades to come. Start saving and looking for scholarship opportunities, and aim to avoid loans to finance a college degree.
  4. Start with a single general education requirement that could apply to any degree path. Use that course to develop studying and time-management habits that will help you complete other courses in the years to come.

As leadership of the profession continues to transition from physicians and nurses to paramedics with undergraduate and graduate degrees, more EMS career pathways will evolve.

Will you use a college education to prepare yourself for a long career in EMS or one outside of EMS? 

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