What is the job of a paramedic and what are the requirements for certification?
Paramedic training is intense and rigorous, but the rewards of serving others can be tremendous
The requirements to be a paramedic are extremely rigorous, so it’s not an undertaking or a career choice to be taken lightly. A paramedic is the highest level of EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certification. A paramedic's job is to perform advanced life support (ALS), which includes administering IV fluids, injections, medications and performing advanced respiratory procedures. A paramedic also performs many of the same functions as a basic EMT, such as treating wounds, performing CPR, delivering babies, and performing patient assessments.
Paramedics are often the lead member of a rescue team, with the most training and the most decision making power. This means that the requirements to be a paramedic include strong leadership skills and the ability to perform complex life-saving functions in extremely stressful crisis situations. The job of a paramedic is to keep a cool head and maintain authority amongst his or her team members in situations where a mistake can mean the difference between life and death.
Become an EMT
The first of the training requirements to be a paramedic is to get certified as an EMT-B, which is the first and most basic level of EMT training. The EMT-B training is available through many community colleges and other institutions. It usually takes about six months to complete the 120 to 150 hours of training. After that, you take a state certification test.
As an EMT, you can be employed providing emergency treatment in ambulances and many other venues. Most people work as EMTs for a couple of years to get some experience before undergoing the additional 1,200 to 1,800 hours of training to become a paramedic. Some paramedic programs require you to have worked as an EMT for six months or so before gaining entrance.
[Learn more: Advancing from EMT to paramedic]
The education of a paramedic
The educational requirements to be a paramedic are rigorous. Many community colleges have two-year degree programs in paramedic training. Oftentimes there’s a pre-requisite of college-level biology, math and English in order to be accepted in a paramedic program. The curriculum consists of both classroom training and clinical training at hospitals, ambulance companies and fire departments. A paramedic trainee studies anatomy and physiology, as well as courses such as advanced life support, advanced pediatric life support, and basic trauma life support.
Testing for your paramedic license
After you’ve completed the required training, the final step in fulfilling the requirements to be a paramedic is to take your state’s licensing examination. It’s a difficult test, but there are many great study guides to help you pass it. Once you have the certification, you’ll have more paramedic job opportunities than as a basic EMT, plus you’ll make a higher salary and have more responsibility. You can work in a fire station, on a life support helicopter, in a hospital, on a cruise ship or in a wide variety of other exciting venues.
While the requirements to be a paramedic are arduous, the work itself can be extremely rewarding. Being a paramedic requires a dedication to the job that makes it more of an avocation than a vocation. It definitely isn’t the right choice for everybody, but for many, it’s the job of a lifetime.
This article, originally published on Sept. 13, 2016, has been updated.