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How to Become a Paramedic

Updated on April 23, 2013

Becoming a Paramedic

Becoming a Paramedic takes some hard work and dedication. You will spend a lot of time studying to ensure you completely understand the human body, how it works and how to fix it when it is not working properly. Para-medicine is a very rewarding but often strenuous and stressful career field. To be a successful Paramedic, you must truly love what you do and be very dedicated to doing it to the best of your ability.

Overview of Steps to Become a Paramedic

  1. Graduate from Highschool
  2. Get CPR Certified
  3. Get all of the Vaccinations and Immunizations Necessary
  4. Complete an EMT-Basic Course
  5. Pass your EMT-Basic Certification Test
  6. Work for a few years at the EMT-Basic level (not required, but recommended)
  7. Become ALS Certified
  8. Complete an Approved Paramedic Training Program
  9. Pass your Paramedic Certification Test
  10. Complete Continuing Education to Maintain Certification

EMS Certification Levels

  • Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)
  • Emergency Medical Technician Basic (EMT-B)
  • Advanced Emergency Medical Technician/ Emergency Medical Technician Intermediate (AEMT/EMT-I)
  • Paramedic (P/EMT-p)

EMS Certification Levels

Before you decide you want to become a paramedic, you need to know about the different levels of certification in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS). There are four levels that require different training and certifications.

The lowest level of EMS is the Emergency Medical Responder or EMR. This level of care includes basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Many people in the community and different professions are certified EMRs. This includes teachers, firefighters, police officers, life guards, park rangers and many more.

The lowest level of emergency medical technicians (EMT) is the EMT-Basic. This person has very basic knowledge of basic life support (BLS) and can administer some medications and assist with others.

In between the EMT-B and Paramedic is the EMT-I or Advanced EMT. Each level builds on the previous and those with advanced certification can complete tasks that involve puncturing the skin as basics can not. They are also able to administer a larger range of medications.

The highest level of emergency medical technicians is the Paramedic. Because this is the most advanced level of care in the pre-hospital setting, Paramedics can do what the lower levels can and much more. They are skilled in all aspects of advanced life support.

For a closer look at the difference between the basic EMT and the paramedic, check out EMT vs Paramedic.

Paramedic transporting a patient.
Paramedic transporting a patient. | Source

Paramedic Job Description

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook:

  • Paramedics care for the sick and injured in emergency or pre-hospital medical settings.
  • Respond to 911 calls
  • Assess patient's condition and deliver the proper life-saving medical treatment
  • Transport and deliver patients to the emergency department of a hospital or other health care facilities
  • Fill out paperwork and documentation about patient care that will be kept in the patient's medical files
  • Clean, disinfect and sanitize equipment after use and restock the ambulance for the next call

Requirements to Become a Paramedic

To become a paramedic, the following requirements must be met:

  • 18 years of age or older. Some states require you to be 21 to gain employment as a Paramedic.
  • Possess a current and valid CPR/BLS Certification
  • Have all required immunizations (Varicella, Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis)
  • Possess a current National or State EMT-Basic level certification of higher.
  • Complete a state-approved EMT-Paramedic training course that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Paramedic National Standard Curriculum.
  • Complete Paramedic level clinical rotations
  • Pass the NREMT Paramedic written test. Test must be completed and passed within two years of completing the EMT-Paramedic program.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Paramedic

There is no real, universal answer to this question. It really depends on which route you take to get certified and licensed. The typically answer is about 2 years but this will vary from person to person and by the course you choose to complete. More information is available in the Paramedic Training Courses and Programs section of this article.

Paramedic Training Courses and Programs

There are many different routes to take to become a Paramedic.

  • Online Paramedic Program
  • Local/Community Paramedic Program
  • Community College Certificate of Completion
  • Community College Associates in Para-medicine or related title

All routes can lead to becoming a certified Paramedic and therefore able to have the same job duties. The difference is the cost, completion time and maybe advantages or disadvantages in getting hired.

The specific courses with vary from state to state, so it is best to contact your state EMS representative to find out your state's requirements.

Often times, the online programs are the fastest. You would do all of the course work online and even some simulations. With the ability to go at your own pace, you can put as much time into it each week as you can spare. You would then have to find a local hospital or ambulance service that has a contract with your educator to set up clinical and ambulance rotations. No matter which route you take, you will have to complete these rotations and hands on skills to qualify for the certification exams.

Online courses are not typically looked down upon because the end result is the same- you have been certified to practice emergency medicine. There are few very reputable organizations who offer online courses that I will list in the references.

The para-medicine degree in usually the longest route to take, typically lasting 4 semesters. Some colleges will let you take these courses during the summer, allowing you to finish faster. If not, you will spend around 2 years in paramedic school. However, one of the requirements in most states to attend paramedic classes is to have a current EMT-Basic certification. So, if you are starting from scratch you will need to add the time for that course as well. EMT-Basic certification can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months depending on the individual.

Paramedic Skills

In your training to become a paramedic, there are certain skills you will have to learn and practice regardless of which training route you take.

  • Patient Assessment
  • Ventilatory Management
  • Cardiac Management
  • IV and Medication Skills

Paramedic Continuing Education

Once you have completed an appropriate training course and gained your national or state required certification, you still must complete ongoing education to maintain your ability to practice. Technology and medical techniques are constantly changing as new research finds new and better ways of doing things. This is exactly why continuing education requirements were put into place. The things you learn when you first become and EMS professional may not be the most effective methods 10 or even 5 years later.

Each level of EMS certification has their own requirements on how much continuing education is required to maintain certification.a

For a Paramedic, the continuing education requirements are as follows.

Complete a total of 72 hours of education including:

  • Completion of an approved 48 hour DOT National Standard EMT-Paramedic / Paramedic Refresher

  • Completion of 24 hours of additional continuing EMS related education as outlined below


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    • sleepylog profile image

      Sleepylog 4 years ago from Australia

      I'm so glad to hear it, you really deserve it.

    • Learning in Life profile image

      Megan Sisko 4 years ago from SW Florida

      Well thank you for keeping up with my writing. The apprenticeship program is wonderful. I am developing more as a writer and my earnings are seeing the results of it.

    • sleepylog profile image

      Sleepylog 4 years ago from Australia

      I've been looking forward to a new hub from you and this one doesn't disappoint. Thank you for all the great info, I'm sure anyone wanting to become a paramedic in the states will find it most useful. How is the apprentice program going btw?