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Your Life Depends on It: The Average US Paramedic Salary

Updated on November 8, 2012

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

If you’re injured in a car accident or suffer a heart attack at home, you can depend on paramedics to provide emergency services and rush you to a hospital, where doctors can treat your medical conditions. These emergency workers are often the first helpers to arrive on the scene. Their average U.S. salaries vary by employers and locations.


The primary responsibility of paramedics, who are also known as EMTs or emergency management technicians, is to stabilize an injured person so doctors can treat him at medical facilities. They respond to 911 calls for help and must quickly assess patient conditions. Then, they determine a treatment, which can include bandaging a wound, administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and dispensing medications.

As of May 2011, paramedics averaged $34,030 per year, or $16.36, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Annual salaries rose fell below $19,880 or rose above $53,050, which equaled an hourly range of $9.56 to $25.50.


Paramedics receive three levels of formal training in classrooms, hospitals and ambulances.

  • EMT-Basic introduces medical treatment and how to assess patient conditions in about 100 hours. It teaches the use of mobile equipment, dealing with cardiac and traumatic emergencies, and clearing obstructed airways.
  • EMT-Intermediate requires 1,000 hours for learning complex equipment, intravenous fluids and the use of some medications.
  • Paramedics need 1,300 hours, which may take up to two years to complete. This level of education includes stitching wounds and administering medications intravenously.

All states mandate a license before any level of EMT can practice, which typically requires the educational background and passing an exam with written and practical components. Many states grant the license only to those without a criminal background.


Almost half of the nation’s 229,340 paramedics worked for other ambulatory health care services, such as ambulance companies, where they made a mean $30,980 per year, or $14.90 per hour.

  • Local government contained a third of the positions, averaging an annual $38,400, or $18.46 hourly.
  • The highest wages were in support activities for mining at a mean $59,770 yearly, or $28.74 per hour.
  • Other heavy and civil engineering ranked second for pay at a mean $51,720 per year, or $24.86 per hour.


Areas with large populations boasted the best opportunities for paramedics:

  • The two most populous states of California and Texas showed the most jobs at 16,110 and 14,630 respectively. Average pay in the Golden State was $36,490 yearly, or $17.54 hourly, while the Panhandle State showed means of $31,910 annually, or $15.34 hourly.
  • The third most populous city of Chicago, Illinois, held the most positions of any metro area, at 8,600, with mean wages of $50,900 yearly, or $24.47 hourly. The most populous city of New York ranked second with 7,590 paramedics averaging an annual $39,910, or $19.19 per hour.
  • For rural areas, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, had 470 jobs at a mean $23,000 per year, or $11.06 per hour. Lake Havasu City, Arizona, was nest with 310 positions averaging an annual $30,360, or $14.59 hourly.

As for highest pay, the District of Columbia topped the state list with means of $50,140 per year, or $24.11 per hour. For cities, it was Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, averaging an annual $68,050, or $32.71 per hour. And in rural areas, Southwest Alaska was on top with mean pay at $60,290 yearly, or $28.99 hourly.


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    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      I echo the feelings here! Paramedics ought to be paid much better considering the nature of their job. And the disparity in salaries in different states is also too much.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Good Evening Alocsin - Very interesting and surprising salary information. Considering the amount of training required, the emotional stress and the medical importance of what they do, I am very surprised at the salaries. Another interesting and well-written hub. :) Sharing.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      It's rather shocking, Sunshine625, that these people who save lives do so for such little money.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Paramedics are grossly underpaid. A "professional athlete" makes millions while a "professional EMT" makes thousands, if not hundreds. That irks me. My nephew is an EMT in Detriot and the stories he can tell are mind-blowing.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      It's surprising, Learning in Life, that the salaries for such an important job are so low. I was rather surprised when I found out. Sorry that you can't find a job in Texas -- it would seem to be that a high-population state would have good employment for your profession, bad that doesn't seem to be the case.

    • Learning in Life profile image

      Megan Sisko 5 years ago from SW Florida

      I am actually a certified EMT-B and I have a hard time finding a job in Texas. I'm even a veteran! The pay is pretty low for the responsibility that medics have but most of us don't do it for the money. It's more of a calling.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 5 years ago from Midwest

      Wow! I am really surprised at the salary of EMT's. For all of the life saving they do I would have thought that would make more.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      They certainly have to undergo a lot of training for this important job, that is good. I think the wage is low, but then probably compensated by breaks on housing and such. It is no wonder that in DC they are paid higher, the area is quite congested and the need is higher in these places. Another interesting and educational read.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      The first person to have contact with a victim in an emergency....which could very well mean the difference between life and death or less damage, as opposed to simply does not appear these medics are paid nearly enough! These men and women go through extensive training and education to do what they do. Handling emergency situations takes very special qualities and talents... Compared to some other occupations, not nearly as important, this pay is unacceptable........UP+++

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Aurelio,

      I also am amazed that the EMT's do not make more money. As you said...our lives depend upon their quick and efficient assessment and accurate emergency care. Postal workers delivering our mail undoubtedly earn more. Crazy! Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Voted up and interesting.

      I know many who have trained to become E.M.T.s. Most don't stay in the business. The work is just too hard. Most matriculate into more lucrative careers. E.M.T. on your medical school app is amazing. I asked one friend how her son and daughter- in- law and son- in- law survive on what they make as E.M.T.s. She replied,"Overtime". Overtime is time in a half or double time and they work several hours of overtime a week. It is still hard work anyway you look at it.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      I cannot imagine they make so little and have so much responsibility. Lots of training also. thanks for all the great information.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Another great hub filled with details about the EMTs' job. I agree with the other two comments that they deserve more (in some states) for the important job they do. Voted Up and Useful.

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 5 years ago from California, United States of America

      Interesting info. Considering areas where they work and pay rate, that really is low pay. Funny, I just posted my facebook status saying to take care of the care takers or there will be no care left. This comes from my personal knowledge that the jobs involving taking care of people pay the least; I have worked in such a field for many years now and the pay has always been low and the work too much. Anyway, thanks for the valuable and interesting information.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am blown away by how little they make for a salary. This is such an important job; seems to me the wage should be considerably higher.

      Great info once again!