A paramedic career begins with EMT training, available in all 50 states, Canada and the UK. Each country has its specific method and levels of instruction, and the training is intense. Many other countries also have EMT training, and whether referring to it as EMS (emergency medical services) or referring to their EMS personnel by other titles, the training level can be very different. Thus the following details on this site refer more to training within the US and Canada, though much is parallel to the UK and other countries. Furthermore, while countries can vary when it comes to training and certification requirements, the recognition of EMS certification is taken into account by all countries when hiring both nationally and internationally.
Education and Prerequisites
The educational requirement to entering EMS courses is a high school degree or GED, and often completion of a Math and English entrance exam is necessary. A training school or EMS courses or program will also have (at least) these entrance requirements:
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- High school diploma or GED
- 18 years of age
- Oral interview
- Drug test, including screening for tuberculosis and hepatitis B
- Pass a physical examination
- Background Check
Training Levels Required
Once you are accepted into the paramedic program you will need to complete 3 levels of training in order to advance to paramedic training.
- First Responder: A First Responder has completed an approved course consisting of basic first aid classroom work as well as hands-on fieldwork.
- The next level of certification is Basic EMT certification. This is usually the entry level, designed to provide training in order to help you enter the workforce in a relatively short period of time. Basic consists of approximately 200 additional hours of EMS courses, including “on the job” training. It qualifies you to assess patient needs and administer certain types of medications.
- EMT-I/85 (lower level intermediate) and EMT-I/99 (higher level intermediate) are the next levels. This consists of approximately 250-300 hours of field work (though EMS courses range from 200-400 hours), and provides skills needed for patient care at the next level of assistance.
While EMS course programs will vary in calendar length, advanced paramedic courses are usually months long in duration and will take up to 2 years for completion by paramedics in an Associate Degree program.
An EMT certificate allows you to advance towards the next level, that of paramedic training. Paramedic courses allow you to perform pre-hospital care on patients. This level, like the EMT-Intermediate level, entails a different set of requirements in every state and country.
Seasoned EMS personnel makes for better paramedics and the education you receive is crucial towards becoming a skilled and qualified paramedic. In fact, because a paramedic is an advancedEMT Basic, much of the expertise required to be a good medic will be acquired at the basic level and then enhanced in paramedic training. Thus it makes sense that paramedic classes begin with the reinforcement of basic EMS skills.
Paramedic training continues with EMS courses such as; CPR, Defensive Driving, Pharmacology, Cardiology, EMT System Management, Disease Control, First Aid, Advanced Life Support (including Pediatric), Medical Terminologies, Basic Anatomy and Physiology and their respective labs, Psychology of Aging, Geriatric Education for Emergency Medical Services, and Neonatal Resuscitation. Certification for areas such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support (PHTLS) and Pediatric Emergency Pre-Hospital Provider (PEPP) certification are often included.
When advancing from EMT basic training to paramedic, be sure to make note of your state’s requirements, especially if you have trained in one state or country and are looking to certify or continue your education in another. Training can and does vary state to state and country to country.
Currently 46 states in the U.S. require passing the NREMT exam in order to be certified.
Keep in mind you could pursue online paramedic schools and EMT paramedic training courses online. In order to be certified, you will still be required to attend and pass clinicals and participate in hands-on EMT courses.
Once paramedic training courses are completed, specific requirements are necessary in order to be certified as a paramedic. Within the U.S. the following requirements are necessary in order to be certificated as a paramedic:
- Acquire a current National Certification at the EMT-Basic level or current state certification at the EMT-Basic level or higher.
- Completion and certification of a state-approved EMT-Paramedic school/Paramedic course that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Paramedic National Standard Curriculum. You must have completed the course within the past two years. Verification of your successful completion of the course on the NREMT web site is required and this is usually done through your paramedic school program director.
- If your initial Paramedic training program was completed more than two years ago and you have maintained a state license at the EMT-Paramedic/Paramedic level, you must submit documentation confirming completion of a EMT Paramedic refresher training course within the past two years. If your initial Paramedic training program was completed more than two years ago and you never gained state licensure at the Paramedic level, you must complete a state-approved EMT Paramedic training program prior to applying for certification.
- Verification from the paramedic school program director that you hold current CPR certification and have demonstrated competence in Paramedic skills.
In addition, to be successful as a paramedic you must be able to lift heavy objects, work indoors and outside, and be prepared to work unusual hours and schedules. Due to the 24 hour nature of the job you could most likely work over 40 hours a week, rotating shifts, and weekends. Nonetheless, the hours are often guaranteed and the position secure. Better than that, a career as a paramedic is considered one of the most rewarding in the field of health care.