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Career Overview

At the scene of an emergency, the people who jump out of the ambulance and provide medical care are the paramedics. They provide emergency medical treatment in the field and transport patients to medical facilities.Paramedics, along with police and firefighters, are designated as first responders in emergency situations. When you answer an emergency call, you must race over to the scene and quickly determine what treatments are needed. It's up to you to decide if the patient needs cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), bandages for deep wounds, or any other emergency care you can provide. You have to be fast and decisive in these situations, since the patient's life is in your hands and their condition could worsen if you wait too long. Once you've done everything you can at the scene, you have to secure them in the ambulance and rush off to the hospital to continue treatment. As soon as you pass the patient off to the doctors at the emergency room and brief them on the patient's situation, your job is complete and it's on to the next patient.It takes a lot of courage and strength to rush into an emergency setting and think only of your patient's well-being. It can be intimidating to know that a person's life is in your hands, but it could also be incredibly rewarding. For paramedics, it's hard work, high risk, all for the huge payoff of saving a person's life.

Salaries and Job Outlook*

2013 Median Annual Pay
Number of Jobs in 2013
Projected Growth Rate
15.1 %

Education and Training

Degrees Required:
Associate's Degree in Emergency Medical Technology, or related fields (Optional) Postsecondary Programs in Emergency Medical Technology State License

How far you need to go in your education depends on the career you want. All paramedics start as emergency medical technicians, or EMTs. To become an EMT, you must complete a postsecondary program that deals will teach you the basics of emergency medical response. From there, you must then pursue an advanced EMT program, where you will learn even more complex medical procedures and handle advanced equipment. Finally, once you've completed both of these programs, one more round of advanced medical programs is needed before you can become a paramedic. With all these programs under your belt, it'd be very easy to complete your associate's degree, but it's ultimately up to you.You must also be ready to take licensing exams and qualifications before you can begin work. You may choose to seek national certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), and may sometimes satisfy state licensing requirements. But for the most part, each state has different license requirements so be sure to check the license requirements for the state you live in.

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Valued Traits & Abilities

Problem-Solving Skills
Communication Skills
Decision-Making Skills

Career Opportunities

In terms of medical emergency responders, paramedics are pretty much the cream of the crop. EMTs and ambulance drivers often work under paramedics, so there's a limited number of other career options for paramedics. However, some enjoy the pressure of medical emergencies, but not always the stress of transporting patients or entering the scene of an emergency. If that sounds more like you, then you might like to explore some other emergency career options.

Emergency Room Technician

Some paramedics might choose a little less stressful position, so they become emergency room technicians. They have all the same tasks and work at the same skill level, except in an emergency room setting instead of an ambulance. They also assist emergency room physicians with basic tasks and support them in major situations.

Work Environment

Just like the job itself, your work schedule can be a little hectic and unpredictable. Most weeks, you'll end up clocking in well over 40 hours with more than just a couple 12 hour shifts. Emergencies could happen at any time, so you might even get called in at any time, even during weekends or holidays.Working can easily become very stressful, given the nature of the job. A strong will and decisive mindset is absolutely necessary, since you will be fully responsible for a person's life. You're also opening yourself up to potential injuries and illnesses, so you must be completely aware that every day on the job is a risk.

* Source: BLS Data - 2013