But being a paramedic is not all about blood, guts and glory. It's about compassion and caring as you move a patient from one place to another. You'll save a few lives, but you'll make an impression on many more.
There are several levels of EMS training. Although each state is different, here are the most common steps to becoming a paramedic:
- Emergency Medical Technician - Basic training. Before you become a paramedic, you will have to become an emergency medical technician - basic (EMT-B). Some states use different terminology (California calls this level EMT-1), but they are all generally the same.
Don't let the term basic fool you, EMT-Bs learn critical skills to intervene in life-threatening emergencies.
Look for EMT-B training at your local community college, hospital or ambulance service.
- Get a job. EMT-Bs who work for at least a year on an ambulance are better prepared for paramedic training. There are situations that cannot be adequately described and must be experienced. The best time to learn the emergency medical system is prior to being responsible for all aspects of each patient contact.
EMT-basics are certified to attend ambulances. In many states, a special driver's license is also required. Check with your state's department of motor vehicles.
- Take preparatory classes. States require different amounts of training to become a paramedic. Potential paramedic students need to at least complete anatomy & physiology, electrocardiography (ECG), algebra and at least a 10th grade reading comprehension. In most states, paramedic training is considered vocational, with little opportunity to complete two- or four-year degrees. However, there are states - such as Washington - that require a two-year degree as the minimum for paramedic education.
- Enroll in a good-quality paramedic training program. Ask questions and do your homework before you sign up. Find out about a paramedic program's reputation among the other paramedics in the system. Cost is a factor, but there is no true relationship between price and quality for a paramedic class.
Accountability, while scary for struggling students, is necessary to maintain the quality of the paramedics in the system. Seek out a program that holds its students accountable.
- Graduate. Congratulations! Now that you are an EMT-Paramedic, go forth and uphold the high standards that those who came before you have established.
- Other EMS providers are the best resources for information on becoming a paramedic. If you have questions or comments? Post to the Forum!
What You Need
- From $1,000 - 10,000 depending on where you live
- A sense of humor
- An understanding family
- A stethoscope