Paramedic Career Guide: Job Description, Qualifications & Career Prospects

November 28, 2013

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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From car accidents and house fires to medical emergencies of all types, no matter what the cause or circumstances, when there is an emergency, lives are at stake and immediate action is the only way to avert a disaster.
Paramedics and emergency medical technicians are often the first to arrive at the scene of any emergency and the last line of defence against sure tragedy. This is a job where the pressure is tremendous and you need to have nerves of steel to think calmly and quickly and take snap decisions that can make the difference between life and death.  In such situations, it is not an exaggeration to say that people’s lives depend on the speedy, efficient care provided by emergency paramedics and emergency medical technicians EMTs.
Responding to incidents that range from heart attacks and strokes to road accidents and gunshot wounds, EMTs and paramedics care for the critically injured and wounded, while transporting them as quickly and as safely as possible to the closest medical facility. Paramedics and emergency medical technicians often work alongside firefighters and police officers to provide the best all-around care in emergency situations. They typically work in teams, so one person can drive while the other continues to provide crucial emergency care to the patient.
Within the paramedic speciality, there are three general designations – EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and Paramedic. Each of these designations has its own training requirements and responsibilities.
EMT-Basic and EMT-Intermediate are trained to provide on-scene care and to transport the patient to a medical facility. EMT-Intermediate is expected to take on a larger role with more responsibilities.
Paramedics are trained to provide supplementary pre-hospital care, which includes interpreting EKGs, administering medications and operating advanced, complex equipment.

Paramedic Training

To be eligible for admission to most formal emergency medical technician training programs, the minimum qualification you need to have is a high school diploma. Training varies depending on the professional level desired.
Training for EMT-Basic covers key emergency skills such as general patient assessment and handling patients suffering from trauma, cardiac arrest or respiratory emergencies. Classroom theory coursework is complemented by hands-on experience in an ambulance or emergency facility. Students familiarize themselves with basic emergency equipment such as stretchers, backboards and oxygen delivery systems.
Students at the EMT-Intermediate level learn all the material covered in the EMT-Basic program, with additional skills such as using airway devices and handling intravenous fluids. Training may vary from one state to another, but the national standards require students to complete between 30 to 350 hours of classroom and hands-on training depending on the program.
Paramedics receive advanced training, with greater emphasis on areas such as anatomy, physiology and advanced medical skills. Paramedic programs typically take 1 to 2 years to complete, and often result in an associate’s degree. Students are required to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians examination before they can become certified paramedics.

Paramedic Salary

The average annual salary for paramedics and EMTs is approximately $30,710 with $19,980 at the lower end to $53,050 at the higher end of the scale.  The highest paid professionals work in the metropolitan areas of Alaska, Washington, Coeur d’Alene, Tacoma, Anchorage and Idaho.
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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.