Career as a Paramedic
By Diane Turner
Paramedics are professionals in the allied health sector and they are trained to provide emergency health care. As a paramedic, you are a trained to handle different emergency situations and transport patients and injured individuals to healthcare facilities. Paramedics handle complex situations therefore need to be knowledgeable on certain medical procedures. In other words, they are the bridge between the health care system and those in need.
This is a noble profession and one that requires analytical thinking. Paramedics work with emergencies. Their duties are therefore fast paced and as aparamedic the decisions you make could save or destroy the live of a person, every second counts. If you are thinking of becoming a paramedic, it is important that you enroll for a paramedic course and there are various programs for this occupation. The difference between paramedic and an EMT or Emergency Medical Technician is in their level of education. While you can become an EMT with a diploma, in order to acquire the title paramedic, you need to have a certificate orassociates’ diploma. Most paramedic employers prefer to hire paramedics with an associate degree because the training is much more detailed and being a medical profession, the need for highly trained personnel is required.
Paramedic education varies and will depend on where you come from. The training programs are not as involving as other medical professions and you could enroll for an eight month course, a two year associate’s degree or a four year bachelors program. Though the most common program to study is the associate’sdegree, it is important to realize that job prospects increase with the bachelor’s degree and you might want to consider pursuing that level of education. Regardless of the study program you choose to partake, all study courses still have to meet the national standard curriculum for the profession and you will need to sit for the NREMT exam known in full as the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. All paramedics must be certified and this is regardless of the state you come from. Some of the topics students learn in paramedic programs include airway control, trauma emergency handling, special needs patient care, pharmacology, human anatomy, physiology and management of medical emergencies. Paramedics must take refresher courses so as to maintain their certification. The reason why these continuing medical trainings are important is because they enable paramedics to learn about the new advances in terms of technology used in ambulances, advanced patient handling skills and procedures. Besides being certified paramedics, it is required that most of them get certification in pediatric pre-hospital care, pediatric advanced life support, advanced cardiac life support and pre-hospital trauma life support. These requirements come with additional educational and certification is provided by organizations like the American Heart Association.
One of the most discouraging aspects of paramedic education is that university model education is not thriving. Though there are paramedic courses provided at community college level, universities are still yet to fully provide paramedic education. There are also major disparities in terms of the education provided and there is debate as to who can be called a paramedic. Students may train for only 120 hours, while others will undergo a four year training course yet both will still bear the title paramedic. It is such disparities that have led the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) and the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) to create national standards for the profession with a common exam. Unfortunately, this licensing exam is yet to be accepted by all states with only 40 states supporting the certification exam. That said, paramedics still remain as the most highly skilled in the emergency medical technician profession. This means that as a paramedic, you can perform more duties than the average EMT and consequently the average paramedic salary is more than that of an EMT.
When it comes to assessment, paramedicscan interpret EKG readings and provide analysis on blood chemistry amongst other duties. Emergency response units get many patients who have breathing problems and as a paramedic, duties such as chest tube monitoring, endotracheal intubation, needle thoracentesis, laryngoscopy and others all fall within your specialty. Paramedics can also monitor central line and administer emergency medication to improve the state of the patient. The drugs a paramedic can administer to the patient are subject to area of practice since some jurisdictions do not allow paramedics to administer certain drugs or even provide certain medical services. It is therefore important that you identify what your certification allows.
As a paramedic, you can be employed in various sectors and these include both private and public emergency sectors. Some of the major employers of paramedics are ambulatory services, police departments, hospitals, EMS agencies, fire departments, law enforcement agencies and some private practices as well. Paramedics are not just restricted to ambulances and could respond with rescue vehicles, motorcycles and fire tracks as well. They can also specialize as critical care transporters and in this sector they are tasked with moving patients to and from scenes of emergency and medical treatment areas. These type of paramedics provide more care and they can facilitate blood transfusions, mechanical ventilators and intra-aortic balloon pumps as well. Mostly such paramedics have nursing qualifications and most of the timethey work with registered nurses. Law enforcement teams can also employ tactical paramedics and these medics are commissioned from EMS agencies. They are usually trained by the law enforcement unit in addition to their paramedic training and provide medical care to injured innocent parties, law enforcement officers and suspects as well. Last but not least, you could be a hospital paramedic providing both outpatient and inpatient care. These paramedics not only provide emergency care but can also analyze and interpret lab results. They administer drugs and intravenous therapy and also transport patients from one department to another. These inpatient paramedics are considered a part of the medical team and work closely with radiologists and anesthesiologists in ICUs and other departments within the hospital.
As you can see, paramedics are not just emergency care providers who ride from one emergency scene to the next. Hospitals are now accommodating more and more of these professionals in an inpatient setting.
Paramedic Average Salary
The average salary for a paramedic is $54,000 and their salaries are about 20% more than whatEMTs earn.
Paramedic Salary Factors and Influences
As a paramedic, the amount of money you earn is subject to a number of factors and some of these are experience, level of education, employment sector and location just to mention a few. Below we discuss how these factors influence the salary of a paramedic.
Experience always determines how much you earn in any profession and as paramedic you should expect a starting salary that is way less than the $54,000 which is the average paramedic salary. 36% of paramedics are new to their profession with less than 2 years experience. 23% of paramedics have two to five years experience while 17% have been working for five to 10 years in this profession. Paramedics with 10-15 years experience make up 11% of the workforce and 13% have over 15 years experience. You can therefore expect that paramedics who have been employed for a longer time to earn more. Those that carry over 10 years working experience can be found in supervisory and managerial roles. Most starting level paramedics earn in the range $28,000 to $50,000 with the experienced ones earning between $50,000 and $70,000.
Area of employment also works to determine the salary range a paramedic receives. It is difficult to identify exactly how many paramedics are in the US since there is no current data on their number but records form 2010 indicate that there were 75,400 paramedics. Different employment sectors provide different remuneration packages and though hospitals are amongst the top employers in this profession, they are not necessarily the top paying employers. You therefore need to identify sectors that provide better salaries.
Education is important and though paramedics are yet to standardize their education, there paramedics who have attained master’s degrees and doctorate level education. Such paramedics can be found in EMS agencies mostly in managerial positions and earn quite well. 37% of paramedics have an associate’s degree which as we mentioned earlier isone of the popular degrees with this profession. Those holding bachelor’s degrees make up 17% of the paramedic population and a few 3% have master’s degrees and only 1% have doctorates in paramedics.
Location also matters some of the best paying states for paramedics are New York, D.C, and California. These top states pay their paramedics more than the national average but their standards of living are also higher so you need to put all things into consideration before moving. Some of the worst places to work as a paramedic include: Oklahoma, Mississippi and Hawaii. The salary of a paramedic in these states is below the national average.
Paramedic Salary Compared To Related Fields
Is it worth it becoming a paramedic and how do their salaries compare to those in similar professions? We provide a comparison below.
Average Salary for Physician Assistant: $71,000
Average Salary for Registered Nurses: $81,000
Average Salary for Search and Rescue Team: $74,000
Average Salary for EMTs: $33,000
Average Salary for Firefighters: $59,000
Paramedic Salary by State
Like all other professions, paramedics are paid differently from state to state. Below arefigures on how much you can earn as a paramedic in the following states:
Paramedic Salary in New York: $63,000
Paramedic Salary in District of Columbia: $61,000
Paramedic Salary in California: $59,000
Paramedic salary Illinois: $57,000
Paramedic Salary in Indiana: $54,000
Paramedic Salary in Texas: $51,000
Paramedic Salary in Florida: $51,000
Paramedic salary in Wyoming: $50,000
Paramedic Salary in Arizona: $47,000
Paramedic Salary in Hawaii: $38,000
Paramedic Types of Salaries
As we mentioned above, there are different types of paramedics and each of them comes with unique duties only they can assume and different salaries as well.
Critical Care Paramedics Average Salary: $39,000
Critical care paramedics also known critical care transporters are highly skilled paramedics who as the name suggest provide care in critical conditions. They often work with other medical professionals and are allowed to provide more health services than the average paramedic.
Firefighter Paramedic Average Salary: 55,000
Firefighter paramedics are a part of the firefighting departmentand provide medical emergency care to persons injured or harmed during a fire.
EMS Paramedics Average Salary: $42,000
EMS paramedics are employed by EMS agencies also known as Emergency Medical Services. These paramedics are paid above the national average salary of a paramedic.
Flight Paramedics Average Salary: $68,000
Flight paramedics work with flighthealth service crews and often fly to locations that are not easily accessible. Usually flight paramedics are transported by helicopters or air rescue planes.
Hospital Paramedic Average Salary: $68,000
Hospital paramedics are employed by hospitals. They not only work with the hospital ambulance but can also be employed as part of the inpatient staff working in wards and the ICU. Since they perform more duties than the average paramedic, they are paid better.
Tactical Team Paramedics Average Salary: $51,000
Tactical team paramedics work in conjunction with law enforcement teams such as SWAT. They work with these tactical teams and provide care for those injured during the team’s line of work.
History of Paramedics
Paramedics haven’t always been known by that name. They were popularly known as ambulance attendees and these professionals only had training in first aid. The first ever paramedic team in the US consisted of unemployed African-American males who first begun undergoing trainingin this profession in 1967. Experimental programs soon began popping up in Los Angeles, Washington, California, Florida and Miami being amongst the first areas to produce pilot paramedic programs. The programs were mainly for firefighters and they were trained to perform emergency medical care before transporting the injured to hospital. Though this concept was largely opposed by fire department administrators, it soon became accepted as Seattle and Washington firefighters were trained to perform CPR on fire victims in 1970. The first ever paramedic crew to provide invasive care were Miami firefighters. To date, these two have since split and thought there are still firefighter paramedics, this is now an independent profession and even medical experts use a paramedic point of view in their search for better care.
Paramedic Salary Outlook – Conclusion
Paramedics and other emergency care technicians are expected to experience a phenomenal growth of 33% by the year 2020. There is not only demand for paramedics in metropolitan areas but rural areas as well.
With technology improving medical equipment in ambulances, you can expect advanced care for these professionals whose main agenda is to provide emergency health care in every situation. Their career prospects are bright and there can only be growth not only in the number of paramedics in the country but their salaries as well. Currently the salary for a paramedic is $54,000.