Paramedics and emergency medical technicians are a critical part of the emergency medicine system. Their knowledge, training and experience leads to the prompt action that saves lives every day. Since 9/11, the first responder role has also taken on an element of national defense. Thus, the skills of first responders must be top notch.
Training for emergency medical technicians varies somewhat by state. In general, there are three levels of training: EMT-Basic, EMT-intermediate, and Paramedic. Basic training includes basic first aid plus additional training with some of the more common tools of medical rescue. Intermediate training varies more by state, but it may require as much as 350 hours of additional training over basic training. Paramedic training typically requires a two year program which will yield an Associate’s degree. While basic and intermediate training focus on skills, paramedic training expands to include academic topics such as biology, anatomy and chemistry.
Paramedic employment has many requirements beyond the education and training. All levels require licensing by state agencies for employment. Most employers, whether private or public, require criminal background checks. Prior felony convictions constitute grounds for rejection of an application. Depending on the nature of the crime, misdemeanors may also provide grounds for the rejection of an application. Many employers require US citizenship. Almost all employers also require, and many test for, extraordinary physical fitness.
Despite the rigor of the job requirements, it remains popular. Future prospects for paramedics and emergency medical technicians are expected to keep pace with, but not outgrow, job growth in the overall economy. One trend slowing job growth in the occupation is generally increasing safety in both workplaces and on the highway. Another is population density. The quality of fire and paramedic coverage is often controlled by distance to the incident. As population density rises in cities, fewer paramedics are needed per capita.
For their level of education, paramedics have good opportunities for advancement. Many leave daily practice to become supervisors or managers, both in the public and private sector. Some also advance into union leadership.
Wages for paramedic employment vary significantly depending on education and location. The median wage nationally for paramedics was $14.10 in 2008, or about $28,000 per year. However, the spread of wages is much larger than for many other medical technician occupations, with the highest earners reaching over $23 per hour and nearly $50,000 annually.
Paramedics and emergency medical technicians are the first responders for any emergency, be it personal or national. Rigorous training and background checks make sure they are also the best responders.