How to Become an Air Evac Paramedic

Find out how to become an air evac paramedic. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career as an air evac paramedic.

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Do I Want to Be an Air Evac Paramedic?

Air evacuation paramedics ride in medical helicopters, using advanced life-support and emergency response procedures to treat emergency medical patients during their transport to a medical facility. This work can be physically demanding, requiring the lifting or other movement of patients during transport. Also, these emergency medical personnel can be required to work long hours, sometimes even overnight.

The median annual pay for all paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) was below the national average for all other occupations in May 2012. However, they can expect to see the number of job opportunities increase a substantial amount - 36% between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Requirements

Air evac paramedics start out as EMTs responding to emergency calls. After gaining experience, they take paramedic training and obtain paramedic certification. To become an air evac paramedic, individuals must then take air medical crew training to learn about the health and safety issues associated with air transport of injured or sick patients. The following table describes the general requirements to become an air evac paramedic:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Associate degree or certificate degree**
Degree Field(s) Paramedic*
Licensure All states required paramedics to be licensed*
Certification EMT Paramedic /Paramedic certification*
Experience 5 years***
Additional Requirements Vaccinations (or immunity) tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (TDaP) within the past 10 years, measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), hepatitis B series must be completed, varicella (Chicken pox), tuberculin skin test (PPD or Quantiferon-TB Gold)**, pass criminal background check*

Sources: *National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), **Paramedic degree/certificate programs, ***Air evac paramedic job listings (September 2012).

Step 1: Obtain Basic Life Support and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Certification

Prospective air evac paramedics may begin their training by obtaining the Basic Life Support (BLS) and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certifications. These can be acquired in single-session classes that students can attend while still in high school.

Step 2: Complete Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Training

An EMT-Basic certificate may be obtained by attending a training program at a community, technical or vocational college. This program provides classroom instruction and practical experience in basic life support, lifting and moving patients, patient assessment, airway management and ambulance operations. Advanced courses teach students about managing trauma and severe injuries, as well as about medical conditions involving substance abuse, allergic responses and other life-threatening medical events.

Step 3: Obtain Required EMT Experience

Paramedic programs often require applicants to work for at least a year as a certified emergency medical technician in an emergency response situation. You can satisfy this requirement by working as an EMT on an emergency response team.

Step 4: Complete Paramedic Training and Certification

Paramedics must complete a minimum of 1,200 hours of training before qualifying to take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) examination. The roughly 7-month paramedic training program consists of classroom study, supervised clinical rotations and a supervised internship with an emergency response crew. Coursework covers anatomy, physiology, patient assessment, pharmacology, medical complaints and treatment modalities. Clinical rotations are served in emergency departments, anesthesiology and other departments treating critical care patients.

Upon program completion, individuals are eligible for national certification as an EMT paramedic or paramedic. This involves a written examination testing knowledge such as patient airway, trauma, cardiology, medical and emergency operations for adult and pediatric patients. There is also a hands-on test involving patient assessment, trauma, ventilatory management, cardiac management, medical and communication skills.

Success Tip

  • Verify state certification requirements. Many states accept NREMT certification at the time the job applicant applies for a state license or certification. Applicants should verify if NREMT certification meets their state's licensing and or certification requirements.

Step 5: Obtain Air Medical Crew Education Credential

Paramedics who serve on air evac ambulance transports need to complete a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved Air Medical Crew education program. This is a 4-day, 32-hour class that addresses the esoteric issues associated with different aircraft, including aircraft and landing zone safety procedures and preventing crew error. The course covers specialized medical training addressing the physiological needs of patients treated at altitude and proper patient management during aircraft transport.

Success Tip

  • Obtain advanced life support certifications. Air evacuation ambulance services generally require their paramedics to have certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Pediatric Pre-Hospital (PEPP), Pre-hospital Trauma Life Support (PHTLS), Basic Trauma Life Support (BTLS) and/or Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP). They also often require applicants to have a minimum of five years paramedic emergency response experience, preferably in an urban setting.
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