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Paramedic Career Options, Duties and Responsibilities

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a paramedic. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification options to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Paramedics provide medical attention to ill or injured individuals on emergency scenes. They are the highest level of emergency medical technicians and working as a paramedic most often requires the completion of a certificate or associate's degree programs. All paramedics must be certified; many states accept the certification available through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). Paramedics work in paid positions or on a voluntary basis for emergency medical services, fire departments, police departments and other organizations.

Required Education Completion of a paramedic training programs; many such programs lead to the award of a certificate or associate's degree
Certification Licensing required in all states; many states use the certification exam proctored by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT)
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 23% for emergency medical technicians and paramedics*
Median Salary (May 2012) $31,020 for emergency medical technicians and paramedics*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options for Paramedics

Paramedics are high-level emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Paramedics working in metropolitan areas typically work in conjunction with ambulance services, hospitals and local government. Paramedics in rural areas typically work on a volunteer basis in conjunction with local emergency services, fire departments and hospitals. Employment opportunities are best for paramedics who have received advanced training. Advanced training may include continuing education.

Paramedics can also work as managers, supervisors and directors of emergency services. Although additional training is required, many nurses and doctors often start out as paramedics.

Duties and Responsibilities

What paramedics are allowed to do varies by individual states. Paramedics often work with police and firefighters on emergency scenes to provide immediate medical attention to sick or injured individuals. Paramedics examine the condition of the patient while on the scene; administer oral and intravenous medications if necessary; operate heart monitors, defibrillators and other equipment; transport patients to medical facilities and interpret readings recorded by heart monitoring devices. They also perform endotracheal procedures and relay important information to emergency room staff. Paramedics must clean any areas that may have become contaminated from patients with communicable diseases, check to make sure equipment is functioning properly before being called out to the next emergency, replace used supplies and make a record of the entire trip.

Paramedics often work in team environments. One paramedic may drive the ambulance while another paramedic tends to the medical needs of the injured individual en route to the hospital or medical facility. Paramedics may also work with helicopter flight crews, helping to transport seriously ill or injured patients to nearby trauma centers. Because emergency medical services and facilities operate round-the-clock, many paramedics are required to work overtime and commit to evening and weekend hours.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics