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What Schooling Do I Need to Become a Paramedic?

Paramedics are required to go through a 3-part series of training before reaching paramedic status. These three levels include Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and Paramedic training. Paramedics must also pass a 2-part certification exam that covers topics such as breathing, medication, emergency medical services operations and cardiac management.

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Educational Requirements for Paramedics

EMT-Basic Program

Paramedics are emergency medical technicians (EMTs) that must go through a series of training levels before becoming certified. The first level, known as EMT-Basic, highlights training in trauma, respiratory management, patient assessment and cardiac emergencies. Courses typically deal with topics such as fractures, bleeding, cardiac arrest and airway obstruction.

EMT-Basic students often spend time training in ambulances or hospital emergency departments. In order to become certified, EMT-Basic students must pass a test administered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) or by the state in which they reside.

EMT-Intermediate Program

The second level of EMT training, known as an EMT-Intermediate program, includes topics in intravenous fluids, medication and airway devices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this level requires students to complete between 30 and 350 hours of training, which varies widely by state and scope of practice (www.bls.gov). EMT-Basic certification is often a requirement for entrance into an EMT-Intermediate program.

Paramedic Program

The third and final level of training prepares graduates to become paramedics. Coursework at this level often focuses on advanced topics in emergency medical technology. Training typically takes place at technical or community colleges. Students often earn an associate's degree in emergency medical technology, but paramedic certificate programs also exist.

The paramedic program prepares students to take the certification exam administered by the state or by the NREMT. Certification for paramedics is a requirement in the United States, although criteria vary by state. Prerequisites for a paramedic program often include EMT-Basic and EMT-Intermediate certification.

Paramedic Certification Process

The certification or license process for paramedics consists of two examinations: the cognitive exam and the psychomotor exam. The cognitive exam covers topics such as breathing, pediatrics, trauma, obstetrics and emergency medical services operations. The psychomotor exam covers topics such as ventilators, medication, cardiac management and trauma assessment. These topics are presented in a scenario format, and students must demonstrate their level of competency on each subject.

Candidates seeking certification must be at least 18 years old and certified at the EMT-Basic level at minimum. They must also complete a qualifying paramedic course that equals or exceeds the curriculum designed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and hold a current CPR credential.

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