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The healthcare industry has been growing in recent years, with the area of allied health as one of its most prominent segments. Data on paramedic and EMT job vacancies shows that by the end of 2020, we will have up to 22 million healthcare workers globally. What’s more, statistics on paramedic jobs suggest that over 11 million of them will fall under the category of allied health.
Allied health refers to healthcare positions that provide support to more advanced professionals in the field of medicine. Radiology technicians, physician assistants, EMTs (emergency medical technicians), paramedics, etc., are all part of the allied health system. Although all positions in this system can boast good growth over the past decade, only a few grew as much as the EMT and paramedics job sector.
In the subsequent paragraphs, this article will cover the ins and outs of working in the healthcare sector as an EMT or a paramedic, the best EMT career opportunities, etc.
Paramedic and EMT Jobs
What Do EMTs and Paramedics Do?
EMTs and paramedics are trained to perform life-saving interventions and provide primary medical care to patients at emergency sites with little to no equipment at their disposal, pending the appropriate treatment. Due to the delicate nature of the EMT and paramedic job description, they have to be able to carry out their duties effectively under pressure without panicking.
As the first responders in the field of emergency services, EMTs and paramedics are expected to receive calls, promptly respond to them by going to the location, and once there, determine if the situation on the ground requires additional assistance or if the immediate medical attention they can provide on the spot will suffice.
EMTs and paramedic positions are found across various sectors, such as fire and ambulance services, physician offices, etc. In a team of emergency medical technicians, a paramedic is always the head and the leader of the team due to their more advanced training in medicine.
EMT and Paramedic Job Duties
Aside from administering immediate medical care to sick patients or accident victims, EMTs and paramedics are also supposed to:
- Respond to calls for emergency medical assistance.
- Determine an immediate course of treatment for a patient after assessing their condition.
- Carry out first-aid treatment or provide life support care to the injured or critically ill patients.
- Transport patients safely in an ambulance from the point of the accident to the medical facility.
- EMT job duties also involve assisting in moving patients from the ambulance to the emergency department of a healthcare facility.
- Give a detailed report on the state of the patient to nurses, doctors, or other healthcare facility staff.
- Document immediate medical care given to patients at the point of the accident.
- Ensure that all available healthcare equipment is ready for use at all times.
- Take inventory.
While EMT job description may often overlap with that of a paramedic, there are slight differences that show why paramedics are tasked with administering more advanced care than EMTs. The main difference lies in the amount of education and training they received.
EMT and Paramedics Job Types
There are a number of EMT and paramedic job openings out there, depending on your qualifications. But first, we have to take a look at what it means to be an EMT or a paramedic. The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), which is the recognized body for all emergency medical service professionals, describes different categories of emergency medical practitioners as follows:
EMT-basics are regarded as the lowest-level medical technicians allowed to administer medical care to patients requiring emergency services. EMT-basic jobs involve providing first aid and life support care such as stabilizing a patient, performing CPR, helping with childbirth, and treating cases like poisoning at the emergency site before the patient is transported to an appropriate medical facility. To qualify as an EMT-basic, you will need to earn a diploma in emergency medical technology, undergo training, and receive your license.
EMT job outlook shows that as an advanced EMT, you would need to perform all the tasks of an EMT-basic and more, including performing advanced pharmacological interventions, administration of IV fluids, etc. To qualify as an advanced EMT, you would need to complete an educational program that includes 35–55 additional hours of training after passing your EMT-basic courses. You would also need to pass a certification exam after your advanced EMT training before you can earn your license to handle patients in the field.
Paramedics, also known as EMT-paramedics, are the most advanced and most skilled emergency response personnel in an emergency unit. Paramedic jobs cover the duties of an EMT-basic, EMT-intermediate, and more. They are charged with performing more advanced medical procedures such as tracheal intubations, oxygen delivery, etc. Their roles also extend to operating advanced life-saving equipment (such as electrocardiogram) in an emergency.
Before you can take on the paramedic job duties, you are required to pass the EMT-basic and EMT-intermediate training. In addition to this, you will also need to pass a certification exam before you can gain the license.
Alternatively, you may choose to obtain a bachelor’s or associate bachelor’s degree in a paramedic program. This subsequently qualifies you to sit for your licensure exams as accredited by the nationally recognized body for emergency response certifications. Whichever career path you choose of the three mentioned above, rest assured that there are paramedic and EMT job opportunities for you out there, some of which are listed below.
- Emergency room technician (ER Tech)
- Firefighter EMT
- Interfacility transport (IFT) EMT, etc.
- Mobile intensive care ambulance (MICA) paramedics
- Air ambulance paramedics
- Ambulance community officers
- Bicycle response paramedics
- Clinical instructors
- Community emergency response team volunteers (CERT)
EMTs and paramedic jobs are available in both rural and urban settings (even though volunteer EMTs constitute the staff of many rural EMT units). Aside from working as a unit, EMTs and paramedics can work alongside other healthcare and healthcare-adjacent professionals (e.g., firefighters, nurses, physicians, police officers, etc.).
Depending on the employer, you can work part-time or full-time. However, most of the paramedic and EMT employment is on a full-time basis. Nonetheless, depending on where you work, it’s highly likely you’ll have to take on shift duties, which may include 24-hour shifts, long hours on weekends and holidays, etc. In other words, while it is highly rewarding in a number of ways, this is not really one of the best jobs for work-life balance.
In the US alone, EMTs and paramedics held about 265,200 jobs in 2019 (excluding the volunteers). The largest employers of EMTs and paramedics were as follows:
- Ambulance services: 46%
- Local government: 28%
- Hospitals (state, local, and private): 19%
Paramedic and EMT jobs can sometimes be physically strenuous as you may be required to lift patients onto an ambulance or pull patients away from heavy equipment. There is also a lot of riding around in ambulances, as the job involves transporting patients from the emergency site to the hospital where they are to receive further treatment.
Injuries and Illnesses
Properly carrying out paramedic and EMT duties requires stringent safety measures to minimize risk and exposure to injuries and deadly diseases. EMTs and paramedics are often required to do a lot of bending, kneeling, and lifting patients while on the job.
As first responders at the site of the emergency, EMTs and paramedics may be exposed to contagious diseases and viruses before the general public is even aware of an outbreak. These are just some of the reasons for the fact that even the best paramedic jobs require the compulsory safety measures that are meant to protect the healthcare workers in the emergency units.
The work schedule of paid EMTs and paramedics differs from that of volunteer EMTs. While most paid EMTs and paramedics may be required to work on a full-time basis (at least 40 hours per week), volunteer EMTs can stick to part-time EMT jobs that run on a more flexible schedule (say a few days a week).
Emergencies can happen at any time. That being the case, EMTs are required to stay on duty for long stretches of work hours (say 8 to 48 hours shift), including working on holidays, night duties, and even weekends. Even when off duty, paid EMTs and paramedics are expected to be on-call if their services are needed. Since 21% of the workers report that long working hours are the main cause of work-related stress, you’d do well to take this into account before choosing this career path.
How to Become an EMT or a Paramedic
In order to qualify for different types of paramedic jobs, you will need to earn a diploma first and then earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in emergency medical technology.
Aside from being able to administer medical care to patients under pressure, EMTs and paramedics are expected to have the following qualities:
- Emotional stability: Ability to provide emotional support to patients during an emergency.
- Interpersonal skills: This allows them to communicate and coordinate activities effectively with coworkers.
- Listening skills: Helping them determine the extent of an emergency.
- Physical strength: EMT and paramedic duties involve a lot of lifting, bending, etc., all of which require physical strength.
- Speaking skills: EMTs and paramedics must have the ability to clearly explain a treatment procedure to a patient or relay information to team members, even under pressure.
After high school, those who wish to continue their search for EMT job openings must choose which route to take in their education and training. Firstly, you may choose to enroll in a medical technology diploma program (which typically takes less than a year or two to complete). However, if you go down this road, you may need to obtain an advanced EMT certification and an associate’s degree before you can be qualified as a paramedic.
While basic EMT courses require at least 150 hours of specialized instructions and training (which may take place in a hospital or ambulance setting), advanced EMT level programs generally require around 400 hours of study and training. Seeing how demanding this position is, it’s no wonder that there are stringent requirements put in place before you can apply for a paramedic job.
For example, different types of paramedic training programs require you to be EMT-certified before you can begin training. Others may require that you have worked as an EMT for at least six months before you can be admitted into a paramedic program (associate or bachelor’s degree). Others can go as far as requiring you to complete a compulsory 1,200 to 1,800 hours of training to become a certified paramedic.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) is responsible for certifying EMTs and paramedics at the national level. To become NREMT certified, you will need to complete a certification program and pass the national certification exam as proposed by the accredited board before you can apply for a paramedic or an EMT job.
Licensure as an EMT or a paramedic depends on state requirements. However, all EMTs and paramedics must obtain their license before treating patients in the field. In some states, certification as an EMT or a paramedic is enough to earn you your license. Other states may require you to undergo another set of tests before allowing you to practice there.
As an entry EMT or a paramedic, you don’t really have an ample amount of job opportunities at your disposal. However, there are a number of EMT and paramedic career advancement opportunities for those willing to go after them. These include medical assistants, physician assistant jobs, or administrative opportunities such as clinical supervisors, etc.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in medical technology can advance their careers to become trauma management specialists, emergency pharmacologists, and cardiologists. When it comes to administrative roles, bachelor’s degree holders can advance their careers as paramedic training managers, healthcare administrators, etc.
Just like every other career, EMT and paramedic salary depends on several factors such as:
- Geographic location
- Work experience
- Time spent on the job, etc.
However, after comparing various government statistics, it was determined that the median annual salary for paramedics and EMTs is $35,400. Here is a simple breakdown:
- Median annual salary: $35,400 (at $17.01/hour)
- Top 10% annual salary: More than $59,860 (at $28.77/hour)
- Bottom 10% annual salary: Less than $23,490 (at $11.29/hour)
The following further breaks down the statistics so you can get a good idea of which industries provide the best EMT placements:
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals: $37,570
- Hospitals (state, local, and private): $37,570
- Ambulance services: $32,730
However, here is the good news—there is plenty of room for EMT and paramedic job advancements. So even though it’s not one of the highest paying jobs, you can get paid more when you seek higher qualifications or put in more shifts.
According to reports, we can expect an increase in employment opportunities for EMTs and paramedics in the coming years. The number of EMTs and paramedics is expected to grow at a rate of 6% from 2019 to 2029. This is expected to bring in more than 58,000 new paramedic jobs by the year 2024.
An aging population, increasing emergencies, acts of violence, and natural disasters are just some of the factors driving growth in the EMT and paramedics industry.
EMT and paramedic professionals have little to worry about, knowing that there are plenty of paramedic and EMT job prospects. This is hardly surprising as there will always be a need for immediate care responders due to emergencies. There is also the added advantage of pursuing higher qualifications (while on the job) as an EMT, offered by local universities and related institutions.
How much does an EMT-basic make?
Basic EMTs are the least recognized EMTs in terms of qualifications. On average, EMTs are paid $36,700, or $17.64 per hour. According to Glassdoor, EMT-basic has an average salary of $33,441 per year. Again, this depends on factors like geographic location, time spent on the job, etc.
Is EMT a stressful job?
Just like every other job, being an EMT can be stressful. You have to endure the stress of changing shifts, working long hours, facing life-threatening situations, trying to help dying patients, etc. However, with the right training, education, and confidence, you will most likely overcome these. Volunteer contract paramedic jobs, on the other hand, come with less stress, owing to a more flexible work schedule.
Is there a high demand for EMTs?
With a projected growth of 6% annually between 2019 and 2029, it is safe to say that there is an increasing demand for EMTs.
How long does it take to get a job as an EMT?
If you are after an EMT role, you will need to complete a diploma program, which usually lasts for a year or two. Following this, you can further your training as an advanced EMT with roughly one year of study and training. Only then can you be certified and subsequently earn your license to get a job. All of these typically take roughly two years for a basic EMT accreditation, and three years if you wish to be at the advanced EMT level.
On the other hand, if you are looking for paramedic employment, you may need to acquire an associate’s degree (which usually takes two years) after your advanced EMT training. Alternatively, you may choose to skip all the EMT training and get a bachelor’s degree in medical technology, which usually takes four years before you are issued your certificate and license to get a job. A bachelor’s degree in medical technology covers all of the EMT training that you will need and more.
EMT and paramedic jobs are not that easy to secure. Still, they provide an opportunity to earn a decent living to those who wish to work in the healthcare field, but cannot afford to attend a medical school or don’t have the grades for it.