Most people in their lifetime will consider either military, paramedic or some form of first responder. They will find themselves at a point in their life where they are at a crossroads and unsure what to do next and they feel the need to make a difference.
Now there are plenty of careers that can make a difference outside of military or first responder, but specifically, we are going to talk about the career of being a paramedic.
Unless you want something immediate like becoming a volunteer Firefighter.
Job Outlook for a Paramedic
First things first, before we dive into pros and cons, we need to see if Paramedics are in high demand.
Nationally, growth for paramedics is skyrocketing at a higher than average demand. We’re seeing that across the board for medical proffesions though, as medical organizations give more responsibilities to current licensed staff to meet the needs.
You’ll have the opportunity to work everywhere from hospitals and fire stations, to medical offices, schools and entertainment venues.
How long do you have to go to school to become a Paramedic?
I know I could have included this in the pros/cons but you need to know upfront if you can commit to the schooling before you consider becoming a paramedic.
Paramedic school is a strange beast. Most of these sites will blabber on about how much money you make without telling you the success rate or completion rate.
Those numbers are REALLY important because paramedic school is meant to break you.
Break you? Yes. The job is a fast paced, high stress job. If you can’t do the workload and stress load and clinicals in school, then you’ll never survive in the real career. The school is meant to teach you, as much as it is meant to cull those unable to carry the work load.
How long does the schooling take?
That depends on the college or program. Some places claim 6 months of schooling and then 6 months of clinical/on the job training.
Other Schools estimate 18-24 months of a slower paced curriculum.
While the time matters, finding out the successful pass rate of testing and certification should be your top priority when choosing a school.
As with most education options, there are multiple certification paths to fit into your schedule. From Online and nights only, to shift friendly programs that allow you to continue working 24/48s (or another variation) while you complete school.
Average pay in the United States for a Medic
For most paramedics, you’re looking at 17 dollars per hour, but that doesn’t take everything into account. For example, Paramedics that work in hazardous areas get hazard pay.
Other Paramedics that work 24 hours shift will end up with a lot of overtime on their paycheck. And some paramedics will even see a higher increase than 17 an hour based on how many certs they have (like if they are a Firefighter or Police officer)
Let’s start with the pros of being a paramedic
This job can be super rewarding. The most obvious is you get to help people in the worst of times. Literally these people start to get better the second they see your rig pull up. This is because you give these people, that are in desperate situations hope. This is the part that makes the job worth it.
Certifications are the bread and butter of a Paramedic
This certification also makes you more desirable in the fire and ambulance industry.
A lot of departments are requiring a paramedic certification to even be considered for employment. Plus, you’ll be able to add other certiciations once you’ve gotten your NREMT (or state equivalent)
These other certifications could include things like sutures, ultrasounds in the field, search and rescue , flight medic , home visits and another of the other new certifications that states are coming up with to meet the growing medical needs of the community.
You can now perform some interesting interventions for patients in the field. You will probably be following a protocol but for the most part you are the primary care for the patient.
Interventions can include but not limited to: Needle decompressing a chest cavity, performing a cricothyrotomy of the throat and pushing medications of a different variety.
It’s an Autonomous Job
We aren’t going to go into the RN vs Medic debate, but one thing stands true.
While RN’s are required to get a doctors order for almost everything, Paramedics are trained in the field to stabilize and transfer to the appropriate care.
This means that Paramedics, while in the field, are the top dogs for many of the problems.
For example, a M.D. could come up while a Paramedic is preforming interventions, and unless he could provide clear proof that He is licensed in Emergency Medicine in the State and approved by the Medical director to make the call, the Paramedic retains control of the scene.
This is an unique situation to the medical field, as the Paramedic does have a chain of command (the medical director) but in 90% of instance, the Paramedic follows the protocols and gets people where they need to be.
If you like being “in charge” you’ll enjoy the responsibility that comes with being a paramedic.
You are a certified Life Saver
Yeah, the E.R. guys are hella important, but YOU as the medic, You are the first life saver on scene.
and you’re gonna see some gnarly stuff, stuff where you have no idea if your patient will survive, but you’ll do the best job you can.
It’s not just a story for parties. Being a Paramedic is helping your community when seconds between life and death really matter. If you want to hear some real war stories, check out this curated list of must listen to podcasts for those in the EMS field.
Cons of becoming a Paramedic
The cons are interesting and can, at times, be pretty heavy. Let’s take a look at some of the downsides of being a paramedic so you can make an informed career choice!
The first Con for becoming a Medic is the responsibility.
You would be responsible for patient care and isolated settings with sometimes minimal help. This can be stressful and if something does go wrong you will be analyzed to determine if it was out of your control or mistake that you actually made. It could be miscommunication with the dispatch team, or it could have been a legit mistakes that you made.
This can mean that you go to your state oversight board, you could be sued in court and you could loose your job is they find negligence OR if you simply filled out the paper work incorrectly.
When you become a Medic you need to see what kind of liability insurance your employer provides, and consider adding a policy to your homeowners insurance or an umbrella policy to protect your assets if you do get taken to court.
The Mental Burden is a large disadvantage of Paramedics
Another is the mental burden. Now first responders in general tend to have to deal with depression anxiety or PTSD. It’s all too common in the industry.
With becoming a paramedic it doesn’t make the burden any lighter. Now you have even more responsibility and no longer the luxury of ignorance being bliss.
A note on the responsibility. If you are currently working as an EMT and you want to become a paramedic please be aware that your workload and responsibilities are going to double
Certifications can be tricky
Remember the certifiations I mentioned above that make you more desirable for employers? Well, depending on what state you live in, certifications are tricky.
For example, in Florida, you can test for a Florida Paramedic cert and a National Paramedic Cert. You’d want to do both, because that way you transfer to another state in case you want to work an emergency or you move.
But some states (and this is where you’ll want to check the reciprocity) don’t have programs that qualify you for the National Paramedic Test, which means you will only be certified in your state.
That’s a raw deal to go through all that work and then not ever be able to transfer it anywhere else.
Paying for two certifications
If you decide to become a Medic, you can only do that after you’ve either A. taken the material for EMT before heading straight to Medic , or B. Taken the EMT course/certification then heading to Medic (most common).
The thing is, you don’t want to let that EMT certification lapse just because you have a Paramedic Certification.
You want to keep both, because depending on the job you want to get, OR depending on the job you currently have (like if you were hired as an EMT) you’ll need to maintain both of those certifications with your state, your employers, and in your personal identification you keep with you at all times.
Depending on the Area, Paramedics can be mistreated because they lack a Union
Often times, there is no collective bargaining unit for Paramedics.
This isn’t that big of a deal, especially if you aren’t a fan of unions, but in the medical field, where hours are long and supplies are short, it’s nice to have a collective pursuing good conditions for paramedics.
So should you become a Paramedic?
I’ve tried to be as impartial as I could above, but as a paramedic I’ve got a few personal things to share.
You should not become a paramedic if you are doing this for the glory or the money. Those are both the wrong reasons, and you will burn out fast.
You should consider paramedic if you want to move up in your career, if you’ve already been an EMT and known what the job is really like, If you have a strong stomach and an even stronger mind.
I don’t share this to discourage you, but to give you a realistic approach to better our First Responder Community.
Don’t just take my word for it, instead:
- research local schools and see what their certification pass rates are
- See how long it would take you to become a Medic and what your pay would be
- Post on Word of Mouth groups or call up some friends and see if they have a great place they love to work
- Picture yourself in 20 years. What are your goals? Are you even in the medical field? Would you be happier as an RN or a teacher?
- Lastly, talk this over with your family. The time commitment for school can be stressful and everyone needs to be on board.