How Long Does It Take to Become a Paramedic? + Career Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

As emergency medical service professionals, paramedics save lives in the most time-sensitive and critical health emergencies. Learn more about how long it will take you to become one yourself.

[Featured Image]:  A female paramedic, wearing a white uniform, and a stethoscope around her neck. She is standing next to an ambulance outside of an emergency entrance to a hospital.

Paramedics are highly-trained medical professionals in the field of emergency medical services (EMS) who provide emergency care to patients in ambulances and as they enter hospitals. To be qualified for these life-saving responsibilities, paramedics must undergo anywhere from six months to two years of training, depending on their qualifications when beginning a paramedic program. 

A career as a paramedic can be a highly rewarding career, but it's also one that requires significant training, preparation, and responsibility. In this article, you’ll learn more about the profession, find out how long it will take you to join it, and what you need to do to actually become a paramedic.  

Paramedics: salary, job outlook, and skills 

Paramedics and other EMS professionals are critical components of the health care system. Below, you’ll find the typical salary you can expect from joining the profession and the job outlook for the field. 

Paramedic salary

The median annual wage for both EMTs and paramedics combined was $36,930 in 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [1]. But, Glassdoor puts the average annual salary for just paramedics at $67,514 as of June 2022 [2]. The exact salary you receive as a paramedic will likely be influenced by your geographic location, experience level, and employer. 

Paramedic job outlook 

The job outlook for both paramedics and the health care field is positive. 

According to the BLS, the number of EMTs and paramedics is projected to grow by 11 percent between 2020 and 2030 with approximately 20,700 new job openings each year [1]. During that same period, the BLS also projects the health care field to grow by an estimated 16 percent with approximately 2.6 million new jobs added overall [3]. 

What’s the difference between a paramedic and EMT?  

When emergency medical services are called, paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) will likely be the first to appear on the scene. Watching them work from behind yellow caution tape, you might first assume the two positions are the same: both provide patient care, both transport patients to ambulances, and both can quickly diagnose common medical problems. 

However, paramedics are actually more highly-trained medical professionals. While EMTs are equipped to provide CPR, oxygen, and basic patient care, paramedics can also administer medicine and drugs, insert IV lines, perform intubations, and splint broken bones.

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What It Means to Be an EMT

How long does it take to become a paramedic?

Depending on your current qualifications and experience, it can take anywhere from six months to two years to become a paramedic. 

In order to become a paramedic, you must first become an EMT, complete a paramedic training program provided by an accredited institution (often lasting between 1,200 and 1,800 hours), pass a certification exam, and be licensed by the state in which you practice. 

Common factors impacting time to completion

There are several common factors that could impact how long it takes you to become a paramedic. These include: 

1. Your current qualifications

Before you can become a paramedic, you must be an EMT. If you aren’t currently an EMT, then you will have to undergo training to become one. 

According to the Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), there are three levels of EMT: EMTs, Advanced EMTs (AEMTs), and paramedics. Sometimes, these are called EMT-Basic (EMT-B), EMT-Intermediate (EMT-I), and EMT-Paramedic (EMT-P). Your current qualification level, consequently, will likely impact how long it takes you to join the highest EMT rank as a paramedic.

2. State requirements 

Each state has its own requirements that must be fulfilled for you to become a paramedic. As a result, the time it will take you to complete a paramedic program could be greatly impacted by the requirements set by the state in which you wish to practice. 

3. Personal resources 

The amount of time and money you have available to complete the required training will inevitably impact how long it takes you to become a paramedic. While some individuals may be able to devote a significant amount of time to study in a relatively accelerated program, others might have to attend a much longer program that fits their current work schedule. 

4. Program requirements and structure

All paramedic schooling should prepare you for a career in the profession, but the path each program takes can vary. 

Some programs might require a greater amount of hands-on training than other programs. Associate degree programs offered by community colleges, for instance, usually require two years of study rather than the shorter amount of time required by programs designed for those already working as an EMT. 

The exact amount of time it takes you to become a paramedic will be greatly influenced by the program that you choose. Make sure to note each program’s timeline when comparing your options.

Start studying 

Paramedics work in emergency situations to provide advanced life support and care to patients in need. That responsibility not only requires the ability to work under pressure but also deep knowledge of medicine, anatomy, and emergency care protocol. 

The University of Michigan’s Anatomy Specialization teaches the foundations of human anatomy, including the major organs, their functions, and relationships with the body. The University of Colorado’s Become an EMT Specialization equips course takers with the skills needed to provide first responder emergency medical care. 

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Become an EMT

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Related articles 

Article sources 

1. US BLS. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: EMTs and Paramedics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm.” Accessed June 21, 2022. 

2. Glassdoor. “How much does a Paramedic make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-paramedic-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,12.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed June 21, 2022. 

3. US BLS. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Healthcare Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm.” Accessed June 22, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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