How Do I Become an Ambulance Paramedic?

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen
EMT training is the first step in becoming an ambulance paramedic.
EMT training is the first step in becoming an ambulance paramedic.

To become an ambulance paramedic, you typically will need training, certifications and work experience. This career path usually begins with emergency medical technician (EMT) training and certification. At that point, you might want to find a job as an EMT, because that experience can be helpful when you eventually become an ambulance paramedic. You will then need to complete paramedic training, which often includes a lengthy externship. Depending on your particular location, you might also need to pass one or more exams and obtain a paramedic certification or license after you have completed your training.

Paramedics are responsible for briefing doctors on a patient's condition upon arriving at a hospital.
Paramedics are responsible for briefing doctors on a patient's condition upon arriving at a hospital.

The first step on the path to become an ambulance paramedic is to obtain EMT training. This training typically is offered by community colleges and vocational schools, and you usually will obtain a certificate upon successful completion of the program. Over the course of this training, you will learn a variety of basic emergency medical procedures, such as how to assess a patient, assist in emergency childbirth and open a closed airway. There might also be a practical component that involves working a number of hours in a hospital or ambulance.

Paramedics may be responsible for stabilizing a patient in the field.
Paramedics may be responsible for stabilizing a patient in the field.

After you obtain your emergency medical training-basic (EMT-B) certification, you can find employment as an EMT. Some paramedic schools require that you have worked a given number of hours as an EMT or might be more likely to admit you on that basis. You also can choose to obtain an intermediate certification first, which will provide you with additional knowledge and experience.

Practical training for EMTs usually involves observing an emergency room.
Practical training for EMTs usually involves observing an emergency room.

If your ultimate goal is to become an ambulance paramedic, then your next step is to attend a paramedic school. Each location has different requirements for this type of education, and within some countries, there might even be a great deal of variance from one place to another. This can make it important to train where you expect to work, or to verify that your education in one location will be valid in another. The actual classroom portion of your training can take up to five semesters, though in some places you might be able to complete it more quickly.

Ambulance paramedics are often the first responders on the scene of an accident.
Ambulance paramedics are often the first responders on the scene of an accident.

In addition to classroom education, paramedic training usually includes some type of externship. The amount of time that you will need to spend in an externship varies from one place to another, though it usually will be several hundred hours. Like the practical component of EMT-B training, this time can usually be spent in either an ambulance setting or an emergency room setting.

Ambulance paramedics have to be calm under pressure when arriving at the scene of an accident.
Ambulance paramedics have to be calm under pressure when arriving at the scene of an accident.

The final step to become an ambulance paramedic is to complete an exam and obtain a license or certification for your particular area. Paramedics in the United States are required to pass an exam administered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), though some states also have additional requirements. Some amount of work experience as an EMT also might be required before a company will hire you as an ambulance paramedic.

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    • EMT training is the first step in becoming an ambulance paramedic.
      EMT training is the first step in becoming an ambulance paramedic.
    • Paramedics are responsible for briefing doctors on a patient's condition upon arriving at a hospital.
      Paramedics are responsible for briefing doctors on a patient's condition upon arriving at a hospital.
    • Paramedics may be responsible for stabilizing a patient in the field.
      Paramedics may be responsible for stabilizing a patient in the field.
    • Practical training for EMTs usually involves observing an emergency room.
      Practical training for EMTs usually involves observing an emergency room.
    • Ambulance paramedics are often the first responders on the scene of an accident.
      Ambulance paramedics are often the first responders on the scene of an accident.
    • Ambulance paramedics have to be calm under pressure when arriving at the scene of an accident.
      Ambulance paramedics have to be calm under pressure when arriving at the scene of an accident.