You can choose the best paramedic program by considering your personal likes and dislikes regarding the various training methods used by the program, the reputation of the school offering it, your work schedule and any family obligations that might interfere with your success. The best paramedic program will prepare you to pass the practical exams and written tests that lead to paramedic certification, such as the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians in the United States. You also will need to decide whether you want to earn a college degree or simply need state-approved training to be eligible to take state and national exams.
Colleges in the U.S. offer two-year paramedic programs that lead to an associate of applied science degree as well as one-year programs that lead to a college certificate. Completion of either type of program, if state-approved, makes you eligible to test for state and national licensing. If you are not interested in earning a college degree, the best paramedic program for you might be a certificate program. Although field experience and the completion of the hands-on portion of the training known as clinicals or a practicum will give you real-world experience, you might want a program that offers hands-on learning in addition to clinicals if you learn best by doing. Such a program usually is not offered by community colleges but rather by medical centers and research hospitals.
If you have work and family obligations that would make it difficult for you to attend classes in person, you might want to consider an online or hybrid paramedic program. Online programs allow you to take the didactic, or classroom training, portion of your paramedic training online, but you usually will be required to travel to where the school is located once or twice during your studies to complete hands-on skills training, field experience and clinicals. Some paramedic programs offer what is known as hybrid training, in which students are required to take classes online and attend classes in person on a regular basis.
It usually is an advantage for students to receive instruction directly from experienced, licensed paramedics currently working in the profession. The regulations that govern emergency medical services constantly evolve. These changes affect the scope of practice for each level of emergency medical technician, for medical procedures practiced and for the handling of terrorist threats and activities. Among the best paramedic programs are those that offer various certifications, such as pediatric advanced life support, that can be highly valuable to potential employers.