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How to become a paramedic

One day you’ll be bravely making your way onto a bomb site. The next you could be helping victims of a huge traffic accident. Most days you’ll be driving a heavy vehicle through city rush hours.

Life as a paramedic is emotionally and physically tough. You have to be ready to go into unpredictable situations while keeping your cool. But you’ll be helping people at a time in their lives when they’re most in need. In how many jobs can you call yourself an actual life-saver?

Here’s our guide on how you can train to be a paramedic, including their tasks, skills required and the qualifications needed to be a paramedic. We'll also fill you in on how to become a paramedic without going to university.

What is a paramedic?

A paramedic is someone who’s trained to deal with the urgent care of patients who are sick or who have been injured. They give people life-saving medical help, usually while they’re being transported to hospital.

What does their job involve?

The job of a paramedic is really varied. Helping an older person who’s had a fall, rescuing someone who’s overdosed on drugs, then rushing to the scene of an accident are all in a day’s work. They also deal with accidents that happen in public places or working environments like factories.

The tasks of a paramedic include:

  • Checking how a patient is and deciding what care they need.
  • Using a defibrillator (an electric shock device) to resuscitate patients.
  • Giving people medicine and injections.
  • Delivering babies and supporting women in labour.
  • Doing small surgeries like inserting breathing tubes.
  • Working alongside the fire and police services.
  • Checking equipment.
  • Keeping records.

Paramedics usually wear a uniform and they either work in an ambulance, car, motorbike or bike.

Watch this to see what a day in the life of a paramedic is really like:

Is becoming a paramedic right for me?

The job can be very physically and emotionally challenging – paramedics need to be both fit and mentally resilient. Let’s take a look at the skills and personal qualities you’ll need in order to train to be a paramedic:

  • Confidence and resilient – you’re able to think clearly and work efficiently under pressure. You can assess and understand a situation quickly. You can closely follow procedures and ways of working.
  • Communication – you’ve got excellent communication skills and know how to get your point across clearly and quickly. You know how to reassure patients, and crucially you know how to listen.
  • Compassion – you are good at putting yourself in others’ shoes and showing kindness.
  • Courageous – willing to face sometimes very challenging and chaotic situations, while staying calm.
  • Sense of humour – many paramedics use humour to deal with emotionally draining situations.
  • Adaptable – no two days are the same as a paramedic. You have to know how to deal with change, be flexible and ready to take on all sorts of challenges.
  • Driver – you’re great behind the wheel.

How much does a paramedic earn?

A trainee paramedic earns £22,000. An experienced paramedic can expect to take home £28,500, and as a highly experienced paramedic you could earn up to £35,250.

How can I train to be a paramedic?

There are two main routes:

1. Full-time course

There are two routes to train to be a paramedic: a
university course, or work while you study.

You could do a full-time course at university, and then apply to the ambulance service as a qualified paramedic.

The qualifications needed to be a paramedic are either a diploma, foundation degree or degree in paramedic science or paramedic practice.

To apply for the course you’ll need a full driving license; three A-levels, including a science; and five GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including English language, maths and science.

Don’t forget to check with the university you’re interested in applying to for the full requirements, as they do vary.

2. Student Paramedic

Here's how to become a paramedic without going to university: apply directly to the ambulance service as a trainee paramedic (known as Student Paramedic), and study while you work. You will usually need at least five GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including English, maths and science. You will also need two years’ driving experience and a good level of physical fitness.

Ambulance services set their own entry requirements and it’s very competitive. Most employers only recruit Student Paramedics once a year or once every two years. Here’s an example of a Student Paramedic job listing.

For both of the above routes you can improve your application by doing work experience in healthcare or first aid. The NHS offer work placements, and you could also volunteer with St John Ambulance.

After qualifying you then need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

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Image credits

Main image via Pexels; paramedics by Andreas Wheeler via Flickr