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Some of the most critical points of medical care occur in emergency settings, and highly skilled first-response personnel are to perform the vital tasks of emergency medicine. EMS and paramedic degree programs can provide students with the necessary training to provide reliable pre-hospital care and transportation to those in need.

The wide variety of situations handled by EMS personnel tends to cause different duties to arise from job to job and shift to shift, but there are some general responsibilities that most EMTs and paramedics are called upon to perform:

  • Responding quickly to calls for emergency medical assistance
  • Determining patient condition and initiating appropriate treatment
  • Securing patients properly to backboards, gurneys and other safety restraints
  • Transporting patients to nearby hospitals with emergency care facilities
  • Preparing reports to document details of any medical care provided

Every state requires EMS personnel to be licensed, and state licensing boards typically require candidates to complete an EMS or paramedic training program. State licensing requirements vary, so students should check with the Board of Health or other licensing authority in their state.

Coursework in EMS and paramedic degree programs

Many different types of health programs exist to provide EMS training, and no two series of classes are likely to offer exactly the same curriculum. Some general skills of the profession covered in most programs are as follows:

  • Medical terminology
  • EMS operations
  • Medical emergency management
  • Disaster management
  • Emergency medical technology
  • Ambulance transportation
  • Legal and ethical issues in EMS
  • Patient assessment
  • Trauma care

Paramedic and EMS training starts at the EMT level, which takes about 150 hours of coursework to complete. The advanced EMT level introduces a broader scope of practice and can take about 300 hours to complete, depending on the program.

Training is most advanced education among EMS field operatives, requiring about 1,200 hours of coursework and sometimes culminating in an associate degree. EMS and paramedic degree programs at the bachelor's and master's level are also available, mainly for students hoping to find work as EMS instructors.

Career outlook for professionals with EMS and paramedic degrees

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for EMS personnel are projected to increase 23 percent between 2012 and 2022, creating more than 55,000 new jobs for graduates of EMS and paramedic degree programs. An increase in the number of specialized medical facilities and rising demand for mobile medical personnel in rural areas are both expected to drive job gains in the field.

EMS professionals earned a median salary of $31,270 in 2013, according to the BLS, with the top 10 percent of earners taking home $54,710 annually. Salary expectations may vary depending on an individual's level of EMS or paramedic training, with positions that require more advanced training typically offering greater compensation.

EMTs and paramedics might also qualify for related careers in the healthcare or emergency response fields depending on their level of work experience or additional education:

  • Firefighters: Firefighters, who earned a 2013 median salary of $45,600, sometimes start their careers as EMS personnel and work closely with them on emergency calls.
  • Registered Nurses: Paramedics looking to expand their scope of healthcare practice can also work to become registered nurses, who earned a median of $66,220 in 2013.

"EMTs and Paramedics," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, May 14, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm
"29-2041 Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 14, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292041.htm
"Firefighters," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, May 14, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/firefighters.htm
"33-2011 Firefighters," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 14, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes332011.htm
"Registered Nurses," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, May 14, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
"29-1141 Registered Nurses," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 14, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm
"Emergency Medical Technician College Credit Certificate," Hillsborough Community College, May 14, 2014, http://www.hccfl.edu/departments/health-science/ems-programs/curriculum-emt-program.aspx
"Paramedic Certificate Curriculum," Mercy College of Health Sciences, May 14, 2014, http://www.mchs.edu/ems_curriculum.cfm

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