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How to become a paramedic

A paramedic is someone who has been trained to give medical care to an injured or ill person, usually in a setting that isn’t the hospital.

The word paramedic derives from ‘para’, which means next to, and ‘medic, which means doctor. This is what paramedics are, they will give the needed treatment to the patient before they get to the doctor, if needed.

Paramedics primarily work in A&E or in ambulances, but they’re not the only places you will find them.

They also work in settings such as:

  • Air rescue transport
  • Ocean rescue teams
  • Music festivals
  • Firefighting teams

What do paramedics do?

Briefly touched upon in the last segment, but in short, a paramedic will provide extensive pre-hospital care to a patient before they are seen by a doctor. This pre-hospital care may range from giving medication (both orally and intravenously), interpreting electrocardiograms, or even performing CPR.

Of course, the day-to-day of a paramedic will differ, treating patients of all different ages from all different kinds of backgrounds.

Paramedic leaving ambulance
Female paramedic looking at camera

These are just some of the tasks a paramedic will be asked to perform:

  • Use a defibrillator
  • Give medication
  • Clear a person’s airways
  • Give someone a tracheotomy
  • Perform basic medical tests
  • Monitor the patient
  • Communicate with doctors
  • Provide detailed accounts of the patient upon arrival
  • Bandage wounds
  • Stabilise head and neck injuries
  • Stabilise broken bones

When a paramedic isn’t responding to an emergency, they will be filing reports and filling out forms related to the calls they have been on.

In order to become a paramedic, you will need to successfully complete an approved degree in paramedic science, or an apprenticeship degree. Paramedic science courses usually take between three to four years, with a mic of practical work and theory.

Entry requirements for a paramedic science degree are:

  • 2 or 3 A Levels including a science.
  • 5 GCSE’s (grades 9-4/A-C) including English language, maths, and science.

Equivalent qualifications:

  • Open Study College’s Access to Higher Education Diploma in Health (equivalent to three A Levels and a direct progression route to university).
  • BTEC, HND, HNC courses including science.
  • Equivalent Scottish or Irish qualifications.

To gain a degree apprenticeship or become a student paramedic, you will need:

  • At least 5 GCSEs.
  • Equivalent academic qualification with a high level of health and science content.

Required skills and qualities to become a paramedic


As a paramedic, you will be required to work with other paramedics as well as doctors to treat patients and figure out the best way to treat the patient.


You can’t have teamwork without communication, as paramedics will need to communicate to others whether that be to the patient, to another paramedic, or to a doctor to get them in the loop with what’s going on.

Medical knowledge

Whilst doctors can give advice to paramedics, the latter will still need medical advice to perform treatments in a fast-paced environment. A paramedic might not have the time to get advice so will need to know exactly what to do when it comes to a situation.

Problem-solving/decision making

As previously mentioned, when a paramedic arrives to treat a patient, they will need to think quickly on their feet to figure out what the best course of action is to help the patient. Being able to make snap decisions and think quickly are vital to succeed.

Paramedic back
Paramedic helping patient

Learning from your mistakes

In such a fast-paced environment, paramedics are bound to make some sort of mistake at one time or another. The important thing is, that they learn from those mistakes and make sure they don’t repeat them.


When a paramedic turns up at an accident scene, they need to show leadership by delegating tasks within their team. It reaches out further than that, though, as they may need to inform bystanders to keep their distance or ask the police to manage the crowd.


Understanding and sharing the patient’s feelings is very important when it comes to the role. The paramedic can help them feel calm by being empathetic towards a patient.


Like medical knowledge, this one is more focused on the actual role of a paramedic and being able to figure out quickly, which patient is in most urgent need of treatment.

Driving skills and navigation

One of the tasks of a paramedic is to drive an ambulance. The need to get to a destination as quickly and as safely as possible is essential, which is why they need to be able to navigate with a GPS or map, or even by following directions.

Physical stamina

When training to become a paramedic, you will need to pass a physical fitness test. This is due to the fact that paramedics need to be physically fit, needing to lift bodies or heavy medical equipment, whilst also needing to perform the likes of CPR uninterrupted.

Mental toughness

There are some scenes that a paramedic can arrive at, which can be very traumatic. It’s important that they look after their mental health and are proactive when it comes to being mentally tough. Being strong mentally can also help paramedics stay calm in tense situations, allowing them to provide the best care possible.


There can be a lot of distractions for a paramedic when they arrive at the scene, be that family members or a crowd that’s gathered. It is vital that they stay focused on the task at hand to perform the treatment to the best they can and quickly.

Adapt to 24/7 working hours

Being a paramedic isn’t your typical 9-5 job, as you’re required to work around the clock, in different shifts. It can be ideal for those who want the flexibility to choose when they work, but it’s vital that they adapt to working nights, early mornings, weekends, and public holidays. Paramedics are always needed.

Emergency ambulance

Salaries for paramedics are covered by the NHS Agenda for Change pay scales. For those starting out as a paramedic, the salary ranges from £25,655-£31,534. After two years following the newly qualified paramedic pathway, the salary will move up to band six (£32,306-£39,027).

For paramedics who become a team leader or take up a role as a senior paramedic, undertaking extended skills training in critical care trauma will see their salary go up to band six or seven, ranging from £32,306-£45,839. Those working in a GP practice or in primary care should expect their salary to be in band seven after a year.

Finally, should they work their way up to become a consultant paramedic, they will achieve a band 8c salary of £65,664-£75,874.

If you want to become a doctor over time, the possibility of doing so has become easier. If a paramedic has been in the job for ten years, as well as having already completed their baseline training, they would be required to do three years of further training to become a doctor rather than six.

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