Paramedics deal with emergencies, giving people life-saving medical help. They are normally the first healthcare professional to arrive at the scene of an emergency, they will assess the patients condition and make potentially life-saving decisions about whether the patient can be treated at the scene or if they need to be transferred to hospital. They will use high-tech equipment such as a defibrillator (which restore the heart's rhythm), spinal and traction splints and intravenous drips, as well as administering oxygen and drugs.
There are different routes to studying and qualifying as a paramedic. You can:
- take a full-time approved qualification in paramedic science (e.g. at a university) and then apply to an ambulance service as a qualified paramedic or
- become a student paramedic with an ambulance service and study while you work
- apply for a degree standard apprenticeship in paramedic science with an ambulance service trust
These are offered by a number of universities and a few other providers.
For a diploma, foundation degree or degree, you need:
- two or three A levels, including a science, along with five GCSEs (grades A-C), including English language, maths and science
or one of:
- BTEC, HND or HNC which includes science subjects
- relevant NVQ
- science- or health-based access course
You may also be expected to have some relevant experience in healthcare or first aid, either voluntary or paid.
Each university sets its own entry requirements, so it’s important to check carefully. Wherever you study, you will need to show that you have an understanding of the work of a paramedic. It is a good idea to spend some time with an ambulance service.
Courses take between two and four years full time. They include a mixture of theory and practical work including placements with ambulance services. It will help to have some relevant experience in healthcare or first aid, either voluntary or paid.
Student paramedic route
Ambulance services set their own entry requirements for student paramedics. They usually ask for:
- at least five GCSEs, grade C or above, including English, maths and science
- equivalent academic qualification with a high level of health or science content
You should bear in mind, though, that entry to student paramedic schemes is very competitive. Many applicants have higher qualifications.
Employers also look for:
- a good level of physical fitness
- two years' driving experience
Most student paramedic schemes only recruit from time to time (once a year or every two years). The recruitment process often involves several stages. You may be asked to attend an assessment centre, which might include:
- English and maths tests
- problem solving tasks
- a fitness assessment
- a practical driving task
Degree apprenticeship in paramedic science
A degree apprenticeship standard in paramedic science has been approved. To get onto a degree apprenticeship, you will need to apply for an apprentice position with a health care provider. You can search for vacancies on the NHS Jobs website and Find an Apprenticeship website.
Whether you are applying for a full-time course, student paramedic position or degree apprenticeship, you are likely to need to have some relevant experience, either voluntary or paid. For example, working as an emergency care assistant or volunteering with St John Ambulance or the British Red Cross.
Also, when applying to an ambulance service trust as a student paramedic or once you are are fully qualified, the trust will expect you to have a full, manual driving licence when you apply. If you passed your test after 1996, you may need an extra driving qualification to drive larger vehicles and carry passengers. Ambulance service trusts use vehicles of different sizes, so check carefully which classifications you need on your licence.
Once you’ve successfully completed a programme approved by the HCPC, you are then eligible to apply for registration with the HCPC. Once registered as a practitioner, you’ll be required to retain your name on the register by keeping your knowledge and skills up to date and paying an annual retention fee.
Career Path and Progression
With experience you could become a team leader, supervising the work of paramedics and emergency care assistants. With further experience, you could become a manager, responsible for several teams. Teaching or research are other options.
You could choose to join a specialist team such as caring for stoke patients or working on the air ambulance.
You could take extra training and qualifications for one of the roles for experienced paramedic, taking on more responsibility for treatment and decision-making in emergencies.
- customer service skills
- sensitivity and understanding
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- knowledge of medicine and dentistry
- knowledge of public safety and security
- to be flexible and open to change
- the ability to work well with others
- being able to use a computer terminal or hand-held device may be beneficial for this job.
£23,023 to £36,644