Paramedicine is a growing health care field with excellent job prospects for the qualified prospect. Most of us are familiar with EMTs, or emergency medical technicians. These professionals, trained to respond to emergency calls in non-medical settings, are often confused with paramedics. While both professions are vital to our country’s first responders, there is a difference.
Paramedics are specially trained to work in the pre-hospital setting, meaning they treat and transport patients prior to their arrival at the hospital. This makes the paramedic more expensive—and more important—than an EMT. In Illinois, there are 4-year schools offering bachelor of science degrees in paramedicine.
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What Does a Paramedic/EMT Do?
Paramedics and EMTs work in a variety of capacities, including providing immediate medical treatment for sick and injured people in emergency situations and transporting patients to medical facilities.
Emergency medical technicians respond to 911 calls and medical emergencies. EMTs transport patients to hospitals, perform basic medical tasks, and act as first responders. As a medical professional, you must work well under pressure to make life-saving decisions in high-stress environments.
EMTs work closely with other medical professionals, including:
Your responsibilities as an EMT depend on your education and training. Some first responders only administer basic care, while EMTs with more training can perform more complex medical procedures in the field and on the way to the hospital.
EMT vs. Paramedic
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- EMTs provide basic medical care to patients in the field, including stopping external bleeding, applying neck braces, and administering CPR.
- Many EMTs work for ambulance services, hospitals, and fire and police departments.
- EMTs must complete 120 to 150 hours of training to obtain certification.
- EMTs take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam.
- Most EMT training programs do not award a degree.
- Paramedics provide advanced medical care to patients in the field, including administering medication, inserting IVs, resuscitating patients, and providing breathing support using tubes and ventilation devices.
- In addition to working for employers that hire EMTs, paramedics can work in air ambulances and for other advanced emergency services.
- Paramedics must complete 1,200 to 1,800 hours of training to qualify for certification.
- Paramedics take the NREMT and the National Registry Paramedic cognitive exam.
- Some paramedic training programs offer a two-year degree.
How to Become a Paramedic
To become an EMT, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED credential. EMTs must earn CPR certification before enrolling in a postsecondary emergency medical technology program. These programs last 1-2 years and do not confer degrees.
Paramedics must complete additional training, which may require an associate degree in emergency care training.Step 1Complete EMT Basic TrainingBoth EMTs and paramedics must obtain CPR certification. Organizations such as the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association regularly provide CPR training.
EMTs and paramedics must also complete a postsecondary emergency medical technology program through a community college, technical college, or university. These programs last 1-2 years and teach students how to assess, care for, and transport patients.
Aspiring paramedics then pursue a two-year associate degree in emergency medical services. These programs prepare learners to administer medications, insert IVs, and resuscitate patients.Step 2Pass a National or State Exam to Become CertifiedEMTs and paramedics both need state certification to practice. Some states require a state-specific certification exam. However, most states accept the NREMT exam. To sit for the exam, you must have completed a state-approved training course within the last two years.
The NREMT exam comprises a cognitive test and a psychomotor portion. You’ll have six attempts to pass the cognitive exam and can reapply to take the cognitive exam 15 days after receiving your results. You’ll take the psychomotor exam through a state emergency services office or approved training site.
Paramedics must also pass the National Registered Paramedics exam.Step 3Complete Advanced EMT Training (Optional)Some EMTs complete additional training. These advanced courses do not qualify EMTs to become paramedics. However, they do prepare EMTs for the Advanced EMT exam from the NREMT.
Advanced training courses require about 150 to 200 hours of fieldwork. Many courses require internship rotations in an emergency room and an emergency services agency.Step 4Complete a Two-Year Degree Program (Optional)Community colleges, technical institutes, and universities offer associate degree programs in emergency care training. Associate programs in the field typically cover physiology, advanced life-support techniques, and anatomy. While many states require paramedics to earn a degree, this step is optional for EMTs.
Highest paying states and areas for paramedics
Average Annual Salary: $58,580
Average Annual Salary: $56,910
Average Annual Salary: $53,440
Average Annual Salary: $50,030
Average Annual Salary: $48,280
Best Paramedic Programs In Illinois
College of DuPage
Located in Glen Ellyn, College of DuPage offers a 32-credit hour paramedic program. Students learn to provide advanced emergency care in pre-hospital settings. The three-semester program consists of four paramedic courses, which entail classroom lectures, clinical hours and field internships. Successful graduates are prepared to take the paramedic certification exam. The paramedic program is taught at the following three area hospitals: Central DuPage, Good Samaritan and Edward.
College of Lake County
Grayslake-based College of Lake County has a paramedic certificate program that offers both day and evening classes. To be eligible for the paramedic program, the student must already have an EMT-Basic or EMT-Intermediate license. Students take courses in anatomy and physiology, trauma emergencies, advanced pre-hospital care, patient assessment and special considerations. Additionally, students will complete clinical training and field internships. This program requires that students complete 30-34 credit hours, and graduates will be prepared for the EMT-Paramedic licensing exams.
Elgin Community College
This community college in Elgin offers a cooperative paramedic program between St. Joseph Hospital and Sherman Hospital. The program consists of paramedic courses, labs and clinical experiences. Students learn about hematology diseases, pulmonary problems, cardiology, obstetrics, special challenge patients, hazardous materials, rescue awareness and ambulance operations.
Applicants need to pass a paramedic training exam and a DRP reading exam (or ACT). Students also need to have an EMT-Basic license and six months of emergency medical services (EMS) experience. The program will prepare students for the EMT-Paramedic licensing exams.
The paramedic program at Harper College in Palatine has selective admission requirements. Students can choose from a paramedic certificate or an Associate in Applied Science in Emergency Medical Services. The 29-credit hour certificate program is a two-semester program that includes classroom instruction, field experiences and clinical practices at eight area hospitals. Certificate program applicants need to have EMT-Basic or EMT-Intermediate licensure. Students interested in earning the 60-credit hour degree must complete paramedic courses, a seminar and internships. Both programs will prepare students for paramedic licensing exams.
Illinois Central College
Located in East Peoria, Illinois Central College has an associate degree program for aspiring paramedics. The 66-credit hour program provides courses, clinical experiences and field experiences. As students complete the program, they will qualify for the EMT-Basic and EMT-Intermediate licensure exams. The program includes paramedic coursework and a practicum. Graduates will be eligible for the paramedic licensing exam.
Joliet Junior College
Joliet Junior College in Joliet offers a paramedic certificate program that’s open to individuals who have EMT-Basic licensure. The paramedic program is held at the Morris Hospital and the Silver Cross Hospital. Students are required to complete their internship time on an advanced life support ambulance. The college also offers an Associate in Applied Science in Emergency Medical Services program, and it provides five essential paramedic courses. The college does not specifically mention whether these programs will prepare students for the EMT-P licensure exams.
Lake Land College
Lake Land College, which is located in Mattoon, offers a paramedical services associate degree program that can be completed in two years. During the first semester, the students take EMT-Basic training. The curriculum includes classroom instruction, labs, field experiences and clinical training. Course topics include human anatomy and physiology, EMS pharmacology, disease processes and paramedical services. Graduates will be able to take the paramedic licensure exams.
Lewis and Clark Community College
Located in Godfrey, Lewis and Clark Community College offers several paramedic programs. In addition to the EMT-Basic program, the college offers paramedicine certificate and associate degree programs. The curriculum consists of paramedic classroom instruction, clinical education and field internships.
Clinical training takes place at Alton Memorial Hospital and may include work in the emergency department, burn units or intensive care units. Participants also receive hands-on training working in an emergency vehicle. The college does not state whether these program will prepare students for licensure exams.
Moraine Valley Community College
Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills offers an emergency medical services certificate program. Applicants must meet the following requirements: have written recommendation and pass a written and practical exam. Paramedic students complete coursework, internships and seminar training. Students will also complete an EMT-Basic course to prepare for the EMT-Basic licensure exam. Graduates of the EMS program will qualify for the paramedic licensure exams as well.
Southwestern Illinois College
Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville offers two paramedic training options: a paramedic certificate or an Associate in Applied Science in Paramedicine. Certificate courses cover topics like cardiology, trauma and operations. Degree students study human biology, hazardous materials, human relations and general psychology. Both programs include field internships, and they will prepare students for paramedic licensure exams.