How to become a paramedic

Paramedics are senior ambulance service healthcare professionals who respond to medical emergencies.

Paramedics are often the first medics on scene and are reponsible for assessing patients' condition, providing essential treatment and transporting them to hospital if needed. After two years' working as a registered paramedic, you can move into more senior and specialist roles.

Scroll down to hear from people currently working as paramedics, learn more about routes into the role and discover what you could expect on the job.

Tanoh: paramedic
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Paramedic Tanoh responds to emergency 999 calls, working in shifts of 12 hours with a partner. He and his partner are usually the first medics on scene, giving life-saving treatment to patients and driving them to hospital.

By far the best part of the job is knowing that every day at work I can make a difference to someone.

Becky: urgent care desk paramedic
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Senior paramedic Becky used to work on the road but is now based in the Clinical Hub. 999 calls that don't require an emergency ambulance are directed to the Clinical Hub where specialists like Becky work out the best way to help the patient.

It's a completely different job, but I still get the same satisfaction.

Hannah: HART paramedic
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Hazardous Area Response Team paramedic Hannah attends call-outs where patients are difficult to reach, such as when they are at heights or stuck in water. She says the job is like a cross between being a paramedic and a firefighter so she needs to be very fit for the role.

The hazardous area jobs can get really challenging but I absolutely love pushing myself.

Sara: community paramedic
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Community specialist paramedic Sara responds to 999 calls and also works with patients in the community, advising them on what health and social care services are available to them. In the community, she gets to help her patients over a longer period of time than when she responds to emergency calls.

I feel really privileged and lucky to do the job that I do and enjoy every day that I come to work.

What to expect if you want to become a paramedic

  • Paramedic average salary: NHS band 5-6. Read more about NHS bands. Salaries will differ in private healthcare.

  • Paramedic typical working hours: 36 to 38 hours per week. You work shifts, which could include evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

What qualifications do you need to be a paramedic?

  • Typical entry requirements:

    • You can train at university by doing a paramedic science degree that is approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Full-time courses usually last three years and typically require two to three A-levels (or equivalent) to secure a place
    • You can also get into this role through a paramedic degree apprenticeship. There are no set entry requirements, but having four or five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and college qualifications such as A-levels (or equivalent) may help
    • Another option is to start as an ambulance care assistant and, with experience, apply for a place on a paramedic training scheme. If you apply for a training scheme as a student paramedic with an ambulance service, you would do your university paramedic qualification on the job
    • You could build experience by volunteering as a community first responder with an organisation like St John Ambulance or an NHS ambulance trust, or by completing a first aid certificate
    • Paramedics also drive ambulances. If you're old enough and legally able to do so, learning to drive would be a useful step towards this role.

Check out the NHS Health Careers website for more information about working as a paramedic.

This information is a guide and is constantly changing. Please check the National Careers Service website for the latest information and all the qualifications needed. (Sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service, NHS Health Careers).

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: National Careers service (England), nidirect (Northern Ireland), My World of Work (Scotland) and Careers Wales (Wales).

Job progression

Once you are an experienced paramedic with additional skills and qualifications, you can develop into other roles that allow you to carry out more treatments and take on more responsibility. There are many opportunities for experienced paramedics to develop into more senior roles such as a specialist paramedic, advanced paramedic or consultant paramedic. See NHS Health Careers for further information.

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