Online Paramedic Programs

First responders typically need good judgment. They also need confidence in their skills. So the perfect education is essential for anyone thinking about seeking a career in Emergency Medical Services (EMS). An online EMT program or online paramedic program may help you prepare for one of the EMS careers.

Whether you want to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or a paramedic, there are typically a few skills and traits that may be helpful. For example, you may need the following ones in order to work in EMS.

  • A strong desire to help those who are sick or injured
  • The ability to deal calmly with stressful situations
  • A sense of compassion
  • Good listening skills
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Physical fitness and endurance

If you have family or current work commitments, then you might find that online paramedic programs fit well with your schedule. For one thing, taking your paramedic degree courses online may provide you with 24-hour access to study materials and assignments. This means that you could study at your own pace and when it’s convenient for you.

These are four types of emergency medical service providers. And each one depends on a different level of skill and qualifications.

  • EMR
  • EMT Basic
  • Advanced EMT
  • Paramedic

Emergencies might happen at any time. So, these professionals are often required to work at all hours and in all weather conditions. EMS pros are usually employed by fire departments. Or, they might work for police departments. In addition, they often work for hospitals or ambulance services.

All of these types of providers may be considered first responders. However, their specific title depends on their level of education. Those at a lower level, for example, are capable of providing immediate lifesaving care in emergency situations. However, this is only done until more highly trained responders arrive.

What is the difference between a paramedic and an EMT?

There are a few differences between EMT work and paramedicine. Here’s some detail about each type:

  • EMRs, or Emergency Medical Responders, may provide immediate but basic care. This is to help until EMTs or paramedics arrive on the scene. They may also be known as Certified First Responders.
  • EMTs, or EMT-Basics, care for patients on site. They may also help while a patient is being transported to a hospital in an ambulance. They often provide respiratory, cardiac, and trauma care.
  • Advanced EMTs perform all the duties of EMTs and more. For example, they usually provide more enhanced medical care like giving intravenous (IV) fluids and some medications.
  • Paramedics typically have even more responsibilities. They may give medications by mouth. Or they could administer them by IV. They are also likely to use complex equipment to monitor patients’ health and vital signs. Importantly, they may provide advanced life support services.

The main jobs in emergency medical services are grouped together by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s a look at the BLS‘s national data for 2019.

Career
Employment
Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics265,200$35,4006%

What other jobs might you pursue with a paramedic degree?

Earning professional certificates and associate degrees are the norm for most paramedics and EMS professionals to gain entry-level jobs. But earning a bachelor’s or graduate degree in the field may lead to leadership positions.

The skills taught in paramedic courses may also apply in a range of other career fields. For example:

  • Registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical and vocational nurses (LVNs/LPNs) typically perform many of the same duties as paramedics.
  • Community health workers usually use their medical knowledge to improve health outcomes for a given population.
  • Physician assistants and emergency management directors may be paths for career growth if you choose to go beyond your paramedic education.

Here’s a table of 2019 statistics from the BLS for RNs, LPNs, community health workers, physician assistants, and emergency management directors.

Career
Employment
Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Registered Nurses3,096,700$73,3007%
Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses721,700$47,4809%
Community Health Workers127,100$46,91013%
Physicial Assistants39,300$112,26031%
Emergency Management Directors10,400$74,5904%

What degree do you need to earn to be a paramedic?

Paramedics usually need at least an associate degree, according to the BLS. And earning this degree often includes vital hands-on education. This practical part might be done through clinical rotations or a field internship, for example. The BLS also states that EMTs may only need a high school diploma and some non-degree college training.

Schools may also describe their paramedic programs with titles such as:

  • Emergency Health Sciences
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Paramedicine

Could you earn a paramedic degree online?

Fully online paramedic programs are common at the bachelor’s level. If you’re a licensed EMS worker looking to enhance your career, then online programs may not be hard to find.

But if you’re just getting started on your career, then at least some coursework is likely to take place in a classroom. In addition, you might spend time in a lab or in the field. Some community college degree plans may be conducted using a hybrid format. To explain, this type combines both in-person and online courses.

Could you be a paramedic without a degree?

Yes, it may be possible to become a paramedic without first earning a degree. However, the BLS notes that an associate degree may be needed. To put it another way, some employers may strongly prefer candidates who show that they’ve completed a formal education program. Not only that, but it tends to take longer to learn all the necessary skills to move from EMT to paramedic when learning on the job.

What could you expect to learn in an online certificate program?

Online EMS certificate programs may be used to train for a career as either an EMT or a paramedic. They’re often offered at community colleges and career schools. The program is usually tailored to one of the two career types.

Certificate programs typically provide the basic knowledge you need in order to work as an EMT. Paramedic programs also aim to prepare students to sit for the National Registry written exam. But students are not awarded an academic degree when they finish their study plan. Instead, credits earned may be eligible for transfer to degree programs.

Typical program length: One year or less (9-24 credit hours) for EMTs. But for paramedics, around two years (40-48 credit hours).

Standard requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, such as GED or TASC. You may also need medical clearance. And then pass a drug test. A background check is usually done as well. Some certificate programs may expect you to have prior knowledge of human anatomy. Yet others might expect you to have training in CPR. But some include these as part of the program.

Common topics of study: Generally speaking, EMTs must complete 150 hours of formal instruction. On completion, you may do a field internship at a local hospital or clinic. This is in order to help you put your skills into practice. You may see classes on your certificate program schedule like:

  • Intro to emergency medical care
  • Well-being for EMTs
  • Basic trauma life support
  • EMS wilderness emergency care
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Transporting patients
  • Medical emergencies

Advanced programs, however, may require 400 hours of instruction. And paramedic certificates may require up to 1,200 hours.

What could you pursue after earning a certificate in an online paramedic program?

An online certificate program may prepare you to pursue entry-level job roles. For example, you could seek work in the emergency medical services at the levels of EMR or EMT Basic. Graduates of online paramedic programs at the certificate level should then sit for the National Registry exam as soon as possible to get their career underway. Many programs list their graduates’ pass rate on the National Registry exam, which might help you when choosing a school.

What could you expect to learn in an associate-level online program?

Online associate degree programs may be ideal for those looking to become paramedics. Some online paramedic programs are for people already working in the field. On the other hand, some may be more appropriate for new entrants. Programs at this level lead to Associate of Science (A.S.) and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees.

Programs designed for students who are new to the field are likely to contain some clinical sections. However, these parts are not offered online. This vital hands-on study is often done on campus. It may also be done at a local clinic or similar facility.

Typical program length: Up to two years of full-time study (40-48 credit hours)

Standard requirements: High school diploma or equivalent. Many programs require current CPR certification. You may also need medical clearance. And you might have to pass a drug test as well as a background check.

Common topics of study: Associate degree programs may also include general ed courses. Here’s a list of courses you might take:

  • Pharmacology
  • EMT lab
  • Intro to the human body
  • Vital signs and SAMPLE history
  • Lifting and moving patients
  • Maintaining open airways
  • Rescue scene management

Possible electives: Emergency vehicle operations, medical terminology, selected studies in emergency medical services

What could you pursue after earning an associate degree?

Associate degree holders in emergency medical services may apply for jobs such as:

  • EMR
  • EMT
  • EMT/Driver
  • Paramedic

What could you expect to learn in a bachelor’s program?

An education plan at this level is a more comprehensive way to pursue a career as a paramedic. Online paramedic programs are split into two sections. Thus the didactic portion is delivered in standard courses. And then the clinical portion takes place in a real-world job setting. Many programs at this level lead to Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees.

Depending on your school, your program in paramedicine or emergency medical science may be offered by one of several departments. For example, you might see them offered by departments of allied health, public safety, fire science, and medicine.

Typical program length: Four years of full-time study (120-128 credit hours)

Standard requirements: High school diploma or equivalent. You may need medical clearance. You might also have to pass a drug test and background check. Plus, you might be required to hold a current CPR certification.

Common topics of study: Online bachelor’s programs build on the basic skills taught in associate degree or certificate programs. They may also include classes in leadership and management skills. Paramedic students could take courses such as:

  • Ethical issues
  • Patient assessment and physical exams
  • Respiratory and cardiovascular emergencies
  • Allergic reactions
  • Poisoning and overdose
  • Environmental and behavioral emergencies
  • Airway techniques
  • Medical emergencies for infants and children

Students are often required to do a field internship as a part of an online paramedic program. For example, these may be conducted on-site at mobile health care or ambulance service facilities.

Possible electives: Community risk reduction, public information and community relations

What could you pursue after earning a bachelor’s degree?

Programs at this level may help you to practice as a paramedic. In addition, they could provide a strong foundation for leadership skills. You may also be able to apply for jobs in paramedicine. Or you might seek a role in public relations or disaster management. Likewise, you might explore jobs in industrial health services.

Bachelor’s degree holders might consider careers such as:

  • EMT
  • Paramedic
  • Flight paramedic
  • Emergency management coordinator
  • Emergency preparedness coordinator

What could you expect to learn in a graduate-level program?

Graduate degrees for this field tend to focus on preparing you for leadership roles. That is, a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in emergency medical sciences or emergency management may give you the skills you need to lead a response team in times of crisis. 

If you’re hoping to go into paramedic education, then a master’s degree might also be the right way to go. This is because rounding out your education with an M.S. gives you the expanded view that it takes to be an effective teacher of future EMS workers.

Typical program length: Up to two years of full-time study (30-36 credit hours)

Standard requirements: Bachelor’s degree in a related field. And many programs have a work experience requirement. For example, three years is common. They may also have a GPA cutoff. For that, 3.0-3.5 is common.

Common topics of study: Paramedic students at this level may learn about subjects such as:

  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology
  • Economics and finance in EMS
  • EMS systems design and analysis
  • Issues in health systems
  • Emergency response planning and policy

Depending on the program, you may need to do a master’s thesis as part of your last year of study. Thesis programs tend to take longer. But the extra study and practice in research may be helpful for top-level careers.

What could you pursue after earning a master’s degree?

An M.S. in emergency management may prepare you to pursue a range of management and education positions. For example, your list of potential careers might include:

  • Emergency services director
  • Emergency management system director
  • Public safety director
  • Business continuity managers

Those who want to study further may consider a few options at the doctoral level.

  • If you already have an M.S., then Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs work to further enhance your existing set of skills.
  • But if you’re interested in shifting into a traditional practice role, then you might pursue a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. 
  • In addition, some schools may offer Doctor of Science (D.S.) degrees in emergency medical services.

Program focus: Ph.D. programs tend to take an academic approach. This is so they may prepare you to research and analyze. With a Ph.D. you may also teach future EMS pros at the college level. On the other hand, M.D. programs focus on medical knowledge and skills.

Typical program length: Study plans that lead to Ph.D. typically take three to five years to complete. In contrast, those that lead to an M.D. take about four years of med school. Then, you may be part a residency program that usually lasts between three and seven years.

Standard requirements: Ph.D. programs often require you to compose a dissertation. Next, you’ll need to defend it before you may be cleared for graduation. M.D. programs, however, require you to complete a pre-med program before enrolling.

Accreditation

Accreditation is a process by which schools are certified. In particular, it aims to show that a school provides an education that meets an accepted standard of quality. Accreditation for this health field works as tool to ensure that the workforce is well prepared and qualified to provide emergency health care services. 

There are two main agencies involved in reviewing programs:

Typically, CAAHEP provides direct accreditation to EMT and paramedic programs. This is based on recommendation by the committee at CoAEMSP. Students seeking the National Registry’s National EMS Certifications at the Paramedic level must have successfully completed education from a school accredited by CAAHEP.

In order to become certified, EMTs and paramedics must pass the exam given by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). In particular, the National Registry exam usually requires you to complete two separate tests: a cognitive test and a psychomotor test. First, the cognitive test measures knowledge and critical thinking. Second, the psychomotor test focuses on physical skills.

The National Registry offers exams designed for the following careers:

  • Emergency Medical Responder. This one certifies you to perform crucial early care as a first responder while waiting for more help to arrive.
  • Emergency Medical Technician. The exam ensures that you have the skills needed to provide basic and emergency care. It’s focus, however, is on non-hospital settings.
  • Advanced Emergency Medical Technician. This test is for those who have a higher level of expertise. Therefore, passing it allows you to provide more complex emergency care.
  • National Registered Paramedic. This option is the highest level of certification available through the National Registry. It shows that you have top-tier skills.

Candidates for the advanced or paramedic exams must be licensed at the EMT level or higher. All NREMT exams require a CPR credential. A certificate A.S., A.A.S., or B.S. degree may each satisfy the education requirement.

NREMT credentials are typically valid for two years. But continuing education courses may be required for renewal.

Certifications for Specific Fields

From critical care to wilderness medicine, EMS personnel work in a wide range of settings. So, becoming certified in a specific type of service may be help you land a job in one of the exciting niches.

A few of the credentials provided by the International Board of Specialty Certification (IBSC) are listed below. Other agencies may offer additional exams, such as:

  • Community Paramedic Certification (CP-C)
  • Critical Care Paramedic Certification (CCP-C)
  • Flight Paramedic Certification (FP-C)
  • Tactical Paramedic Certification (TP-C)
  • Tactical Responder Certification (TR-C)

All states require emergency medical services workers to be licensed before they practice. And each state sets its own requirements for licensure. In addition, states usually require paramedic or EMT certification in order to qualify.

Some states may also require individuals to pass an additional exam before receiving their license. You may also earn a license to become an ambulance service driver by completing the requisite courses. Check with your state EMS Board for more info.

Here’s a table that shows the top 15 states for EMTs and paramedics in terms of employment numbers (BLS). It notes which ones require certification beyond CPR training and the NREMT exam when applying for a license.

State
Additional Certification
Californiayes, for critical care paramedics
Texasno
New Yorkno
Pennsylvaniano
Floridano
Illinoisno
North Carolinano
Georgiano
Ohiono
New Jerseyno
Missourino
Michiganno
Tennesseeyes, for critical care paramedics
Indianano
Massachusettsyes, for paramedics
Wisconsinno

Employment Statistics

The following 2019 data for emergency medical technicians and paramedics comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industry data reflects national numbers. The salaries for the metro areas, however, are the averages for those locations.

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Ambulatory Health Care Services: 122,910
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals: 47,990
  • Other Support Services: 2,510
  • Outpatient Care Centers: 2,060
  • Offices of Physicians: 2,060
States with the highest level of employment
  • California: 21,990
  • Texas: 19,380
  • New York: 18,610
  • Pennsylvania: 13,890
  • Florida: 11,790
  • Illinois: 11,420
  • North Carolina: 10,680
  • Georgia: 9,370
  • Ohio: 9,340
  • New Jersey: 8,370
  • Missouri: 7,730
  • Michigan: 7,160
  • Tennessee: 6,960
  • Indiana: 6,620
  • Massachusetts: 6,500
  • Wisconsin: 6,240
Top-paying metro areas
  • Olympia-Tumwater, WA: $79,360
  • Bremerton-Silverdale, WA: $62,030
  • Racine, WI: $60,980
  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL: $58,350
  • Durham-Chapel Hill, NC: $57,540
  • Urban Honolulu, HI: $56,450
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: $55,990
  • El Centro, CA: $55,950
  • Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA: $54,940
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $54,180

Scholarships and Financial Aid Programs for EMT and Paramedic Students

Financial aid, including scholarships, may be available to those who qualify. Here are a few examples of what may be offered.

Professional Associations and Resources

Keeping up with trends and current issues in the field may help you better understand the job market. Check out these resources for more detailed info:

 

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