Your Online Guide to Becoming a Paramedic

Explore education options, certification requirements, and job search advice. Launch your career saving lives as a paramedic today.

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that job openings for paramedics will increase by 15 percent from 2016-2026. There are several ways to become a paramedic, including a wide range of online and on-campus training options. You can find paramedic training programs at trade schools, community colleges, and four-year institutions. All require students to have completed their EMT-Basic certifications prior to enrollment, and many require applicants to have performed at least 6 months of EMT duties beforehand. Read through all the steps you need to take to become a paramedic today.

Is the Paramedic Profession Right for You?

Is a paramedic career right for you? On the plus side, paramedics work directly with patients without having to earn a medical degree. They make critical decisions in lifesaving situations, which brings with tremendous responsibility. Paramedics may work in dangerous conditions including vehicle accidents, structural fires, violent crimes, and natural disasters.

From day one to graduation, it can take up to two and a half years to complete paramedic training, plus years of field experience. However, earning a paramedic certificate or degree can lead to professional opportunities at medical schools and nursing academies. If this sounds like the career for you, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you able to handle the stress and stamina required to work 12- or 24-hour shifts?
  2. Do you have the strength to lift heavy or combative patients?
  3. How well can you stay focused around patients’ blood, body fluids, or injuries exposing internal organs?
  4. Can you commit to pursuing continuing education throughout your career?
  5. Can you be compassionate and professional at the same time?
  6. How strong are your personal and professional communication skills?
  7. Do you have a Type-A personality?
  8. Have you had experience balancing a stressful life with recreational activities, hobbies, life with family, or other ways to avoid burnout?
  9. Are you a “team” person?
  10. Can you learn from your mistakes, including those that result in the loss of a patient?

Still interested? Here are the key steps you need to take to become a certified paramedic.

Complete EMT Training and Get Certified

Before you can become a paramedic, you must first become an EMT-Basic. EMT non-degree programs can take between 3 and 11 weeks to complete with up to 150 hours of specialized skill training and field observation, both in the hospital and in an ambulance. EMT certification programs are offered at trade and vocational schools, community colleges, and some four-year schools that combine EMT and paramedic programs. Following completion of the EMT-Basic program, graduates are eligible to take their certification examination through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). The cost of the cognitive test is $70 per attempt. Some states prefer their own psychomotor examinations in addition to the NREMT exam. Following certification, students can enter the emergency services field or advance to paramedic training. There are many options for completing an EMT program, including online and hybrid training that combines distance learning with campus-based clinical coursework. For those beginning their paramedic careers with an EMT certification, check out our page on the best online EMT programs.

Get EMT Field Experience

Many paramedic programs require applicants to have experience working as an EMT-Basic before applying. While gaining field experience as a working EMT prior to going to paramedic school is optional, it can make all the difference in the kind of program you want to complete. The most common entry requirement for admission to a paramedic school is the satisfactory completion of EMT experience from 6 months to a year. That’s because completing your EMT certification can be insufficient when compared to getting real-world experience. Experience offers the opportunity to engage both didactic learning and psychomotor clinical skills in changing environments. There are mixed opinions from school and faculty when it comes to the practical experience requirement. Consequently, there are some paramedic programs that accept students without experience and some that combine EMT and paramedic programs in a direct path. Be sure to evaluate each prospective program to determine entry requirements.

Search for Paramedic Programs Online

Searching for the ideal paramedic education program for your career? The factors are entirely personal, depending on your existing EMT experience, goals, and training. You’ll also have to decide on the best learning mode to suit your home and work requirements. Vocational and trade schools, community colleges and four-year schools may offer extensive online class components blended with on-site clinical rotations and internships. There are also campus-based programs that require commuting for most of the week’s eight-hour sessions. You’ll need to hold a current EMT certification as well as a CPR certification to apply. If you don’t have the time or resources to complete a degree program, most licensing agencies only require the certificate course to be completed. There are also community college paramedic certification programs and associate’s degrees. Finally, there are four-year bachelor’s degrees for EMTs and Paramedics seeking advancement to professional programs in emergency medicine, nursing, or medical school.

Types of Paramedic Programs

There is a type of paramedic training program to suit the needs of students. Paths depend on the type of certificate or degree they offer and where the student is on the educational path to becoming a certified paramedic. Most combine didactic training with psychomotor skills experience. Here’s a breakdown of available programs to help you decide which is best for you:

Certificate or Diploma


Certificate programs can take anywhere from 9 – 18 months. Diploma programs for paramedics tend to be a little longer (12-24 months) and include more hands-on training. Certificates and diplomas are great options for students who wish to enter the profession quickly. One-year programs may be more affordable than a two-year program offered at community colleges. However, these educational paths could make it more difficult for a student to grow within the career without pursuing a two-year degree first. Paramedic certificate or diploma programs are for students who want a basic education for entry into the profession.

Associate degree


A two-year associate degree is a logical step for EMTs who want to advance in their education. Programs enhance their theoretical and clinical understanding of life-saving techniques and pre-hospital care. They gain advanced skills in cardiology, medication administration, trauma management, patient assessment, airway procedures and patient stabilization. Programs also emphasize the need to practice strong communication skills. Unlike certificate programs, AS degrees include studies in humanities and other general education coursework. These degrees are for EMTs who want to advance into paramedic roles in emergency practice or continue on to a four-year bachelor’s degree program. Programs take 12 to 24 months to complete.

Bachelor’s degree


Bachelor’s degree programs are ideally suited for paramedics who want to further their credentials or advance to professional degrees in fields like physical therapy, medicine, or nursing. As with many associate’s degree programs, many baccalaureate programs offer students the option of completing didactic/theory coursework online. BS programs emphasize advanced skills in areas such as disease prevention and EMT/Paramedic leadership. Depending on the institution, students may complete the degree in half the time if they have completed an accredited paramedic associate’s degree and their previous credits are accepted for transfer. To complete the 120 hours required for the degree, students may be required to complete general education electives in science, pre-medicine, and healthcare. These programs also provide training for career specialties including critical care, EMS management, tactical paramedicine, and flight paramedics.

Selecting a School Type

Technical institutes, vocational schools, and community colleges, and four-year schools offer training programs that include classroom study, hands-on clinical rotations and field internships. Entry requirements to these schools are based in-part of previous training, real-word experience, and student career goals. Some schools include EMT training programs along with paramedic programs leading to certifications or degrees. Beginning students may wish to sequence from one program to an advanced paramedic curriculum. For education to be accepted for certifications, likening and employment, the institution must be accredited. This should help you better understand your options:

  • Trade and Vocational schools. Trade and vocational schools typically offer technical certificate or diploma options for paramedic students. They are best suited for EMTs who want to continue their education or to enter the paramedic professions as a technician. These schools are designed to prepare students for their certification only. The courses may not count as credit toward a 2 or 4 year degree.
  • Community colleges. Community colleges may offer the most cost-efficient options for paramedic students. Students can opt to earn an associate of science degree in paramedic studies. In addition to core paramedic training, community colleges also include general education courses – or courses in fields such as communication and management – that can pave the way for career growth in the long-term. Programs are best for EMTs who want to advance their careers to the paramedic level and beyond.
  • Colleges and Universities. What do 4-year colleges and universities offer that trade schools and community colleges don’t? Four-year schools provide a wider range of educational options, training for career specialties, and more opportunities to grow a career in paramedicine. They have larger departments, often with more resources (current equipment and labs) and a wider selection of faculty that have expertise and experience in critical care, EMS management, tactical paramedicine, and flight paramedics. They are likely more expensive than the other options because tuition is charged for four years of study. However, this can be minimized for students who are transferring in with two years of EMT training covering half of the required curriculum. University programs can also provide for a seamless transition to post-graduate training.

Choosing Between Online or Campus Programs

Many students considering paramedic training are already employed as EMTs. They want to know if there are viable online options for educational programs that won’t compromise their current obligations. What are differences between campus-based programs and hybrid options that enable them to complete their courses online? Whether they attend on-campus or hybrid programs, they’ll need to complete in-person clinicals and internships. Colleges and trade schools have created hybrid programs along with clinical opportunities and internships at partner intuitions convenient to online students. Here’s how online paramedic programs offer the same nationally-accredited didactic curriculum to prepare students for certification and licensing:

  • Online hybrid programs: Online hybrid programs meet the same requirements for accreditation, including the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Standard Curriculum. Typically, hybrid programs are divided into sequential blocks (6-8 weeks in length) totaling 42 credit hours. The first three sessions can be completed entirely online and include the didactic portion of the training. The final two components are conducted at campus and professional locations as students undertake clinical rotations and complete an internship. In many cases, accelerated hybrid programs can be completed more quickly than campus programs. They offer flexible scheduling, potentially lower costs, and course attendance from anywhere the student has online access. On the negative side, hybrid programs do not include opportunities for face-to-face interactions with faculty and peers. All communications, including questions to faculty are handled via email, where replies are not as immediate as those on campus. Because some portions of the didactic program are self-paced, students assume the full burden of meeting course responsibilities on time. However, these programs are of great benefit to students who have family or employment commitments which make communizing a powerful burden.
  • Campus programs: Full-time campus-based programs require attendance five days a week for all didactic training (approximately 15 weeks). The second of the three components require students to complete clinical rotations at a participating hospital setting. Finally, students must undertake their supervised field internship with an ambulance service. Like their online counterparts, accredited campus programs are based on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Standard Curriculum. Campus programs provide students with direct assess to faculty. The disadvantage is the fixed scheduling of didactic classes, which require attendance for eight hours, five days per week. Students can be penalized for missing classes. There are also commuting and parking costs to consider. Campus programs are for students who have few time commitments away from class and have time to drive to school (or move to housing near campus).

Students should consider their choices carefully before deciding on their ideal program. To research more about the online option, read our comprehensive guide to today’s best online paramedic programs.

Creating Your Shortlist

Having decided on the right course delivery system (online, campus or hybrid), it’s time to create a shortlist of schools that offer the best program to advance your career. By narrowing the list of potential schools you’ll be better prepared to compare tuition costs, length of program, prerequisites, and application requirements. Here’s a checklist that will help you evaluate potential programs and select schools that best meet your needs:

  • Is the program accredited by The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)?
  • Will the program work with my schedule?
  • Is the program length workable?
  • Does the program follow paramedic training guidelines of the EMT-PARAMEDIC National Standard Curriculum of the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission?
  • Do faculty members work for EMS organizations or have experience as paramedics?
  • Can I afford the tuition through the length of the entire program? If not, how much financial aid will you need?
  • Does the institution have up-to-date labs, clinical facilities and equipment?
  • How far away from where I live are the practicum courses?
  • What student support services does the school provide?

Apply to Your Favorite Schools

Now that you know the type of school, the kind of paramedic program that fits your career goals, and the delivery method for didactic learning (online or on campus), it’s time to prepare for submitting school applications and financial aid. The first step in applying is to learn if you’ve satisfied the pre-requisite requirements for entry into the program. If not, make plans to complete them. Next, examine the application process for each school on your short list. Finally, evaluate your ability to pay for the program, including financial aid or employer assistance.

Pre-requisites: Depending on state and institutional policies, requirements for entering a paramedic program can vary. But there are some standardized factors that apply to most programs. These include a combination of EMT certifications and real-time experience, and completion of a paramedic pre-course orientation held at the institution. Here are some common pre-requisites:

  • Current EMT certifications
  • At least 6 months of experience as an EMT in a prehospital setting
  • Current American Heart Association Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers (CPR)
  • A qualifying score on an institutional entrance examination
  • Passage of a physical
  • FBI and DOJ Background Checks
  • Pre-application coursework in college English, Math, Anatomy and Physiology, Advanced Life Support, Pharmacology, and Electrocardiogram techniques.

Application process & fees: One of the main ways to slip up on your application to a short-list school is to miss the application deadline and fail to submit the required supporting paperwork. You must complete an online request for admission and may need to submit your high school diploma, college transcripts, letters confirming your employment as an EMT, and complete a professional admissions interview (if required). The institution may charge nonrefundable application fees of approximately $50-$100. In some cases, you may be required to pay up to a $500 non-refundable application fee that is applied to your tuition.

Funding your program: The net costs for paramedic training may vary dramatically by institution, depending on the length of the program and the type of program (certificate or associate’s degree). The program can total between $4,000 at a community college vs $9,500 at a major university. Other than tuition, there can be costs for malpractice insurance, textbooks and uniforms. Fortunately, there are grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study programs to pay for your program. Visit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid website to find out more or apply for aid. Ask at work. EMTs who are currently employed at fire departments, hospitals and emergency service organizations may offer to pay for your paramedic program or repay your costs.

Learn more about your financial aid options on EduMed’s financial aid page.

Finish Your Coursework, Clinicals, & Field Internship

Paramedic coursework and clinical requirements may vary by type of institution and your prior education/service as an EMT. It also depends whether the student completes their work toward an associate’s degree or toward an undergraduate trade school certification. Required course hours may also differ between online and on-campus programs. In general, paramedic training involves successful completion of three major components: didactic, clinical, and field internships totaling approximately 1,230 hours. Here’s a breakdown of the three major components:

  • Didactic: The didactic component focuses on classroom learning, whether online, on-campus, or in a hybrid program that combines the two. Just over 500 hours (lasting six weeks of full-time study) cover cognitive and psychomotor theory and skills.
  • Clinicals: The clinical phase typically runs for four consecutive weeks. These simulated pre-hospital training sessions expose students to routines in clinical areas under direct supervision of physicians and nurses. This part of the online/hybrid program requires physical attendance on campus or at a designated college setting.
  • Field Internship: Here’s where the rubber meets the road. These 8-12-week internships include 20 clinical rotations at all hours around the clock so students can experience an active paramedic unit under the supervision of one or more certified EMT – Paramedics.

Earn Your Paramedic License

The BLS reports that every state in the nation requires paramedics to be licensed. The EMT/P examination is offered by the NREMT to candidates who have completed a certified educational program. The NREMT exam is comprised of two parts. There is a cognitive written test which measures your understanding of theory, laws and practice learned in your training. A practical psychomotor exam measures your performance in six clinical areas – from assessment to treatment — under simulated emergency situations. The cost for the combined exam is $125.00. Paramedics are required to renew their license every two years. Renewal fees are $20. Many states accept the passage of the NREMT exam as proper licensing to practice. Other states may require paramedics to pass state licensing examinations. These states include Alaska, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Utah, and Wyoming.

Cognitive Exam Psychomotor Exam

Computer-based

Timed (2.5 hours) 80-150 questions

Topics covered: Airway, Respiration & Ventilation; Cardiology & Resuscitation; Trauma; Medical; Obstetrics/Gynecology; EMS operations, adult and geriatric and pediatric patients.

Hands-on

Six skills tested: Patient Assessment – Trauma, Dynamic Cardiology, Static Cardiology, Oral Station Case A, Oral Station Case B, and the Integrated Out-Of-Hospital Scenarios.

Acquire a Specialty Certification

Earning a specialty paramedic certification is optional. But the benefits of adding additional education and continuing education are legion. Specialty certifications prepare paramedics for job opportunities where employers expect candidates to have training for their niche. Moreover, holding an advanced specialized certificate can boost your career into higher-paying roles in the profession. Although some organizations are willing to train paramedics to work in their specialized practice, formal certifications show employers that your accredited education has been conducted in line with industry standards established by the Board for Critical Care Transport Paramedic Certification and the International Board of Specialty Certification. Because the paramedic applicant has been tested to earn specialty certification, employers are assured that they have the knowledge and skill bases for their positions. Current specialty certifications include:

  • Certified Community Paramedic (CP-C)
  • Certified Critical Care Paramedic (CCP-C)
  • Certified Flight Paramedic (FP-C)
  • Certified Medical Transportation Safety Professional (MTSP-C)
  • Certified Tactical Paramedic (TP-C)
  • Certified Tactical Responder (TR-C)

Resume Preparation & Job Applications

The job application process includes the submission of the formal application, a cover letter tailored each potential employer, and a professional resume. model each resume that addresses the exact position you’re applying with the organization. Be sure to include key words from the job description to show the employer how well your training and experiences match their requirements for the position. Past experience, your accomplishments, and how you solved problems are key components of your resume. Simple, straightforward details and a clean resume design make it easier to pass scanning programs that ferret out unqualified applicants. Check your spelling before summitting it. Here are templates and examples of paramedic resumes to help you put your best foot forward:

  1. Paramedic Resume Sample by LiveCareer
  2. Paramedic Resume Builder by Zety
  3. Paramedic Resume by Velvet Jobs
  4. Paramedic Resume Sample by Resume Now

Interview Practice

An employment interview is designed to review your qualifications to work as a paramedic. But it’s much more than that. Think of your employment interview as an opportunity to show your composure under stress, your personal and professional communication style, and how you respond to challenges. It also assesses your views about the profession, your commitment to the job and your reasons for choosing your potential employer. In addition, nailing the interview shows the employer how well you have prepared ahead of time. Preparation should include doing research on the employer, speaking with others who work for them, and to practice responding to questions you anticipate in the interview. Come up with your own questions for the hiring manager that can reveal a lot about the workplace and how it’s managed. Here are seven employer questions that you are likely to encounter:

  1. Why do you want to be a paramedic?
  2. How do you handle stress? What do you do for self-care?
  3. Why are you willing to risk your life to rescue strangers?
  4. What personal traits do you have to be a successful paramedic?
  5. Have you ever made a mistake on the job? How did you respond to criticism?
  6. How have you responded to difficult patients or family members?
  7. What are your strengths and weaknesses?