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How to Become a Paramedic

One of the most in-demand professions is that of paramedics. If you are in need of medical support and can’t get to a hospital, they are first on hand to assist with medical attention. However, this is not an easy career to get into and can be a bit confusing. So hopefully this guide will help to make the journey a bit clearer.

What do Paramedics Do?

Paramedics usually operate as a two-person ambulance team with an emergency care assistant, and are the first responders to any medical emergency. Their primary role is to stabilise patients before taking them to hospital, where they receive more specialist treatment from doctors. They operate 24/7 and a paramedic has to be able to work shifts at any time of night or day.

Typical daily activities can include:

  • Responding to 999 calls and driving at high speed to a medical emergency.
  • When on scene they administer lifesaving treatments such as CPR and drips, or use advanced equipment such as a defibrillator, to get a person’s heart working again.
  • Assessing a patient’s condition and conveying this information to the doctor at the hospital.
  • Assessing whether or not it is possible to move the patient without causing serious harm or even killing the patient.
  • Dealing with family and friends in order to better understand what happened to the patient and if the patient has any other health problems or allergies. It may also be necessary to try to calm down the family and friends, who can be worried, agitated and perhaps even violent.
  • Cleaning and decontaminating their vehicles, to ensure that it is a sterile and safe environment for patients.


Despite the physically draining and vital work that paramedics perform, they are not as well paid as doctors. When you take into account the fact that they work night shifts and work in a high stress environment, it is quite low pay compared to many other NHS employees.

Entry Level Band 5


Team Leaders + Taken Extra Training Band 6


Emergency services area manager  Band 7

 Up to £40,000

Note also that NHS pension and other benefits are extremely generous.

What Qualifications are Needed

Despite the relatively low pay when compared to doctors, becoming a paramedic is extremely challenging. There are a couple of different routes to becoming a paramedic, however, both of them require a full clean manual driving license and a certain amount of university study.

University Route:

This is the most common route followed to become a paramedic in the UK.

  • Show an interest in care through work experience in health care or a voluntary ambulance service such as the St Johns or St Andrews ambulance services.
  • Good Grades at A levels and GCES in relevant subjects such as Maths, Biology and Physics, or English.
  • Good level of fitness and eyesight.
  • All of this should get you onto a paramedic degree course at a university, depending on demand etc.
  • Between two and three years full time study and practical work i.e. work placements to get your BSc qualification in paramedic science.
  • Register with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) in order to practise as a paramedic.
  • This enables you to apply for a position with any NHS trust, but jobs can be scarce.
  • Once you obtain a job you will have to complete a four week course in emergency driving, so that you can drive at high speeds along crowded roads.

Non University Route:

It should be noted that this route is quite rare now and many NHS trusts have discontinued it. In fact, even this route requires a certain amount of university study once you are on the training programme. This is known as the student paramedic route. It involves applying for a position within an NHS trust and studying while you are working. Positions are scarce and competition is high. It is also a much longer career path, as it can take up to five years instead of two to three. As such, it is certainly not the easy way out.

Career Development

Career development is quite fast for paramedics and you can become a team leader within two years of qualifying. After additional training and experience, you could see yourself becoming an Emergency services area manager or a trainer. You could even move into HR or management roles within the NHS depending on your skills and qualifications. There are of course other clinical roles outside of the NHS, but it is likely that you would start of on a lower salary.

Although it is a highly stressful and challenging career to get into, it can be extremely rewarding. It certainly is not a career for someone who is not passionate about helping other people. But if you are passionate about healthcare and have the right qualifications, then this might well be the right career for you. 

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