Paramedics and EMTs are among the first to arrive when disaster strikes, be it a car accident, explosion, or fire.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), state government — including police and fire departments — is the most lucrative industry for paramedics and EMTs, paying annual wages of $58,730 on average. However, most paramedics and EMTs earn below the national salary average.
On the upside, it is a job that genuinely saves lives — and one you can break into with a certificate or diploma. With training and experience, you can advance to earn higher pay or use your experience as a stepping stone to another career.
According to the BLS, Paramedics and EMTs earned an average of $40,370 in annual wages in 2020. That's lower than the national average salary, which is $56,310.
If you're interested in becoming a paramedic or EMT, you may be drawn to the job because of its fast-paced, high-stakes nature or the opportunities it offers to help people in danger.
Your starting salary as an entry-level EMT will differ significantly from starting as an advanced EMT or paramedic. The salary estimates below come from Payscale.com.
After passing the EMT exam for certification, you can get started in the field. The average salary for an EMT is $34,833.
Becoming a paramedic requires EMTs to complete an additional 1,200 to 1,800 hours of training and more testing. Some states also require you to have an associate degree. These credentials can help you earn more. Paramedics reported making $50,482 on average.
Paramedics and EMTs can translate their experience into other medical careers, such as the following:
By continuing your education and earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), you can use your patient care skills in emergency and non-emergency medical settings.
With a master's degree, you can translate your EMT experience into assisting doctors.
After working for several years in the field, you may choose to teach newcomers best practices in emergency care. The National Association of EMS Educators provides curricula and training resources.
Doctors diagnose and treat a variety of illnesses. You can put your high-stakes problem-solving abilities to the test in this role.
As long as there are accidents and natural disasters, emergency medical service providers will be in demand. The BLS projects that jobs for paramedics and EMTs will grow 6% by 2029 — that's faster than the rate for all occupations.
In 2020, the states with the highest average salaries for paramedics and EMTs included:
States with the highest pay potential — the top-paying 90th percentile — were:
The highest employment rates for paramedics were in the country's biggest cities — New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. However, all five of the top-paying cities were in Washington.
The three highest paying cities in the country service rugged, remote areas like Olympic National Park and the North Cascade Mountain range. Those metro areas are:
Benefits for paramedics and EMTs include:
In addition, paramedics and EMTs employed by state police and fire departments are eligible for the benefits offered to all state employees. These benefits typically include medical and life insurance and a pension or other retirement plan.
However, according to Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the benefits offered to EMS workers aren't on par with the work and dedication they put into their jobs.
To become a paramedic or EMT, you will need some postsecondary education. What you pay will depend on the type of program:
Before working, you must also take a class or series to become CPR certified. The American Red Cross offers CPR courses, ranging in cost from around $40 to $100. Every two years, you will need to renew your CPR certification.
The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) develops and oversees certification exams for paramedics and EMTs. You will need to pass one of these exams to work in the field.
Here are the costs for each:
To keep your certification up to date, you must participate in ongoing training and pay a fee to renew your certification every two years.
For recertification, you should plan to spend:
Some employers offer a stipend for the uniform and safety boots you need for work as a paramedic or EMT. However, you may still have to pay for repairs and replacements. Keep your receipts for these expenses. If your employer does not reimburse you, you may be able to deduct these costs from your taxes.
There are many options for education and ongoing professional development to explore on your way to become a paramedic or EMT. In addition, federal funding may be available to you. Find how much you qualify for by completing the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).
There are many careers in which you can help people in emergencies. Here are a few, plus their entry-level education requirements, costs, and average salaries. All the salaries listed below are based on BLS data reported in May 2020:
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