Step 1: Learn About the Craft
Whatever you do, do not ever think that TV emulates EMS. . If television is your sole guide, than I suggest watching the Learning Channel Series on paramedics. While this is a narrowed view with mainly an urban focus, it is at least factual.
I suggest you go to your local firehouse or volunteer department and ask to speak to a paramedic. This is what is sometimes called a “reverse interview.” Talk to them, ask questions, and get a feel for the real intricacies of the job. Visit or call a volunteer department and ask to speak to a volunteer paramedic…there’s nothing like hearing it from the horse’s mouth. So let’s look at some of the levels of commitment available to you:
Volunteer- Becoming a volunteer paramedic is a long process and is quite time consuming. Also, keep in mind that once you become a volunteer paramedic, there may be time requirements you will have to meet. However, if you have the time it can be very rewarding. If you are in a community that needs volunteers, they may even pick up the tab for your education.
Once you are a paramedic, there are also requirements for bi-annual recertification and continuing education requirements. The good thing is that opportunities to meet these requirements are usually free to the provider, whether you are in paid or volunteer positions.
Career- Okay, so let’s say you’ve been an EMT for a few years. Maybe you are thinking it’s time to step it up a notch and get paid for this work.
The options of a paid paramedic are a bit more abundant than for a firefighter, ranging from a fire dept paramedic, to being on a third service municipal system, to working at a hospital or critical care transport team, either ground or air, to tactical EMS. You could even consider working on an overseas oil-rig. There are a multitude of options open to the career paramedic.
Intermittent- There is also what is referred to as hybrid positions, when departments hire paramedics on a reduced or as needed schedule.
Before embarking on this type of arrangement, I would suggest you look carefully at things like benefits and retirement. Many medics in my fire dept work a 24/72 schedule with a Kelly day every 5 weeks. These individuals are able to supplement this by working in a neighboring county on off-days for an hourly salary.