Paramedic
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Paramedics are on the front lines of healthcare, providing quick and competent care in life-and-death situations. Attending paramedic schools is the first step for those who want to move into this career. This page is designed to guide aspiring students through the educational and professional requirements, the available certifications, job responsibilities and other points that matter to those who want to work in emergency services.

Paramedic Schools and Programs

Paramedics assist patients who are in desperate need of help, and their quick thinking and actions stand between potential tragedy and a positive outcome. Their responsibilities depend on experience, education and state laws. Paramedics begin their journey with emergency medical technician (EMT) training where students learn to assess the condition of a patient and handle emergencies that might include trauma, cardiac problems and more. Prospective paramedics must also pass through the EMT Advanced program, which includes more in-depth practices such as administering intravenous fluids and some medications. Graduates of paramedic training programs have expanded duties such as wound care and monitoring heart function.

Paramedics need post-secondary education and intensive instruction in emergency services that goes well beyond that of the EMT. Though paramedic schools typically award an associate degree, some graduates advance their studies with a bachelor’s degree. Paramedic training can be found in community colleges, vocational schools and the like.

Vocational Schools

Those who want to become paramedics can begin their journey with vocational schools. Many such schools offer certificates for paramedics, which might take up to 18 months to complete. Another option is the technical diploma, which could take between 18 and 24 months of study. Many states have specific requirements for graduates of paramedic programs at vocational schools–for example, they need an EMT license and current CPR certification. Most programs from trade schools and institutes are offered on a part-time basis to accommodate the busy schedules of those who are already working in emergency medical services.

Community Colleges

Students who want to pursue the associate degree in paramedic studies can often find the classes they need at a local community college. These paramedic schools often aim for flexibility, with evening or weekend class meetings or the opportunity to take some courses online. Students may cover all the EMT requirements during the first year, and paramedic requirements during the second year. In addition to preparing students to obtain their paramedic license, the associate program also offers a stepping stone for those who might choose to enter a bachelor’s degree program in paramedic studies or a related medical profession.

Programs at Colleges and Universities

Students who choose to pursue the bachelor’s degree can often find paramedic or emergency medical service (EMS) programs through colleges and universities. Some four-year paramedic schools feature an accelerated format or online courses, especially for general education requirements. Certain institutions have specialized tracks such as pre-med, pre-nursing or pre-physical therapy. Paramedic programs might be billed under different names–for example, students at the University of Utah declare health promotion and education as their major, with an emphasis on EMS. Students should check into a program’s outcomes to ensure that they will be eligible to sit for the paramedic license in their state upon graduation.

Best 2016-2017 Paramedic Schools

Enrolling in a quality paramedic school can prepare students to enter the healthcare field as first-response medical providers. The search for the best school can be tedious, which is why we analyzed every paramedic school in the country and ranked the top programs based on factors such as class size, cost of enrollment and registration, financial aid opportunities and graduation rates. Learn more about the top paramedic schools below.

Rank School Name Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-Teacher Ratio Grad RateDescriptionPlacement Services Counseling Services Credit for Experience
1
Northland Pioneer College
99.82 $$$$$ 37% 3 10:1 N/A

Prospective paramedic students in Arizona may consider enrolling in the Paramedicine Program at Northland Pioneer College. NPC’s program is taught by experienced professionals and the program has been revised to meet the most current standards of the National Association of EMS Educators; the program even offers continuing education courses for students to further improve their skills and maintain certification. The Associate of Applied Science degree program is 70 credits, while NPC also offers 58-credit Certificate of Applied Science and a 52-credit Certificate of Proficiency programs in paramedicine, as well. Among Northland Pioneer College’s continuing education options are an Advanced Life Support Refresher and an Advanced Cardiac Life Support course.

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2
Eastern New Mexico University - Roswell Campus
98.51 $$$$$ 5% 3 14:1 N/A

Eastern New Mexico University offers college-bound students a CAAHEP accredited EMS Program that prepares students for paramedic service, among others. The Paramedic Program is made up of 1600 hours of in-class, clinical, and vehicular internship and takes 14 months to complete. The program meets or exceeds national curriculum standards and, upon completion, graduates receive NAEMT PHTLS-Advanced, NAEMT, AMLS, AHA, ACLS, AHA ACLS-EP, Vehicle Extrication, AHA PALS, and PEPP certificates. Depending on the student’s career goals, they may seek a Certificate of Occupational Training, AAS degree, or AS degree. The class of 2015 has a 89.7 percent retention rate and a 96.2 percent positive placement rate.

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3
North Arkansas College
98.48 $$$$$ 32% 3 16:1 N/A

Students looking for either an Associate of Applied Science Paramedic Degree or a Paramedic Certificate in Arkansas should consider looking at North Arkansas College’s programs. The 2-year program is designed to prepare students to become Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedics “for advanced hospital care and transportation” and offers students the opportunity to get an associate degree in Emergency Medical Services after completing the prerequisites and the 64 required credits. The 64-credit certificate program prepares students to become paramedics while training in area hospitals. The cumulative (first six attempts) five year paramedic pass rate of North Arkansas College’s program is 74 percent.

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4
Arkansas State University - Beebe
98.22 $$$$$ 34% 3 17:1 N/A

At Arkansas State University - Beebe, potential paramedics with their EMT license can enroll in a 60-credit Associate of Applied Science in Emergency Medical Services - Paramedics program. The program offers the flexibility of evening classes for students seeking a non-traditional college course schedule. Students in the paramedic program engage in classroom and clinical learning experiences in this CoAEMSP and CAAHEP accredited program. With a written pass rate of 80 percent, practical pass rate of 100 percent and 94 percent of graduates currently working as paramedics, the program at ASU-Beebe is nothing short of impressive.

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5
Galveston College
97.90 $$$$$ 30% 3 15:1 N/A

With a number of EMS options, Galveston College offers students flexibility in choosing their EMS certifications and professional pathways. The EMS Paramedic Certificate program is accredited by the Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Programs and is “designed to prepare students for a career in emergency medical services”. Graduates are able to apply for Paramedic Certification. The statistics of the program are impressive; the three year average job placement is 100 percent while retention and written exam pass rates are 100 percent and 86.7 percent, respectively. The total credits required to complete the program is 44.

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6
South Arkansas Community College
97.69 $$$$$ 4% 3 14:1 N/A

The highest classification of Emergency Medical Services Professional in Arkansas is the Paramedic and students seeking to enter this career can attend South Arkansas Community College with two certification options. Students can earn a Technical Certificate by completing three semesters of paramedic courses and can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree by completing an additional required 30 credits of general education courses; either option leaves students eligible to sit for state or national registry licensure examinations. The program is rigorous, requiring a minimum of 1200 contact hours, including 600 classroom and lab hours, 300 clinical hours at hospitals, and 300 hours of ALS ambulance internship work.

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7
Mesa Community College
97.49 $$$$$ 25% 3 20:1 N/A

Students who are looking for a Certificate of Completion in Paramedicine in Arizona have that option at Mesa Community College. The program, which is 44-46 credits, is “designed to provide advanced techniques of emergency care, stabilization, and immobilization of victims of illness and injury.” After completion of the program, students are prepared for certification as NREMT Paramedics. Mesa also offers an AAS degree that is transferable to all State universities. One reason to be confident in Mesa Community College’s program is the fact that 100 percent of their 2016 graduates passed their national board examinations on their first attempt.

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8
Crowder College
97.46 $$$$$ 18% 3 15:1 N/A

Crowder College was established in 1963 and has over 50 years of graduate success. The paramedic program at Crowder is accredited by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Students who pursue the program are equipped to sit for the national registry examination for paramedic certification upon graduation. The two-semester program begins in August and is finished by May, and includes 1,100 hours of online, classroom and field rotations including ER, OR, CICU, CCU, pediatrics, labor and delivery, RT and ambulance. In addition, students will learn how to administer critical care to ill or injured patients.

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9
Trenholm State Community College
97.31 $$$$$ 30% 3 13:1 N/A

Trenholm State Community College, located in Montgomery, Alabama is a two-year community college that provides multiple technical certificate and degree programs. The emergency medical services program trains students to become licensed emergency medical technicians and paramedics. An associate degree program is six terms in length and will take students about two years to complete. The advanced EMT certificate program is two terms and the short-term certificate program is only one term. Students learn through classroom instruction, laboratory settings and clinical rotations. The training provided by Trenholm equips students to treat and administer care to accident victims and emergency situations.

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10
Southeast Arkansas College
97.24 $$$$$ 4% 3 14:1 N/A

Southeast Arkansas College has a nursing and allied health department (NAH) consisting of short-term and degree programs. Based on recent analysis, Southeast Arkansas College has found health care to be one of the top three highest-growing industries in the area. Therefore, the NAH department is an important function of the college. The emergency medical sciences paramedic degree is a two-year program which prepares eligible students for the National Registry EMT-Paramedic Certification Examination. Graduates of the program have enjoyed a 100 percent job placement upon graduation. And the Southeast Arkansas emergency medical sciences paramedic program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program.

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11
Sinclair College
97.23 $$$$$ 28% 3 15:1 N/A

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12
San Juan College
97.06 $$$$$ 28% 3 20:1 N/A

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13
Arizona Western College
97.05 $$$$$ 20% 3 21:1 N/A

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14
Arkansas Northeastern College
97.05 $$$$$ 26% 2 14:1 N/A

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15
East Arkansas Community College
97.02 $$$$$ 15% 3 16:1 N/A

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16
Central Community College
97.02 $$$$$ 34% 3 14:1 N/A

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17
Trinidad State Junior College
96.84 $$$$$ 44% 2 14:1 N/A

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18
Gadsden State Community College
96.82 $$$$$ 25% 3 18:1 N/A

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19
Belmont College
96.79 $$$$$ 44% 2 11:1 N/A

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20
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
96.72 $$$$$ 11% 3 15:1 N/A

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21
Lenoir Community College
96.66 $$$$$ 13% 3 10:1 N/A

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22
Hill College
96.65 $$$$$ 36% 3 20:1 N/A

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23
Athens Technical College
96.64 $$$$$ 1% 3 13:1 N/A

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24
Northeast Texas Community College
96.63 $$$$$ 21% 3 20:1 N/A

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25
Jefferson College
96.61 $$$$$ 12% 3 19:1 N/A

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26
Black River Technical College
96.55 $$$$$ 9% 3 16:1 N/A

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27
Western Iowa Tech Community College
96.54 $$$$$ 46% 3 17:1 N/A

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28
Arkansas State University - Mountain Home
96.47 $$$$$ 18% 3 20:1 N/A

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29
University of Arkansas Community Hope - Texarkana
96.47 $$$$$ 13% 2 15:1 N/A

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30
North Georgia Technical College
96.46 $$$$$ 1% 3 17:1 N/A

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31
Howard College
96.36 $$$$$ 38% 2 15:1 N/A

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32
Metropolitan Community College
96.23 $$$$$ 20% 2 14:1 N/A

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33
Grayson College
96.22 $$$$$ 20% 2 18:1 N/A

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34
Itawamba Community College
96.13 $$$$$ 52% 2 19:1 N/A

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35
North Florida Community College
96.12 $$$$$ 41% 3 16:1 N/A

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36
Johnson County Community College
96.11 $$$$$ 18% 3 20:1 N/A

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37
Hillsborough Community College
96.09 $$$$$ 9% 3 23:1 N/A

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38
Wallace State Community College - Hanceville
96.07 $$$$$ 21% 3 16:1 N/A

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39
Hinds Community College
96.07 $$$$$ 22% 2 18:1 N/A

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40
East Mississippi Community College
96.07 $$$$$ 78% 1 12:1 N/A

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41
Redlands Community College
96.06 $$$$$ 43% 3 23:1 N/A

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42
Tallahassee Community College
96.04 $$$$$ 13% 3 24:1 N/A

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43
Lakeshore Technical College
96.03 $$$$$ 19% 3 13:1 N/A

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44
Estrella Mountain Community College
96.02 $$$$$ 26% 2 19:1 N/A

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45
Central New Mexico Community College
95.99 $$$$$ 15% 3 24:1 N/A

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46
Western Nebraska Community College
95.97 $$$$$ 60% 1 15:1 N/A

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47
Santa Fe Community College
95.88 $$$$$ 8% 2 15:1 N/A

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48
Del Mar College
95.88 $$$$$ 18% 3 14:1 N/A

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49
Meridian Community College
95.87 $$$$$ 34% 3 21:1 N/A

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50
Northern Maine Community College
95.78 $$$$$ 43% 2 12:1 N/A

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Rank School Name Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-Teacher Ratio Grad RateDescriptionPlacement Services Counseling Services Credit for Experience
1
Colorado Mountain College
99.76 $$$$$ 36% 3 13:1 N/A

Colorado Mountain College is rated number one compared with Colorado’s other two-year colleges. The paramedic program, which consists of three different levels of study, teaches students about patient stabilization, scene management, advanced life support techniques and patient transportation. Students can choose between the EMT-Basic (12 hours), EMT-Intermediate (17 hours), Intermediate to Paramedic Transition (30 hours) or Paramedic (45 hours) programs based on their specific goals. The semesters begin in January and combine more than 1,200 hours of classroom, clinical and field instruction. Hybrid programs are available, which offer students the option of face-to-face lecture hours or online education.

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2
Florida Gateway College
99.66 $$$$$ 33% 3 14:1 N/A

At Florida Gateway College in Lake City, FL, students pursuing the paramedic certificate program graduate as a paramedic giving emergency level care to patients. The program is 42 credit hours in length and comprised of standard in-person classroom lecture, along with laboratory and clinical settings. The paramedic program is a limited access program and is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs. Interested students should take a placement exam and be currently certified in the state of Florida as an EMT-B before applying to the program.

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3
Santa Fe College
99.43 $$$$$ 5% 3 22:1 N/A

Students interested in emergency medical sciences may benefit from the academic program at Santa Fe College. The EMS program offers three different levels of education: the emergency medical technician (EMT) program (one semester, 250 hours, 11 credits), paramedic program (one year, 1,100 hours, 43 credits), and the associate of science degree in EMS which is dependent on whether students are already state certified paramedics. Prerequisites may apply to each individual program. Courses are taught by trained professionals who are able to deliver quality and vital information to help students succeed in the field after graduation.

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4
Midland College
99.04 $$$$$ 62% 3 17:1 N/A

Midland College is a two-year community college located in the west part of Texas (Midland). In 2013-2014, students who graduated from Midland enjoyed a 92 percent placement rate at the successful completion of their technical program. The college offers an associate degree in emergency medical services to students completing 43 semester hours (12 months). Students can become a licensed emergency medical technician after eight semester hours and the passing of the National Registry of EMTs for Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) exam. Students wishing to become a licensed paramedic will complete EMT training and an additional 35 semester hours of coursework, along with the National Registry of EMTs exam.

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5
College of Central Florida
98.91 $$$$$ 24% 3 28:1 N/A

The College of Central Florida’s EMS program earned the 2011 EMS Educator of the Year Award from the State of Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Emergency Medical Services. The emergency medical services program at College of Central Florida is comprised of both an EMT and paramedic program. The EMT program can be completed in one semester (16 weeks) and includes classroom, lab and hospital/field experience. The paramedic program is 12 months and 42 credit hours and consists of classroom learning, labs and 12-hour clinical shifts. The average percentage of students passing the state certification exam is 93.44 percent, while the job placement rate also exceeds 93 percent.

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6
Bismarck State College
98.88 $$$$$ 25% 3 14:1 N/A

Bismarck State College has projected that the employment of EMTs, AEMTs and paramedics is set to grow by 33 percent through the year 2020, which is the highest growth average for all occupations in North Dakota. The paramedic technology program gives students the option of choosing between the paramedic, advanced emergency medical technician (AEMT) and emergency medical technician (EMT) courses. The paramedic program is a year-long course comprised of three semesters of classroom and hospital clinical/field education. Both of the AEMT and EMT courses are 16 weeks in length. All students who complete any of the three programs must take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exams in order to become certified.

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7
Palm Beach State College
98.81 $$$$$ 9% 3 30:1 N/A

Founded in 1933, Palm Beach State College was considered Florida’s first public community college. The paramedic program at Palm Beach State College prepares students to become a licensed paramedic providing critical care to patients experiencing trauma and medical-related emergencies. The three-semester program includes lecture, laboratory work and hospital/fire rescue rotations. In addition, students are required to perform a clinical internship in a nearby hospital and as part of an emergency response unit, in order to get practical real-life experience caring for patients in emergency settings. Eligible graduates are prepared to take the NREMT certification exam by the State of Florida upon completion of the program.

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8
Chipola College
98.72 $$$$$ 16% 2 18:1 N/A

Students attending and completing the paramedic program at Chipola College in Marianna, FL, will become certified and licensed as an entry-level paramedic. The program is approximately 12 months in length, three full semesters and includes 42 credit hours of classroom work. In addition, students are required to perform clinical and internship assignments as part of the program curriculum. The program has limited enrollment and students are encouraged to apply early. The Chipola College paramedic program is not a CAAHEP accredited program, but rather holds a letter of review by the Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the Emergency Medical Services Professions (CoAEMSP).

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9
Pensacola State College
98.71 $$$$$ 23% 3 21:1 N/A

Pensacola State College ranks in the top 100 colleges in the nation for the number of associate degrees awarded to students each year. Students interested in the paramedic (PARAM-CT) program will complete four semesters of classroom and clinical setting requirements. The program is designed to prepare students for pre-hospital emergency care and advanced life support situations. The paramedic program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education (CAAHEP). Graduates in 2013-2014 enjoyed a 100 percent national registry pass rate, 100 percent state exam pass rate, and 100 percent positive placement with employment upon completing the program.

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10
Florida State College at Jacksonville
98.60 $$$$$ 15% 3 22:1 N/A

Florida State College at Jacksonville offers students a technical certificate program in order to become an entry-level paramedic. The limited-access program is 42 credits and combines on campus lecture, lab classes and clinical hours at UF Health Jacksonville. Students will also complete field experience with the Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department and Century Ambulance Service. Graduates are eligible to sit for the Florida state board examination to become a certified paramedic. Students may also choose to apply the certificate toward the emergency medical services AS degree with Florida State College.

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11
Daytona State College
98.56 $$$$$ 24% 3 18:1 N/A

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12
Valencia College
98.41 $$$$$ 16% 3 31:1 N/A

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13
College of Southern Nevada
98.34 $$$$$ 20% 3 24:1 N/A

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14
South Florida State College
98.10 $$$$$ 10% 3 17:1 N/A

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15
Arkansas Tech University
98.02 $$$$$ 56% 3 20:1 41%

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16
St Petersburg College
97.88 $$$$$ 23% 3 22:1 N/A

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17
University of Arkansas at Monticello
97.87 $$$$$ 51% 2 17:1 23%

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18
Creighton University
97.86 $$$$$ 98% 3 11:1 75%

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19
Broward College
97.82 $$$$$ 23% 3 27:1 N/A

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20
Jackson College
97.68 $$$$$ 21% 3 18:1 N/A

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21
Goodwin College
97.57 $$$$$ 91% 2 10:1 N/A

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22
Florida SouthWestern State College
97.54 $$$$$ 18% 3 27:1 N/A

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23
Utah Valley University
97.52 $$$$$ 33% 3 22:1 17%

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24
Youngstown State University
97.45 $$$$$ 45% 2 15:1 32%

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25
Vincennes University
97.40 $$$$$ 18% 2 17:1 N/A

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26
Dixie State University
97.39 $$$$$ 23% 3 20:1 63%

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27
Miami Dade College
97.39 $$$$$ 24% 3 23:1 N/A

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28
Pasco-Hernando State College
97.11 $$$$$ 7% 3 27:1 N/A

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29
Seminole State College of Florida
96.89 $$$$$ 18% 3 29:1 N/A

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30
Lewis-Clark State College
96.88 $$$$$ 62% 2 16:1 26%

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31
Weber State University
96.80 $$$$$ 50% 2 21:1 45%

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32
Polk State College
96.71 $$$$$ 7% 3 26:1 N/A

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33
Great Basin College
96.63 $$$$$ 40% 1 17:1 14%

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34
University of New Haven
96.44 $$$$$ 95% 2 15:1 56%

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35
University of Cincinnati-Clermont College
96.28 $$$$$ 18% 2 16:1 N/A

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36
University of Alaska Fairbanks
95.89 $$$$$ 43% 1 14:1 33%

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37
University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash College
95.74 $$$$$ 32% 2 18:1 N/A

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38
Idaho State University
95.38 $$$$$ 37% 1 16:1 31%

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39
Lake Michigan College
95.35 $$$$$ 48% 1 15:1 N/A

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40
Siena Heights University
95.24 $$$$$ 99% 1 11:1 43%

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41
Saint Josephs College
95.19 $$$$$ 100% 1 11:1 50%

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42
Montana State University-Billings
95.08 $$$$$ 54% 1 17:1 33%

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43
Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City
94.97 $$$$$ 10% 1 19:1 N/A

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44
University of Sioux Falls
94.91 $$$$$ 100% 1 14:1 48%

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45
Shawnee State University
94.89 $$$$$ 34% 1 16:1 20%

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46
Seattle Community College-North Campus
94.82 $$$$$ 17% 1 16:1 N/A

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47
Drexel University
94.82 $$$$$ 93% 1 10:1 65%

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48
Baker College of Muskegon
94.81 $$$$$ 80% 2 33:1 18%

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49
Baker College of Clinton Township
94.81 $$$$$ 85% 2 25:1 14%

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Paramedic Schools Must-Have List

With so many paramedic schools out there vying for their attention, prospective students need a way to organize all the data. Students who are looking for the best possible program can turn to this list of important elements that paramedic schools must have in order to be seriously considered in their “short list” of potential schools.

The proper accreditation.

Paramedic programs might be offered through schools that are accredited on the regional or national level. But what about the program itself? Paramedic programs can seek recognition from the Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the Emergency Medical Services Professions (CoAEMSP). There are currently 45 diploma programs, 342 certificate programs, 291 associate degree programs and 12 bachelor’s degree programs accredited throughout the United States, according to the CoAEMSP.

Program entry requirements.

Some paramedic schools require students to hold a particular certification before applying, or look to years of experience in making a decision about admission. Most programs prefer to admit those who have already earned their EMT-Basic or EMT-Intermediate credentials, and some require several years of service as an EMT. In addition, applicants might have to complete an examination, sit for an interview with the admissions committee and pass prerequisite courses – such as anatomy or chemistry – before admission.

Preparation for the National Registry Examination.

All states require paramedics to be licensed, and the regulations vary by state. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) offers certification for paramedics, which is required in many states. Students who attend paramedic programs should make certain that their education is suitable for the state in which they intend to work. Even if that particular state doesn’t require NREMT certification, the student might later move to a state that does. Preparing for the examination and sitting for it upon graduation can help ensure that no matter where a paramedic goes, they are ready to start work.

Scheduling considerations.

Many students who attend paramedic schools are also working full-time in the profession, and this schedule can be a serious consideration when it conflicts with classroom requirements. Students should pay careful attention to the requirements of the schools on their “short list” when it comes to flexibility of classes and testing, the ability to take courses in evenings or on weekends, or the possibility of completing at least some courses online in order to fit both education and work into their already tight schedules.

Expectations for a future career.

Those who plan to attend paramedic schools need to look at the big picture before selecting a program. Do they hope to eventually move into other areas of medicine, such as nursing? Do they intend to use their paramedic education as a stepping stone to other degrees? Students should find a program that suits their goals. For example, a student who intends to later pursue a nursing degree might begin with an associate degree. In that way, the general education courses earned could transfer to a bachelor’s degree program, which could cut down on required classroom time.

Paramedic Degrees and Certificates

Though many paramedics gain vital on-the-job training in their trade, earning a degree or certificate adds a level of validity to their qualifications beyond experience alone. Numerous certificates are available, and these tend to be a popular route among those who seek a paramedic education while continuing to work in the field. Diplomas are also possible through trade or vocational schools. Certificates and diplomas typically take 18 months or so to complete, though the time might be shorter with accelerated courses, or longer if a student chooses a part-time schedule. Paramedics typically need at least 1,200 hours of education total.

The associate degree program is becoming more common as paramedics realize the benefits of earning a college degree. In most cases, the associate degree takes two years to complete, though as with the certificate and diploma, other factors might lead to a longer or shorter period of time in the classroom. Some bachelor’s programs are available for those who want to hone their skills, and possibly set up future plans to delve further into the world of medicine. Most bachelor’s programs take between four and five years to complete, and culminate in a degree that could lead to a master’s degree program for those interested in emergency services management.

Associate Degrees from Paramedic Schools

Aspiring paramedics can choose between the Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science degree, in a major such as paramedic science or emergency medical services. Applicants should verify that a program prepares graduates to take on roles as full-fledged paramedics with the proper education to perform well in the career. Many programs require a combination of experience and education, including classroom hours, clinical hours, “ride time” and fieldwork. For admission, most programs require applicants to be registered EMTs with some experience in the position. In most cases, students can find associate degree programs through community colleges, though some technical and vocational schools also offer the degree.

Those who intend to pursue the associate degree can expect the equivalent of two years of classes. Depending upon the program and state guidelines, some programs teach students how to administer medications, use advanced lifesaving equipment and more. In addition to general education courses in subjects such as mathematics, English and science, students can expect several core courses in paramedic studies, including those listed below.

Course Typical Credit Hours Course Description
Patient and Airway Assessment 4 Understanding the assessment criteria for emergency situations, assessing the airway, and immediate management of assessment results, including artificial ventilation.
Emergency Pharmacology 3 Focus on the pharmacology knowledge necessary to formulate an immediate treatment plan. Study of dosages and administration of proper drugs to mitigate emergencies and improve overall patient health on the way to hospital or clinic.
Principles of Emergency Medicine 4 Class incorporates pharmacology, assessment, concepts of shock and trauma, legal issues, communication, telemetry and trends in emergency medicine. Study of populations, including pediatric, geriatric, obstetric, surgical and other types of emergency units.
Anatomy and Physiology for Emergency Care 3 Overview of basic concepts of anatomy and physiology, including cardiopulmonary systems, disease manifestation and progression, and other relevant concerns of the emergency medical team.
Microbiology 4 Study of microorganisms, including bacteria, immune systems, nutrition, genetics, host-parasite relationships and bacterial nutrition, among other key points.
Special Patient Populations 4 Unique considerations for those with special needs in the emergency setting, including anatomy and physiology, medication interactions, field assessments and procedures in the event of a trauma emergency.

Bachelor’s Degrees from Paramedic Schools

Those who choose to expand their knowledge beyond the associate degree can find numerous bachelor’s degree programs offering paramedic studies. Majoring in paramedic science is one route, while other programs might focus on areas of health studies but offer a concentration in emergency medical services. Most bachelor’s degree programs take between four and five years to complete, though some students might need longer, depending upon the fieldwork requirements and whether they choose to attend school on a part-time basis.

In some cases, students must already have their EMT certification and some field experience under their belt in order to be admitted into the program, but there are also bachelor’s degree programs that combine the EMT and paramedic studies. These programs are usually found in colleges or universities, and might be delivered through an online format, with stipulations made for completing the necessary hands-on experience.

Required general education classes offer the opportunity to enhance key communication skills through subjects like English or speech. In addition, students can expect to take several core courses in paramedic science. The following is a sampling of courses students might encounter during their bachelor’s degree pursuit.

Course Typical Credit Hours Course Description
Medical Terminology 3 Focuses on the important medical terms that all personnel need to know, including root derivations, pronunciations, logic, grammar and spelling in common usage.
Advanced Cardiology 4 Studies of rhythm interpretation, rapid recognition, immediate management, potentially lethal rhythms, myocardial infarction, lead placements, advanced lifesaving techniques and more.
Advanced Emergency Care 4 Lifesaving techniques in trauma or dire emergency situations, assessment and management of multiple injuries or issues, and modules supported by the American Heart Association and the National Standard Curriculum for the Paramedic.
EMS Administration 3 General overview of planning, budgeting, directing, staffing and evaluation in EMS management, as well as long-term organizational planning, human resources issues and administrative functions related to daily operations.
Disaster Management 4 Preparing first-responders to deal with widespread disasters and hazardous situations, including incidents with multiple casualties. Course covers incident command, disaster planning, scene control, and biological and chemical weapon response.
Managed Care in EMS 3 Focus on basic health insurance principles and managed care environments, and how those relate to providing emergency medical services. Cost, quality of care and access issues are discussed.

Certificates from Paramedic Schools

Many EMS professionals choose to earn a certificate as they continue to work in the field. One of the most common certificates is the Emergency Medical Technician – Paramedic certificate, which prepares students to deal with a wide variety of situations in the field, as well as provide advanced life support and in some states, administer medications. These programs can be completed through a variety of schools, including community colleges and technical schools, and some programs are offered through hospitals. Students can expect targeted core courses that focus on advanced learning for EMTs and paramedics, as well as the required fieldwork. Below is a list of typical courses in a paramedic certificate program.

Course Typical Credit Hours Course Description
Paramedic Studies 3 Typically divided into six to eight courses, this subject focuses on basic professional knowledge, including anatomy and physiology, advanced life support, principles of pharmacology, cardiology techniques and clinical laboratory experiences.
Patient Assessment 2 Understanding the legal issues that apply to patient assessments, treatment plans, documentation techniques, legal and ethical concerns, and basic assessment rules.
Medical Communication and Documentation 3 Review of legal issues surrounding medical consent, documentation of issues in the proper format, and communication with fellow EMS personnel, hospital staff, doctors and administrators. Regulations for sharing medical information with patients’ families and loved ones.
Special Topics in Medicine 3 An ever-changing course, this focuses on the current issues that face EMS personnel, including legal and ethical concerns, new technologies and how they change emergency treatment, new rules for response and more.
Wilderness Survival 4 Covers preparation for wilderness trips, common mistakes made by hikers and nature enthusiasts, and providing emergency care in a primitive setting. Discussion of the importance of water and food in such situations. Survival strategies and ways to help others reach safety.
General Trauma Treatments 3 Focuses on the effects of various types of trauma on the body and the most effective methods for treating a patient who has been exposed to traumatic incidents. Also includes overview of pharmacology and how it relates to the patient with multiple injuries.

Paramedic Toolbox

Working as a paramedic or EMT often means helping people during some of their darkest, most frightening moments. That kind of work can take a toll on those who are not prepared for what they might see while on the job. That’s why certain characteristics are so important for those who are considering entering the paramedic program.

  • Personal traits and skills.

    Strong communication skills and the ability to quickly solve problems are both required. Paramedics must have excellent physical strength, as they might have to lift and move patients who can’t provide any mobility of their own. Also important is a sense of empathy and a determination to help others who are facing serious situations.

  • Professional preparation.

    Those who attend paramedic school must be ready for the job they are entering. Paramedics often work long hours– about one-third worked over 40 hours per week in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Working overnight and weekends is common, and it can be impossible to plan out a workday – some have very few calls, while others bring too many calls for one ambulance team to respond to, requiring outside help.

  • Ongoing education.

    The work of a paramedic involves constant learning. As technology in medicine evolves by leaps and bounds, so do the technical knowledge, equipment and techniques that paramedics use to help those who need it most. Staying up-to-date on the latest information requires regular continuing education and training. Paramedics might aim for specialty certifications or classes that result in new skills, such as advanced pediatric CPR.

  • Ability to face disaster.

    Paramedics must stay calm, no matter what they see on the job. Emergency situations often involve serious traumas or medical issues, and working with patients in distress can take an emotional toll on first responders. Paramedics can benefit from a background of psychology and sociology classes, a strong support system and the willingness to reach out for help when needed.

Quick Facts: Paramedics and EMTs–Is There a Difference?

When emergency services are called, an EMT or paramedic – or both – might show up at the scene. What is the difference between the two? Though they both provide lifesaving services to those in need, the roles of EMTs and paramedics are fairly distinct in terms of scope of care.

EMTs are prepared to help patients with basic emergency care, including CPR, handling artificial ventilation or oxygen administration, preparing a patient for transport, and conducting assessments and vital sign checks. These professionals can use field equipment to provide life-saving measures and perform important procedures, such as clearing an obstructed airway. Those who complete the Advanced EMT program, which requires at least 300 hours, learn additional skills such as the use of complex airway devices.

Paramedics, however, are much more highly trained and can handle more types of emergency care. Depending on state regulations, responsibilities could include the use of breathing tubes, needle chest decompressions, EKG monitoring, administration of intravenous fluids, advanced lifesaving procedures and other techniques.

In short, the EMT is prepared to help with immediate problems and ready someone for transport from the incident site. A paramedic is like bringing the ER to the patient in the back of an ambulance – they provide the timely and life-saving skills that can get a patient to the hospital alive. Some advanced paramedics, such as specialists in critical care or transport, have even more training and can perform other duties, for example, a wider scope of medication administration.

Paramedic Specializations

Paramedics can choose to specialize in order to handle the unique issues that might be present in certain populations. A paramedic who is well-versed in pediatric trauma might be a valuable asset in a call concerning a motor vehicle accident involving children. Some programs from paramedic schools offer different concentrations as part of the course of study, but other specializations can be earned through time in the field and additional coursework. Here are a few of the more common specializations for paramedics:

Critical Care

Can handle patient transport from one hospital to another, as well as administering more advanced lifesaving procedures and medications.

Flight Paramedic

Able to provide expert care to patients who are being transported to other medical facilities via helicopter or airplane. Usually certified in critical care, with several years of paramedic experience.

EMS Management

Focused on supervisory work including scheduling, budgeting, human resource management, strategic planning and public relations.

Tactical Paramedic

Trained to handle treatment of patients in dangerous circumstances, such as law enforcement operations, combat zones, water rescue and other high-risk situations.

Urban Search and Rescue

Deployed in high-stress situations in populated areas, including searching for and treating victims of building collapse, terrorist attack and other emergency situations.

There are many other specializations available for paramedics who wish to continue in their current role but enhance their skills in order to serve a broader population or provide more targeted care. Some examples of these specializations include pediatric advanced life support, neonatal resuscitation, trauma life support and advanced cardiac life support.

Straight from the Source: Interview with a Paramedic

Talking to someone who has already put in their time in the field can make it easier to understand what the job of a paramedic entails. Captain Scott Miller is a retired paramedic and firefighter who spent many years on the job in California.

What led to your decision to become a paramedic?

I was only 15 years old when my dad started to have heart problems. Fast forward to my last two years of high school and I got interested in emergency services. Partly because of him, as he and I lived together, and partly because of his medical issues, I went to EMT school right out of high school. Also, my favorite uncle was a doctor and that was kind of a factor, too.

What is your educational background, and how did it apply to your job?

While still in high school, I had the opportunity to become a member of a volunteer organization, part of the Boy Scouts called Explorers. I became a member of a search and rescue unit attached to the Long Beach, CA Fire Dept. After high school, I got my EMT, applied for and got a job with a private ambulance company. After a couple of years of that, I applied for and got a job as an EMT for a fire department and a few years later, got a job as a career firefighter. And after doing that for several years, I was sent to paramedic school and served as a firefighter-paramedic.

I took minors in psychology and sociology, which I highly recommend for anyone wanting to work the streets as a medic. It gives you great tools, understanding and empathy for people you will be dealing with.

What did your day-to-day work entail?

I started in the early 1980s when the drug and gang wars were really hot and heavy so we ran on lots of trauma calls. Fatal shootings and shootings in general along with assaults, stabbings and the usual run of heart, seizures, crashes were an everyday occurrence. We were also firefighters so ran lots of fires and related calls. On top of that, there was the usual fire station cleaning, maintenance of station, tools and equipment, training, etc.

After Paramedic School: What’s Next

Captain Scott Miller points out the numerous avenues possible for those who have earned their paramedic certificate or degree: “You can be a full-time firefighter/medic with a fire department, a paramedic for a private ambulance company which may or may not handle all medical calls separate from a fire department, a flight medic on an air ambulance, a paramedic in the emergency room of a hospital, a private paramedic for business, industry, oil fields and offshore work, and many others.”

No matter the career path for a paramedic, the outlook for employment is much better than average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, emergency medical technicians and paramedics can expect job growth of 23 percent from 2012 to 2022. Given an aging population and the higher risk of cardiac events and falls among the elderly, paramedics should see constant demand and perhaps an increase in calls. Those who are trained in patient transport could see better job opportunities.

  • EMTs and Paramedics

    Provide care and transport for ill and injured patients, usually in emergency situations. They may be called upon to stabilize a patient for transport or even provide lifesaving care during transport.

    Median salary: $31,270

    Hourly salary: $15.04

    Growth: 23%

    Number employed: 239,100

  • Ambulance Drivers and Attendants

    Drive sick or injured patients via medical transport vehicles, including ambulances, move patients from building to vehicle, stock and replace ambulance supplies, accompany EMTs on calls.

    Median Salary: $23,610

    Hourly salary: $11.35

    Growth: 22%

    Number Employed: 19,000

Career Tips from a Paramedic

“Get all the experience and schooling that you can. Become a basic
EMT and get ambulance experience before going to paramedic training,” he said. “In many areas of the country, unless you get hired as a career firefighter, you have to put yourself through and pay for paramedic training on your own. Becoming a basic EMT and seeing what it’s all about and what you have to go through, both good and bad, will let you know if this is really the job/career for you.”

Retired Captain Scott Miller