Best Paramedic Programs 2021

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Paramedic programs train students to provide life-saving care to patients before they reach hospitals. Paramedics need more advanced knowledge and skills than emergency management technicians (EMT). Necessary skills include intubation and resuscitation techniques.

Admission requirements vary by school but may include an active EMT certification and prerequisite coursework. Students typically need one year to complete a certificate program. Associate programs for paramedics require general education courses and can take up to two years to complete. A student’s enrollment status also impacts the time necessary to finish their paramedic program.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for EMTs and paramedics to increase 6% between 2019 and 2029, faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. According to the BLS, these professionals earn a median salary of $35,400 per year. Because paramedics need higher levels of education and expertise than EMTs, they typically earn higher salaries.

Top 10 Paramedic Schools and Programs

Rank School Location
1 City Colleges of Chicago Chicago, IL
2 Sinclair Community College Dayton, OH
3 Central New Mexico Community College Albuquerque, NM
4 Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, IN
5 Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville, FL
6 Miami Dade College Miami, FL
7 College of Lake County Grayslake, IL
8 College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas, NV
9 Portland Community College Portland, OR
10 Chemeketa Community College Salem, OR

What Can I Do as a Paramedic?

Paramedics and EMTs work together to provide life-saving emergency services. Job duties include quickly assessing patients’ conditions, providing treatment, and writing reports for physicians and nurses. Aspiring paramedics take upper-division courses in human anatomy, typical traumatic injuries and medical conditions, and patient assessment.

Completing a paramedic program qualifies graduates to apply for a state-issued paramedic certification. Some states allow medical workers with a related license or certification to become a paramedic with only some additional education. Candidates for certification may also need to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) paramedic exam and a background check.

After gaining professional experience, paramedics can advance their career and salary potential by becoming a physician assistant or medical assistant. These and other related careers require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Fortunately, many top programs offer flexible scheduling options that allow learners to continue working while earning a degree.

Accreditation for a Paramedic Program

Students considering programs for paramedics should ensure that each prospective school holds accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education charters six regional accrediting agencies to evaluate postsecondary schools in certain geographic areas. Colleges and universities must meet high academic standards and pass regular quality evaluations to receive regional accreditation.

Some paramedic programs feature a hybrid format, which combines online and on-campus coursework. Schools that offer online or hybrid programs should possess national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC accreditation demonstrates that the institution provides the same high-quality education to both online and on-campus learners.

The top paramedic programs feature programmatic accreditation from a private agency specializing in EMT and paramedic education. All reputable programs possess NREMT accreditation, and only graduates of NREMT-accredited programs can qualify for certification. Paramedic programs may also hold accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.


  • How many years of college does it take to be a paramedic?

    Paramedic programs last 1-2 years, depending on whether the program confers an associate degree or certificate. Factors such as enrollment status also impact graduation time.

  • What is the difference between a paramedic and an EMT?

    EMTs and paramedics work together to save lives. However, paramedics need more education than EMTs and qualify to perform advanced life-saving measures.

  • What does a paramedic do in a day?

    Typical job duties include responding to medical emergencies in an ambulance or fire truck. Paramedics deliver patients to hospitals. They also update doctors and RNs about patients’ medical conditions and the treatment they provided en route.

  • How long is a typical EMT shift?

    Shifts last 12-24 hours and can take place overnight and on weekends. EMTs and paramedics restock supplies, perform administrative tasks, and rest between medical emergencies.

What Are the Requirements for a Paramedic Program?

Admission requirements vary between certificate and associate degree programs for paramedics. Certificate programs often require an EMT certification and professional experience. Most programs do not accept learners under the age of 18. Other admissions materials may include FAFSA results and a background check.

Paramedic program curricula usually involve both in-class instruction and hands-on experience. During experiential components, students practice career skills such as advanced CPR, cardiac life support, and differential diagnosis. Some programs require an internship, which usually involves at least 100 hours of supervised work with certified paramedics and other medical professionals.

Courses in a Paramedic Program

Students in associate-level paramedic programs take major and general education courses. The latter emphasize transferable skills, such as communication, writing, and research. Major courses provide the knowledge and training necessary for paramedics’ jobs.

Students in paramedic certificate programs typically complete the courses below. Certificate coursework builds on knowledge from an initial EMT program. The following sample curriculum does not reflect the requirements of all paramedic programs. Students should contact their prospective school to learn about specific course availability and requirements.

Paramedic Theory

This introductory course reviews essential skills that EMTs and paramedics use in the field. Course topics include emergency management services (EMS) systems, IV therapy, and emergency pharmacology. Students also learn how to manage on-the-job stress and to seek services if necessary.

Learners gain an understanding of paramedics’ responsibilities, as well as human development. Degree-seekers prepare to assess patients’ needs and administer appropriate treatment. In addition to an EMT certification, prerequisites typically include biology, English, and mathematics classes.

Paramedic Practical Skills Lab
Students typically complete this lab and a paramedics theory course in the same semester. During the lab, students practice skills such as intubating patients, inserting an IV, and calculating medicine dosages. Learners demonstrate their competency by working with manikins, lifelike dummies with anatomical features. Degree-seekers also interpret electrocardiogram results to identify cardiac distress, such as heart attacks.
Paramedic Hospital Practice
Learners completing certificate programs for paramedics begin honing new and existing skills during the first semester of their studies. Degree-seekers work in a hospital setting, assessing patients’ vitals, administering medications, intubating, and identifying life-threatening symptoms. Students work under medical professionals’ supervision and gain advanced technical proficiencies necessary for paramedic jobs. The course typically requires additional fees, such as student liability insurance.
Paramedic: Field Internship
Students apply knowledge from their first semester to a field internship later in their program. Learners work in various hospital and clinical settings, caring for patients and demonstrating mastery of skills. In addition to field-specific abilities, interns develop transferable communication and critical thinking skills. The internship typically requires numerous prerequisites, and learners may need to pay a significant fee to compensate field supervisors for their time and feedback.
Paramedic: Hospital Internship
During their final semester, students spend nearly 150 hours working in local hospitals. This experience allows learners to prove their mastery of knowledge and skills by assisting various types of patients. Students work under supervision at job sites including operating rooms, mental health units, and labor and delivery rooms. Learners pass or fail based on supervisors’ feedback. To qualify for the internship, students must generally have completed most of the paramedic program’s coursework with a minimum “C” grade.

Professional Organizations for Paramedic Majors

Professional organizations for paramedics and students in the field offer benefits such as job boards, scholarships, and networking events. These organizations may also deliver professional development courses and certifications, which can help paramedics increase their career and salary potential. The following list highlights a few professional organizations for students in paramedics programs.

  • International Association of Flight & Critical Care Paramedics Students working toward careers as flight paramedics can join the IAFCCP as associate members. Members receive a subscription to the association's publication, Air Medical Journal, and discounts on certification courses. IAFCCP members can also earn a discounted online degree through Columbia Southern University.

  • International Association of EMTs and Paramedics Affiliated with the Services Employees International Union, IAEP is a labor union that supports EMS workers. IAEP advocates for the profession at the local, state, and federal levels. Benefits for student members include more than 100 annual scholarship opportunities, discounts on continuing education programs, and reduced life insurance rates. The organization's social media accounts deliver news to keep members up to date.

  • National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians EMTs and paramedics-in-training can join the NAEMT at a low introductory rate. Benefits for student members include discounts on professional development courses, work apparel and gear, and office equipment. Additional membership benefits include reduced rates on hotels and car rentals. NAEMT maintains an online career center that features open positions and job-hunting tips.

  • National Association of State EMS Officials Both EMS offices and individual EMS professionals can join NASEMSO. The association partners with the NAEMT to promote positive change within the EMS field. Membership benefits include access to networking opportunities and professional publications, along with an invitation to the annual conference. NASEMSO also maintains a job board featuring open positions throughout the United States.

Scholarships for Paramedic Students

Although a paramedic program takes less time to complete than a bachelor’s degree, these programs still require a significant financial investment. Fortunately, private scholarship opportunities can help students reduce or eliminate the amount of debt they incur. Numerous scholarships, including those below, accept applications from aspiring paramedics. Also, some awards renew annually as long as recipients remain in good academic standing.

America’s 911 Foundation, Inc., Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Practicing first responders and their children can apply for the scholarship. Candidates must submit an essay of 250-500 words about an inspiring first responder the applicant knows personally. Learners must apply by March 8, and the foundation notifies recipients in June. Scholarship recipients cannot reapply the following year.
Amount: $2,000

Bound Tree Legacy Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Bound Tree awards the scholarship to students preparing for careers as firefighters, EMTs, or paramedics. Applicants must have a parent or caregiver who works or worked in emergency management services. Candidates submit two recommendation letters and a one-page essay. The application window closes on March 27, and Bound Tree announces recipients on July 6.
Amount: $500-$2,500

California Paramedic Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The California Paramedic Foundation awards three scholarships 1-2 times each year. In-state EMT and paramedic students can qualify for the awards. The scholarship committee reviews applications on a rolling basis. Prospective applicants can sign up for the foundation’s newsletter to receive information about application requirements and details.
Amount: Varies

Top Paramedic Programs 2021

  1. City Colleges of Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    MXC developed a five-semester paramedic program in collaboration with the Chicago Fire Department and four Chicago-area hospitals. The 60.5-credit curriculum includes an essentials of paramedic medicine course, a paramedic medicine practicum, and a paramedic medicine field internship. Students also complete general education courses, such as composition and general psychology.

    Career advisors help students research local positions and prepare for job interviews. Learners can access online resources, including guides to writing cover letters and resumes. The college also posts links to external job-hunting websites, and students can research internship opportunities through the Career Network website.

    Prospective students should hold an Illinois EMT certification and complete prerequisite undergraduate coursework in chemistry, general biology, and anatomy. Applicants also undergo an interview process. The CCC Foundation awards scholarships to learners studying at any City Colleges of Chicago campus.

  2. Sinclair Community College

    Dayton, OH

    Practicing EMTs researching programs for paramedics can consider Sinclair's one-year technical certificate program. The curriculum comprises 33-34 credits, including courses in applied anatomy and physiology, a paramedic lecture, and a field experience. The program adheres to Ohio Division of Emergency Medical Services guidelines and prepares students to pass the national certification exam.

    Certificate-seekers can schedule one-on-one career advising appointments. Learners can also access Career Connection, an online platform that helps students explore career goals and create a custom plan for job success.

    Admission requirements include an Ohio EMT certification, college-level English prerequisites or ACCUPLACER results, and a criminal background check. Prospective learners also submit proof of immunizations. Sinclair charges a competitive per-credit tuition rate to in-district and in-state students. Learners can explore the latest institutional scholarships on the college's website.

  3. Central New Mexico Community College

    Albuquerque, NM

    Based in Albuquerque, CNM offers a paramedic program. Students in the program earn a degree in emergency medical services with a paramedic concentration. Program requirements include an EMT basic theory course, a paramedic lab, and two clinical experiences. During the final capstone course, learners prepare for the National Registry Paramedic Certification Exam.

    The college offers online career services, including information about employment workshops, academic coaching, and networking and hiring events. Virtual career resources for paramedic degree-seekers include resume outlining and formatting guides. Learners can also access video presentations that cover topics such as essential interviewing skills and creating a persuasive LinkedIn profile.

    Admission requirements include a criminal background check, a drug screen, and high school or college transcripts. The program requires completed prerequisite coursework in mathematics, reading, and writing. Students can apply for institutional financial aid by submitting their FAFSA results; some CNM scholarship opportunities require a separate application.

  4. Ivy Tech Community College

    Indianapolis, IN

    Indiana residents researching degree-granting paramedic schools can consider ITCC. The community college offers a 66.5-credit AAS in paramedic science program. Learners in the program study clinical applications, anatomy and physiology, and patient assessment techniques. Each course lasts eight weeks, and graduation requirements include a two-part ambulance internship.

    ITCC offers career development resources for students and alumni, including career exploration guides, resume and cover letter critiques, and mock interviews. The college also compiles data on job market trends and information about professional development opportunities. Learners can improve their job prospects by attending on-campus networking events and job fairs.

    Applicants submit high school transcripts and may need to take placement tests and complete undergraduate prerequisites. All Indiana residents pay the same low per-credit tuition rate. Incoming students can only submit their FAFSA results to apply for institutional scholarships and aid.

  5. Florida State College at Jacksonville

    Jacksonville, FL

    FSCJ designed its paramedic program for students without an EMT certification or professional experience. The curriculum includes paramedic labs, clinical experiences, and courses in human anatomy and physiology. Learners select at least one elective, such as the principles of management or management of emergency medical services.

    The college's career development resources include workshops, events, and individual advising sessions. Students can access a career resource library and resume reviews. Learners can also view career videos and explore links to external job-hunting websites.

    Applicants to the paramedic program take a drug screen and provide high school transcripts or GED scores. Candidates must also pass a criminal background check. FSCJ accepts scholarship applications three times each year, and learners applying for financial aid submit an essay and one recommendation letter.

  6. Miami Dade College

    Miami, FL

    Learners who live near Miami, Florida, can enroll in MDC's paramedic program. The program confers a certificate and requires coursework in human anatomy and physiology, a paramedic lecture, and a paramedic laboratory course. Graduates of the certificate program can apply credits toward an associate degree from MDC.

    Learners can access on-campus and virtual career resources, including a career-exploration guide, individual appointments, and a personalized graduation plan. MDC also hosts workshops and networking events, and advisors critique students' resumes and cover letters. The college also hosts career fairs and employer information sessions.

    Prospective students complete an eight-step enrollment process. The process involves speaking with an EMS advisor, completing a paramedic program application, and taking an entrance exam. MDC also requires applicants to meet physical fitness criteria. Incoming students submit FAFSA results.

  7. College of Lake County

    Grayslake, IL

    Located in Grayslake, Illinois, CLC offers three programs for paramedics and EMTs. The paramedic certificate program features a three-semester curriculum with courses in human form and function, patient assessment, and special considerations and operations. Students complete required clinical experiences at local Lake County hospitals and other medical facilities.

    Students can meet with an advisor, take workshops, and explore career paths through the Counseling, Advising, and Transfer Center. CLC offers free courses in career exploration and self-empowerment. Students can sign up for workshops, courses, and advising sessions over the phone or online.

    Prospective students should hold an EMT-I or EMT-B license and must have completed prerequisites in biology. In-district students save more than 50% on tuition. CLC awards multiple scholarships throughout the academic year, and learners can apply for institutional scholarships through CLC's website.

  8. College of Southern Nevada

    Las Vegas, NV

    Students who want to prepare for a paramedic career while working toward an associate degree can enroll in CSN's paramedic program. Learners earn 41 credits in paramedic-specific courses, such as advanced medical care, prehospital trauma life support, and medical terminology. Students develop strong communication skills and prepare to pass the national certification exam.

    Career and transfer services professionals help students prepare to conduct job searches, write effective resumes, and impress potential employers during in-person interactions. Degree-seekers can access an online career assessment tool and a job board featuring statewide paramedic career opportunities.

    Applicants must possess an EMT certification and some professional experience. Candidates submit at least two recommendation letters, a valid CPR card, and undergraduate transcripts demonstrating completed prerequisite coursework. Learners can apply for CSN Foundation scholarships.

  9. Portland Community College

    Portland, OR

    Unlike other paramedic schools, PCC offers five different programs for aspiring EMS professionals. The AAS in EMT-Paramedic curriculum includes an emergency response patient transportation course, a pre-paramedic orientation, and a two-part field internship. Nearly 90% of graduates pass the national certification exam on their first try.

    PCC offers career resources for degree-seekers and alumni, including webinars on topics such as LinkedIn best practices and the labor market. Advisors help students develop a career path, apply for scholarships, and prepare for interviews.

    Prospective paramedic students must demonstrate completed college-level prerequisites, provide proof of immunizations, and hold an Oregon EMT certification. Applicants must also submit to a drug test and a background check. Degree-seekers can apply for scholarships after providing their FAFSA results, and PCC offers a tuition payment plan.

  10. Chemeketa Community College

    Salem, OR

    Individuals with an EMT certification can enroll in Chemeketa's paramedic associate program. The curriculum includes courses in human anatomy and physiology, crisis intervention, and emergency response communication and documentation. Learners customize the degree by selecting electives, and graduation requirements include three field experiences in and around Salem, Oregon.

    Learners can attend career workshops and events. The Chemeketa website features job-hunting tips, and students can make appointments with career counselors, who provide assistance with resume writing and interview preparation.

    Application requirements include prerequisite undergraduate coursework, an oral interview, relevant professional experience, and one recommendation letter from a work supervisor. All Oregon residents pay the same per-credit tuition rate. The Chemeketa Foundation awards more than 140 scholarships.

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