We’ve all seen and heard an ambulance in action!

The wailing siren and flashing lights seemingly appear out of nowhere, demanding curious drivers clear the way for whatever emergency is happening inside this “hospital” on wheels. 

Paramedics in ambulance. One says are you ready? Other says born ready.

As the ambulance flies by, you see paramedics diligently working.

What are they doing?

Injured man in ambulance. Paramedics ask if he's injured again. He says,

They could be helping someone with simply a minor injury or providing life-saving treatment until they can get to the hospital.

What Does A Paramedic Do?

Under the supervision and frequent communication of an offsite doctor, paramedics specialize in emergency treatments, such as: 

  • Managing compromised airways and giving tracheotomies (incisions on the neck to create a direct opening to the airway)

  • Administering antidotes (a drug or chemical that counteracts the effects of another drug) for drug overdoses or poisonings 

  • Applying pacemakers and using a defibrillator (a device that restores a normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse or shock to the heart)

    Bart Simpson on bed and doctor using defibrillator.

  • Performing basic medical testing and interpreting results

  • Evaluating patient data on monitoring equipment while en route to the hospital

  • Providing the receiving doctor a detailed account of the person’s condition 

  • Inserting IV (intravenous) lines into patients

    A hospital patient with an IV line inserted into their hand Photo by Olga Kononenko on Unsplash

Where Can Paramedics Work?

Want to venture beyond the emergency room or ambulance? Why not be a paramedic on a… 

  • Cruise ship

  • Oil-drilling platform

  • Ski resort

  • Air rescue transport

  • Ocean rescue team

  • S.W.A.T. team

  • Firefighting team

How Much Do Paramedics Earn?

In Canada: $55,000 – $75,000/year (CAD)

In the US: $36,650/year (USD)

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Paramedics typically have a higher earning potential and more opportunities for career growth than EMTs. Person throwing money in the air with caption I'm gonna make it rain.   

How Can I Become a Paramedic?

  1. Both EMTs and paramedics must obtain CPR certification. 

  2. Paramedics must complete a postsecondary educational program that usually lasts 1-2 years.

  3. All states and provinces require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed (licensing conditions may vary by location).

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High school students interested in becoming EMTs or paramedics should take courses in anatomy and physiology and consider becoming certified in CPR.

If You Have The Following Skills, You'll Make a Great Paramedic!

  • Must be able to provide emotional support to patients in an emergency

  • Excellent listening skills to be able to listen to patients 

  • The ability to work well on a team

  • Be physically fit, as there is a lot of bending, lifting, and kneeling

  • Be an efficient problem solver to evaluate patients and administer treatments

  • Have strong speaking skills to clearly explain procedures to patients, give orders, and relay information


The main difference between a paramedic and EMT is...

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