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Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Paramedics can become supervisors, operations managers, administrative directors, or executive directors of emergency services. Some EMTs and paramedics become instructors, dispatchers, or physician assistants; others move into sales or marketing of emergency medical equipment. A number of people become EMTs and paramedics to test their interest in healthcare before training as registered nurses, physicians, or other health workers.

Employment
EMTs and paramedics held about 210,700 jobs in 2008. Most career EMTs and paramedics work in metropolitan areas. Volunteer EMTs and paramedics are more common in small cities, towns, and rural areas. These individuals volunteer for fire departments, emergency medical services, or hospitals and may respond to only a few calls per month.

Paid EMTs and paramedics were employed in a number of industries. About 45 percent worked as employees of ambulance services. About 29 percent worked in local government. Another 20 percent worked in hospitals.

Job Outlook
Employment for EMTs and paramedics is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2018. Job prospects should be good, particularly in cities and private ambulance services.

Job Growth
Employment of emergency medical technicians and paramedics is expected to grow 9 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth in this occupation is due in large part to increasing call volume due to aging population. As a large segment of the population—aging members of the baby boom generation—becomes more likely to have medical emergencies, demand will increase for EMTs and paramedics. In addition, the time that EMTs and paramedics must spend with each patient is increasing as emergency departments across the country are experiencing overcrowding. As a result, when an ambulance arrives, it takes longer to transfer the patient from the care of the EMTs and paramedics to the staff of the emergency department. In addition, some emergency departments divert ambulances to other hospitals when they are too busy to take on new patients. As a result, ambulances may not be able to go to the nearest hospital, which increases the amount of time spent in transit. Both these factors result in EMTs and paramedics spending more time with each patient, which means more workers are needed to meet demand.

In addition, hospitals are increasingly specializing in treating a particular illness or injury. This results in more patients needing to be transferred to the hospital best able to treat them. Most patients must be transferred by ambulance, so their condition can be monitored en route. Therefore, more demand for transfers between hospitals increases the demand for the services of EMTs and paramedics.

There also still will be demand for part-time, volunteer EMTs and paramedics in rural areas and smaller metropolitan areas.

Job prospects should be favorable. Many job openings will arise from growth and from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation because of the limited potential for advancement, as well as the modest pay and benefits in private-sector jobs. In addition, full-time paid EMTs and paramedics will be needed to replace unpaid volunteers. Emergency medical service agencies find it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain unpaid volunteers because of the amount of training and the large time commitment these positions require. As a result, more paid EMTs and paramedics are needed.

Competition will be greater for jobs in local government, including fire, police, and independent third-service rescue squad departments that tend to have better salaries and benefits. EMTs and paramedics who have advanced education and certifications should enjoy the most favorable job prospects, as clients and patients demand higher levels of care before arriving at the hospital.

Earnings
Earnings of EMTs and paramedics depend on the employment setting and geographic location of their jobs, as well as their training and experience. Median hourly wages of EMTs and paramedics were $14.10 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.13 and $18.28. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.08, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $23.77. Median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of EMTs and paramedics in May 2008 were $12.99 in other ambulatory healthcare services and $15.45 in local government.

In 2008, about 27 percent of EMTs and paramedics belonged to a union or were covered by a union contract.

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