Paramedics are highly skilled professionals who treat patients in emergency medical situations.
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What does a paramedic do?

A paramedic will often be the first medical professional to arrive at the scene, and might work as part of a two-person ambulance crew, or on their own in an emergency-response car, motorbike, or bicycle (in rural settings).

They might even provide vital advice over the phone, from a control centre or clinical setting.

In any situation, they will assess patients’ conditions, make important, potentially life-saving decisions about their care, including whether they can be treated at the scene, or need immediate transfer to a hospital.

As a paramedic you could:

  • use high-tech equipment, such as defibrillators and intravenous drips
  • administer oxygen and medication
  • be trained to drive an emergency vehicle
  • resuscitate and stabilise patients
  • make key clinical decisions using your professional judgement
  • deal with patients, their friends and relatives, and members of the public
  • work alongside the police, and fire and rescue services
  • work shifts during all hours of the day, and go out in all weathers
  • work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as GPs, hospital staff, and mental health teams

What do I need to do to become a paramedic?

You’ll need an approved qualification in paramedic science.

Once you’ve completed your studies, you’ll need to register with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC), so you can work for the ambulance service.

You can get your qualification in three different ways:

  1. Study for a diploma of higher education, foundation degree, or degree in paramedic science.
  2. Take a degree apprenticeship scheme – where you’ll combine work, training, and study, as a paid employee. Your apprenticeship will take a minimum of three years.
  3. Apply directly to the ambulance service to become a student paramedic, where you’ll study while you work. These schemes can be competitive and only tend to be released once or twice a year. It will take around two to three years to complete your training, after which you’ll gain Newly Qualified Paramedic status.

Paramedic science courses take between two and four years, and you can expect to study a mixture of theory, practical work, and extended placements with the ambulance service.

Any voluntary work with, for example, St John Ambulance or the British Red Cross, will be hugely beneficial to your course application, and your understanding of the role of a paramedic.

Related skills

  • Communication
  • Customer service
  • Discipline
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Organisation
  • Patience
  • Physical fitness
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork

Academic route

  • Two to three A levels with one in a science subject
  • A minimum of two Highers at grade C or above
  • A BTEC, HND, or HNC, which includes a science subject

Vocational route

  • For the student paramedic route, apply directly to an ambulance service trust. You may be asked to attend an assessment centre, where you might have an interview, English and maths tests, a fitness assessment, and complete a practical driving task.
  • For apprenticeship schemes, see 'Where to find out more'.

Related subjects

  • Biology
  • Chemistry

Essential qualifications

  • Paramedic course
  • OR a degree in paramedic science
  • At least five GCSEs, grades A – C, including English, maths, and science
  • Five Standard Grades at grade 3 or above, including English and a science subject
  • Pass a criminal record check with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in England, or the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme in Scotland
  • Full, manual driving licence

Desirable qualifications

  • Two years' driving experience

Where to find out more

For apprenticeships, try Find an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship options:

You can find out more at:

Where could I be working?

Paramedics help and care for all members of the public, from all walks of life. So you could be working anywhere, from a patient’s house to an office building, from a country road in the middle of nowhere to the hard shoulder of a busy motorway.

In between calls, you’ll be based at an ambulance station, and during your shift, you’ll be called out at all hours of the day or night, in all weathers.

You could also be based at an ambulance control room, where you’ll work as part of a team of call handlers and emergency medical dispatchers, giving help and advice over the phone.  

Career opportunities

You could go on to become a senior paramedic, with additional skills and responsibilities.

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