EMT/ Paramedic Career Ladder

Currently working as an EMT, and wondering what your options are for the future? Emergency medical technician jobs have a built in career ladder at least at the early career stages. When you complete your first training, you’re classified as an EMT-Basic. You can be classified as an EMT-Intermediate after working as an EMT-Basic and completing additional training and licensing requirements. With time, you can move up to the level of paramedic.

Some reach this level, though, and feel that it is still not enough. Others begin looking for alternatives while still at the EMT level. The adrenaline rush can get old after a while. The stress level can seem too high, the compensation too low. Fortunately, people who have been successful as emergency technicians or paramedics are attractive candidates for other healthcare programs. If you just want to reduce stress or bring the physical demands down, you might consider becoming an emergency room technician. Emergency room technicians perform the more basic tasks in an emergency room setting. Degree completion, though, can bring significantly better opportunities.

Registered Nurse

A career as an RN allows a person to work in settings where there are fewer life or death moments. It can also afford a higher salary. Many states allow people to become RNs through alternative pathways that are shorter than the typical one. Some programs are designated paramedic to RN or RN bridge; some bridge programs cater to both paramedics and LPNs. Sometime in the early part of the program, you will be expected to demonstrate clinical competence. There may also be a separate test in medication calculations. If you pass everything, you will be awarded advanced placement.

Paramedic bridge programs typically have flexible scheduling to allow you to work as a paramedic while going to nursing school. You may have the option of doing most of your coursework online. Paramedics who have completed programs report that a few parts of the curriculum can feel hard and that it can be difficult at first to get into the mindset of an RN. (This could include, for example, getting doctor’s authorization for some treatments they were used to giving autonomously.) In general, though, paramedics are very ready for nursing school clinical requirements.

Read more about the RN career path.

Physician Assistant

If you have solid academic skills and are able to put some time into your education, you might consider becoming a physician assistant. Physician assistants work under the supervision of doctors, but carry out many duties that were once reserved for MDs. Most have master’s degrees, but there are still a few bachelor’s programs. These are rigorous programs; they may include more required credit hours than the average bachelor’s degree. Students will often need to do some summer study. (Still, it may well feel less stressful than a midnight trip to an emergency scene!)

Some PA programs also admit undergraduates and allow them to complete a BS on the road to an MS. Programs for physician assistants vary in their admission policies, but they generally look for healthcare experience as well as indicators of academic success. While some will accept a short stint as a nursing assistant, others ask for a year or more of experience in a position of responsibility. An EMT/ paramedic is well poised to meet this healthcare experience requirement.

Learn more about the Physician Assistant career path.

Emergency Medical Services Educator or Manager

Some experienced paramedics go on to become instructors. Preference may be given to candidates with associate’s degrees. As in other fields, some workers do go on to management positions. Here, a bachelor’s degree is the norm. There are some programs designed specifically to give EMT professionals the additional skills they need to manage emergency medical services. Admission requirements vary. For some, you must be licensed as a paramedic; other programs will accept you at any level from EMT-Basic on up.


Though the path to becoming a physician is longer than the above mentioned professions, it is a route that many EMTs and paramedics have pursued. While conducting their daily professional routines, a Paramedic/EMT acquires many of the skills that make a successful physician. They are calm under pressure while they administer life saving protocols and are exposed to patient care frequently.

Paramedic/EMT experience can be highly valued during medical school admission. The Paramedic/EMT position also offers an opportunity to work while studying for the MCAT and related preparation for applying to medical school.

Some paramedics/EMTs choose to continue working while in medical school. While, difficult to manage school and work, it is an option for those that need to supplement their income while in school.

Read more about the Physician career path.

Other Options

Other health degree programs also value EMT experience. It’s something to play up in a personal statement – or a scholarship essay.

The paramedic/EMT career ladder offers a variety of options. You’ll just need to figure out which path is right for you and start climbing that ladder.