A paramedic is the first on the scene when there’s a medical emergency, and often works in a team of two to assist, assess or treat patients. Ambulance service staff are required to make clinical – and sometimes life-saving – decisions on the spot, and must be able to collaborate well with others. This means you need to be a quick thinker, a great communicator, and always calm under pressure.
If you have these traits, a career as a paramedic could be for you. Here’s a quick guide on how to get a job in the ambulance service, with advice on qualifications and training, as well as job selection.
The academic route involves a diploma of higher education, foundation degree, or degree in paramedic science. This is perhaps the most conventional route of training, and students will need to meet the following prerequisites to apply:
Two or three A levels (at least one science subject)
At least two Highers (C or above)
A BTEC / HND / HNC (including a science subject)
Not only do UCAS panels look for excellent school grades, but they will also want to see discipline, organisation, leadership, good problem-solving skills, teamwork skills, and interpersonal skills. Candidates with some experience in first aid or voluntary healthcare work will be at an advantage too.
During your studies, you can expect a mix of theory, practical work and extended placements.
Alternatively, you can apply directly to an ambulance service trust to work and train as a student paramedic. For some, this is a very desirable route as it provides a hands-on learning experience. However, competition is high and student job openings are only released twice a year.
Applicants will need to have at least five GCSEs at grade C or above (including English, maths and science) or equivalent qualifications. Although this is the base level minimum, some students applying may already have higher education degrees. With student paramedic training positions being so competitive, any voluntary work or additional work experience will be hugely beneficial.
Generally, employers will also require you to be physically fit and have at least two years’ driving experience. During the application process, you may be asked to attend an assessment centre to complete an English and maths test, fitness assessment, and a practical driving test.
Some trusts will require a certain amount of EMT experience too, and unlike paramedics, EMTs don’t need to be HCPC registered, making it a good first step if you’re looking for an alternative training route.
Another way to train in the ambulance service is to apply directly with a healthcare provider for a degree apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships usually last three years, and at the end you will have a BSc Hons qualification as well as the necessary HCPC registration. For paramedics, they will also complete the Level 3 Certificate in Emergency Response Ambulance Driving Course.
Prerequisites for apprenticeships are GCSEs and A levels (or equivalent qualifications).With this route, you will combine work, training and study, and get paid as an employee.
How to get a job in an ambulance service that’s right for you
Paramedics have a high level of responsibility, and are often the senior healthcare professionals in medical situations and 999 calls. But not everyone in the ambulance service is a paramedic. There are many different roles that you could apply for. One of the most common roles is an EMT, which can be a good route to becoming a paramedic.
If you want to know how to get a job in an ambulance service that makes the best use of your skills, it’s important to keep an open mind and find out about other career paths. It’s still possible to make a difference and help others without being the senior paramedic on site.
Here are some other ambulance service jobs:
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
In this role, you may operate as a single responder or support a paramedic crew, providing assistance to the emergency care team and direct care to patients.
Emergency care assistants (ECAs)
This role works alongside paramedics as part of an ambulance crew, helping to provide care for patients.
Emergency call handlers
Call handlers and medical dispatchers deal with 999 calls and are responsible for ensuring the right help is on its way to patients.
Patient Transport Service (PTS) drivers
PTS drivers (or ambulance care assistants) work with the elderly, disabled people or vulnerable patients, transporting them to and from hospitals and clinics.
Patient Transport Service (PTS) call handlers
PTS call handlers are responsible for booking vehicles to assist elderly, disabled or vulnerable people to help them get to their medical appointments on time.
To find your dream job in the ambulance service, take a look at current job listings online.