Become a Paramedic
Entry into the profession:
Historically, entry into the paramedic profession was achieved by working through various roles within a specific NHS ambulance service. Prospective paramedics would begin their careers working in the non-emergency Patient Transport Service, before moving into accident and emergency work following qualification as an ambulance technician. Then, following a period of experience in the technician role, candidates would sit entry exams and then complete a training course to become a qualified paramedic.
Now with the increasing number of University courses leading to paramedic qualification, this is no longer the case with the recommended route to becoming a paramedic being the completion of a higher education diploma in paramedic science (or equivalent).
To work in the UK as a paramedic you will need to have undertaken a course approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the regulatory body for paramedics. For a list of HCPC approved university courses please visit:
A guideline to entry requirements which do vary according to the University
- You are recomended to gain some experience of delivering care in a professional or voluntary capacity and a reference from a current or recent employer or educational institution.
- You may be required to hold a full UK driving licence by the time you attend the interview stage.
- Normally five GCSEs at grade C or above, including English language or literature, mathematics and a science (single or double) or equivalent, plus one of the following: 280 points from GCE/VCE A levels or BTEC National qualifications
For more information on these universities and their courses, including entry requirements, or to get in contact with them, please search for them on www.ucas.com, (the website of all university courses in the UK).
As being a paramedic is such a physically demanding job, if you have specific health or disability questions it is worth contacting your local service to ask them directly about your employability.
Direct entry courses
Entry onto many of the university courses is through the University Central Admissions Service (UCAS). Most of these courses are fulltime, and as a student you will be eligible for means tested grants, student loans and also have to pay tuition fees. Although paramedic students are not currently included in the NHS Bursary Scheme, some NHS Strategic Health Authorities provide support for university students, details of any such support can be obtained from the university in question.
For a link to UK paramedic education providers see the link in the right hand column.
Some Universities work closely with partner ambulances services to provide paramedic development for existing non-paramedic clinical staff such as technicians and emergency care assistants. A small number of ambulance Trusts also provide programmes for new recruits. Entry onto these courses is via the partner Ambulance Service Trust. Most commonly students on supported places are current employees of a partner Ambulance Trust, and will often have fees paid and other support provided such as salary and expenses. The graduate paramedic would normally be expected to work for their employing Trust on qualification as a paramedic and for a fixed term afterwards.
It would be worth contacting ambulance services directly to enquiry if they are currently running a direct entry Student paramedic scheme.
Join the College of Paramedics
You should join the College of Paramedics, prospective students may join as associate members. This will both demonstrate your commitment to the professionalism that the College upholds, and give you access to the representation and benefits that membership brings see the Student Flyer 'Student Voice' download (right)
Driving Emergency Vehicles
Whilst registration with the Health & Care Professions Council as a paramedic does not rely on the ability to drive an emergency vehicle, most NHS Ambulance Trusts (who are by far the largest employer of paramedics), will require you to be able to drive a frontline ambulance under emergency conditions. This will usually require having category C1 on your driving licence (Vehicles weighing between 3,500 kg and 7,500 kg). In order to drive under emergency conditions staff are also required to pass an emergency driving course, commonly of three to four weeks duration, which NHS Trusts often provide in-house, (although there also are some limited alternative providers).
People with certain medical conditions are barred from driving emergency vehicles, including insulin dependent diabetics and some categories of epilepsy. This is something to bear in mind if you are thinking of becoming a paramedic and suffer from one of these conditions.
Post registration opportunities
As outlined in "Paramedic Curriculum Guidance and Competence Framework" (CoP, 2014), the College of Paramedics supports an increase in the threshold entry level for paramedics to a minimum of Diploma of Higher Education. However some university-based paramedic courses are set higher than this at BSc (Hons) level and paramedics are increasingly found studying for post-graduate qualifications after their initial registration.
Until recent years, the prospects for paramedics wishing to develop were limited to in-house ambulance Trust training or management roles. In recent years however, many paramedics have developed their clinical practice into specialist and advanced roles in areas such as primary and critical care. Increasingly paramedics are to be found working for institutions other than ambulance Trusts, such as Out of Hours GP providers, Minor Injuries Units, Walk-In Centres, and various private health providers, both in the UK and abroad. In keeping with other health care professionals, paramedics are required to have attained higher education qualifications to undertake such roles.
Paramedics also develop in other ways. Many move into managerial, educational or research roles and the diversity of these pathways has also increased in recent years with the growth of university provision and specialist managerial roles.
Paramedic is often the first profession that people think of in the field of Emergency Care, but please remember that there are many other careers within emergency and urgent care. To find out more about these, please visit the NHS careers website, and you can call your local ambulance service. You can find your local ambulance service on www.paramedic-resource-centre.com/ambulance_services.htm.