Paramedics are the front-line representatives of emergency medical response teams in the United Kingdom. They are highly qualified and employed primarily by the NHS Ambulance Trusts. Paramedics tend to be first to the scene of medical emergencies, so a principal requirement is that they be calm, unflappable and able to handle pressure. Demand for paramedics is great. There are numerous jobs and huge potential for career development. As at February 2008, paramedic salaries ranged from £19,683 to £25,424 (excluding allowances or London weighting payments).
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Things you need
- Five GCSEs, including Math and English
- Two A levels or equivalent qualifications, such as NVQ 3
- UK driving licence, plus category LGV C1
You need to meet minimum educational qualifications to be a paramedic in the UK. A number of university courses, from diplomas to postgraduate degrees, lead to paramedic qualification. The National Health Service (NHS) provides a comprehensive list of UK university and college courses. Ideally, when you are age 17, apply via UCAS to the universities of your choice to ensure the best choice of course offerings.
Apply for course funding online or through your local education authority. The UK Government provides student loans, grants and tuition-fee loans via Student Finance England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. According to the College of Paramedics, some NHS Trusts also provide financial support for university students; although you will need to agree to work for the NHS Trust for a set amount of time. Alternatively, some NHS Trusts do advertise occasional vacancies for student paramedics; the London Ambulance Trust for example.
Pass your driving test as soon as possible, because paramedics working for the NHS generally need a full UK driving licence. Ambulance drivers require an extra driving test for the addition of LGV category C1 vehicles. You will receive specialised driving courses for handling emergency vehicles when you are working for the ambulance service.
Register as a paramedic with the Health Professions Council (HPC) once you have qualified.
If you already work for an NHS Ambulance Service in a non-qualified role, you may be eligible for support and funding to qualify as a paramedic.
Qualified Emergency Medical Technicians with more than two years' work experience can train to become paramedics in 10 to12 weeks with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.
You need to contact Human Resources to apply.
If you intend to pursue studies as a mature student, it may be possible to enrol for paramedic courses even if you do not have the relevant qualifications. According to UCAS, "the growth of lifelong learning" has ensured increasing numbers of mature students in the UK and there are several ways that mature students can access education.
One route for mature students to gain university admission is via an Access to Education course, which is generally provided by local colleges.
Learning credits obtained by part-time study, for example with The Open University, can also be used to support university course applications.
Consult the university of your choice prior to applying for the paramedics course. They will advise you of the best route to follow based on your circumstances.
Tips and warnings
- It is possible to become a paramedic if you work for the NHS or Ambulance Service and take emergency services training. There are numerous work opportunities for paramedics; e.g., jobs in health centres and surgeries, with private organisations, or working on instant-response helicopter and motorcycle units. Be prepared to work weekend and night shifts. The service operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Paramedic jobs can be physically and emotionally demanding and may occasionally involve an element of verbal and/or physical abuse. If you suffer from certain forms of medical conditions, such as epilepsy, chronic mental health problems or diabetes, you may be banned from driving emergency response vehicles for the NHS.
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