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Paramedic: Entry requirements

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There are two ways to become a paramedic, either take an approved university course in paramedic science (available at diploma, foundation degree and BSc level), or apply for a position within an ambulance trust as a student paramedic and be trained while you are working.

Paramedics must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in order to practice and so any course that you take (full or part time) must be HPC-approved.

The HPC currently lists nearly 50 approved courses of paramedic training; this includes:

  • university courses at foundation degree;
  • diploma and BSc degree level;
  • work-based learning.

You can find the list of approved providers on the HPC website.

Each NHS ambulance service trust may have its own individual entry requirements for student paramedic posts; either check for details in the job advertisement (see NHS Jobs ) or contact the trust directly for further details.

The number of vacancies advertised is very limited. Student paramedic training can take up to five years of part-time study alongside work.

Vacancies will be subject to open competition and candidates applying for these will come from a variety of backgrounds and hold a range of qualifications. Some will have had experience of working in the ambulance service already (e.g. as an emergency care assistant or ambulance care assistant), or another part of the NHS, but there will also be applicants from outside of the NHS, with other skills and experience.

Entry requirements for university courses also vary, particularly depending on the level of study you wish to take. You should contact the institution or ambulance service/trust directly for further information or consult the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website.

In addition to academic qualifications you may need to demonstrate relevant care experience such as in a care home or at St John Ambulance. Most course providers assess applicants via interview.

Courses tend to be modular with flexible entry and exit points depending on your academic qualifications and relevant experience. Courses take between two and five years (depending on which course you take.)

The degrees combine a mixture of work experience on ambulance and hospital placements with theoretical studies. Details can be found by using the course finder tool on Health Careers .

Candidates will need to show evidence of the following:

  • a caring attitude and outgoing, helpful personality;
  • a responsible and highly motivated approach to the work;
  • good interpersonal and teamwork skills;
  • strong oral and written communication skills;
  • excellent driving skills;
  • initiative and decision making;
  • have a calm and reassuring approach;
  • good general fitness to cope with lifting patients and equipment;
  • the ability to relate to people from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, races, religions and cultures;
  • a commitment to continuous professional development and education.

Other requirements may include:

  • a full manual driving licence. If you passed your test after 1996, you may need an extra driving qualification to drive larger vehicles and to carry passengers;
  • clearance of an enhanced DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) check;
  • passing a fitness test, occupational health screening (normal colour vision and manual dexterity are important) and medical assessment including eye tests (spectacles are acceptable);
  • IELTS score of 7 in all elements for students whose first language is not English.

Useful pre-entry experience includes:

  • experience of dealing with the public, especially sick, disabled and elderly people;
  • first aid certificates as evidence of your interest;
  • voluntary experience in organisations such as St John Ambulance , St Andrew's Ambulance Association and British Red Cross ;
  • experience in life-saving techniques, which you can gain by volunteering as a community 'first responder' in association with local ambulance services;
  • office-based work in an ambulance service.

Find out more by visiting an ambulance station and check the Guide to Ambulance Service Information to keep up to date with current issues.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.

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Written by Jill Freeman, Staffordshire University
May 2014

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