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From EMT to Contract Paramedic: EMT Career Guide

How to Become a Contract Paramedic: Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Helicopter in flight

Most people associate EMT work with AMR services, fire stations, and hospitals—places where EMTs and paramedics are needed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But the lesser-known role of the contract paramedic is a great alternative for many licensed EMTs and paramedics, as they are only needed temporarily or seasonally

A contract paramedic is a medical first responder who is available to respond to emergency calls during seasonal emergencies or other temporary circumstances.

As a certified paramedic, a Contract Paramedic works in one specific place or for one specific employer for a specified period of time, before moving on to a different job site or contract. You could think of them as freelance paramedics. They do a lot of the same work as typical AMR paramedics, but their location, pay, and experience can vary wildly.

Contract paramedics can serve in a huge variety of different places, from international missions, military bases, and amusement parks, to disease outbreak hot zones, and seasonal businesses such as tourist attractions.

If you’re a licensed EMT or paramedic and have a taste for variety and adventure, becoming a contract paramedic might just be a perfect fit.

The following career guide will provide a comprehensive overview of going from being a licensed EMT to one of the unique alternative career options available to trained EMTs and paramedics, that of a contract paramedic.

(Click here to see our list of alternative jobs for EMTs and paramedics).

Continue reading to learn more about the role of a contract paramedic, as well as their required training, responsibilities, salaries, and benefits.

Contract Paramedic Duties & Responsibilities

What Does a Contract Paramedic Do?

Like all paramedics, the primary job of a contract paramedic is obviously to treat injuries and illnesses.

As the name implies, what really sets contract paramedics apart is the short-term nature of their work. Contract paramedics provide services on a temporary basis–going from one location to another, one job to another is part of the gig. Contract paramedics’ jobs may even require them to travel as much as several times throughout the year, as contracts tend to last a few weeks or months.

Not dissimilar from regular EMT work, common responsibilities for contract paramedics include:

  • Treating wounds and injuries
  • Administering medication, injections, and IVs
  • Running tests for flu and other illnesses
  • Testing water supplies
  • Maintaining medical supply inventory
  • Inspecting first aid equipment
  • Assisting with safety drills
  • Assessing whether employees can return to work
  • Referring patients for additional treatment

Contract Paramedic Job Description

A Day in the Life of a Contract Paramedic

Amusement park

Like traditional EMTs or paramedics, much of the day for a contract paramedic revolves around routine and schedule, interrupted on an as-needed basis by emergency calls.

The types of injuries that arise and situations they have to deal with will depend greatly on their contracted role and specific work location. Take for example, amusement parks. Contract paramedics at amusement parks will normally spend most of their day inside a first aid station waiting for park employees to call in any injuries or emergencies. At an amusement park, those will typically range from falls, sprained ankles, and ride-related injuries, to heatstroke, and other physical conditions.

But depending on the work location, the stakes could be much higher. Contract paramedics who are hired to assist during disease outbreaks, may have to treat patients suffering from life-threatening illnesses under high-stress circumstances. Naturally, those types of jobs are more stressful and carry a lot more risk, but the compensation is traditionally higher as well.

Does the idea of being a contract paramedic for the National Park service sound interesting? Learn all about it here.

For a more unique look at what it’s like to be a paramedic, here’s an interesting article.

Contract Paramedic Hours

Work hours for contract paramedics tend to be flexible though they depend entirely on the specifics of each contract. However, since it is important for contract paramedics to be well-rested while on-duty, the traditional 12-hour shift is the norm in most locations.

Depending on the remoteness of the location, some contract paramedics may also be required to sleep on-site for the duration of their employment.

Contract Paramedic Salary

How Much Does a Contract Paramedic Earn?

Currently, the average salary* for a Contract Paramedic is $59,195 a year, or about $28.00 an hour (Zip Recruiter).

Contract Paramedics in the lower 25th percentile make an average salary* of $37,500 and those who earn in the top 75th percentile can earn up to $67,000 or more.

Of course, compensation also depends on how many contracts a paramedic can complete within a year.

Contract Paramedic Requirements

What it Takes to Become a Contract Paramedic

Patient on stretcher

If you’re already a licensed paramedic, then you already hold the required certification credentials needed to become a contract paramedic.

Although additional degrees or certification are rarely needed, some on-the-job training may be necessary to familiarize yourself with the details of each new setting.

EMTs interested in careers as contract paramedics will need to go through paramedic training and certification. This includes 1,200+ hours of training in addition to EMT training, which can take one to two years to complete.

(Click here to learn how to become a paramedic).

Contract Paramedic Might Be a Good Fit For You If…

  • You’re calm under pressure
  • You can work away from home for weeks at a time
  • You like frequent change and adventure
  • You can adjust to differing expectations of differing employers
  • You can triage in emergency situations
  • You aren’t bothered by crowds

Contract Paramedic Education

What Training is Required to Become a Contract Paramedic?

Although a specialized degree is not required to become a contract paramedic, exact requirements will vary from contract to contract. Some companies, for example, may require on-the-job training to familiarize incoming paramedics with the specific job expectations of their particular industry, their communication guidelines, and any job-specific vocabulary.

On-the-job training helps contract paramedics feel confident and prepared to respond to injuries and illness, within their specific locations.

Contract Paramedic Certification

As mentioned earlier, becoming a contract paramedic, begins with becoming a certified paramedic first.

According to the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians), anyone applying to become a paramedic must already meet the following requirements:

  • You must be 18 or older
  • You must currently be certified as an EMT (click here to learn how to become an EMT)
  • You must have completed an accredited paramedic program within the last two years
  • You must be CPR certified
  • You must complete a psychomotor competency portfolio (proof that you can physically handle the job of a paramedic)
  • You must complete the NREMT paramedic cognitive and psychomotor certification exams

It all begins with registering for the exam at NREMT.org. The cost of the registration fee is $125, per attempt. After completion, you’ll be emailed an ATT (authorization to test) with your exam location.

The paramedic certification exam consists of two main parts, the cognitive exam and the psychomotor exam.

The Cognitive Exam – The cognitive portion of the exam focuses on many of the core EMT principles you learned during your paramedic training program and is graded on a pass/fail basis:

  • Airway
  • Cardiology
  • Medicine
  • OBGYN
  • Trauma patients, and
  • Operations

The exam is graded simply on a pass/fail basis.

The Psychomotor Exam – In addition to your cognitive exam, paramedic students must also pass a psychomotor exam as well. This exam tests your ability to apply your knowledge under pressure, out in the field. During the exam, you’ll be asked to:

  • Size-up a scene
  • Perform initial resuscitation
  • Take a patient’s history
  • Make a secondary assessment
  • Read an ECG and manage both:
    1. A cardiac irregularity, such as arrhythmia
    2. A cardiac arrest

You’ll also be tested on your communication skills—both receiving information and giving commands.

Laptop draped with a stethoscope

How Long Does It Take to Become a Contract Paramedic?

Of course, the time required to become a paramedic depends heavily on the educational route you choose, and the work you put in. If you dedicate a full-time schedule to it, paramedic training can be completed within a year.

If you have a busier schedule and choose to study part-time while continuing to work as an EMT, your courses may take two to three years to complete.

Some programs also require aspiring paramedics to have up to six months experience as an EMT before they can begin paramedics classes.

Paramedics also have the option of advancing their training and career prospects with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. This route is typically chosen by paramedics who hope to advance to management roles, or even eventually enroll in medical school.

Contract Paramedic Required Skills

Besides the educational and certification requirements, successful contract paramedics exhibit the following skills:

  • Patience – One of the most important traits of a contract paramedic is the ability to stay calm during stressful situations.
  • Patience again – Because it bears repeating.
  • Resource Management – Contract paramedics are often in charge of medical supply inventory, so maintaining this supply, ordering additional items, and rationing distribution is vital.
  • Decision Making – Is an injury treatable, or does it require transport to the nearest hospital? Contract paramedics must be decisive under pressure. They must also be capable of weighing the pros and cons of multiple solutions during a wide variety of emergencies.
  • Communication – Contract paramedics must maintain open lines of communication with their patients, their managers, and other emergency medical professionals.
  • Budgeting –As with any kind of contract-based work, solid financial planning is a must. Compensation will likely have highs and lows throughout the year, so saving appropriately during the highs is essential to keeping up year-round.
  • Risk Assessment –Particularly with international or outbreak contracts, contract paramedics must exercise risk assessment to avoid putting themselves in danger.

From EMT to Contract Paramedic

How Can My EMT Experience Help Me Become a Contract Paramedic?

Aside from being a required foundation for becoming a contract paramedic EMT and paramedic experience is vital to understanding the types of stressful situations that can arise.

While job-type and location can vary greatly, the human body and the countless issues that can come about remains constant, so experience, training, and a solid understanding of technique can be applied in most situations, no matter how remote or unusual.

Other advantages EMTs have in becoming contract paramedics include:

  • Shift Experience – EMTs and paramedics already know the importance of getting rest when they can, and how to be prepared to spring into action at any time, day or night.
  • Proof of Performance – EMTs and paramedics have proven experience in handling stressful emergency situations.
  • Communication – EMTs and paramedics know how to best assess a situation and communicate important information quickly and clearly.
  • Leadership – EMTs and paramedics are often required to assume leadership responsibilities during emergencies or other chaotic situations. From amusement parks to cruise lines to international clinics, assertive leadership is essential to getting the job done.
  • Organizational Skills – EMTs and paramedics are accustomed to collecting patient information and triaging during emergency situations. They are also familiar with maintaining equipment and supplies.

Beginning Your Career as a Contract Paramedic

Becoming a contract paramedic can be an exciting and potentially lucrative alternative for qualified EMTs and paramedics.

If you’re not already an EMT and would like to gain the real-world experience needed to become a contract paramedic, you can start by training for EMT certification.

Enhance your career, while helping people and saving lives.  If this sounds like what you’re looking for, now is an excellent time to take that first step towards your new career.