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From EMT to Contract Paramedic: EMT Career Guide

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

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Some employers—like AMR services, fire stations, and hospitals—need EMTs and paramedics 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But what about situations where EMTs and paramedics are only needed temporarily or seasonally?

Medical first responder who can answer the call of duty during seasonal emergencies or other temporary circumstances are known as Contract Paramedics.

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

Contract paramedics can serve in many different places, including international missions, military bases, amusement parks, disease outbreak hot zones, and businesses that do not operate year-round, such as tourist attractions.

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

This career guide will provide a comprehensive overview of becoming a contract paramedic, one of the many alternative career options available to trained EMTs and paramedics.

(Click here to see our full 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 to treat injuries and illnesses.

What sets contract paramedics apart is the transient nature of their work. Contract paramedics provide their services on a temporary basis from one location to the next. Their job may require them to travel several times throughout the year as contracts can last anywhere from a number of weeks to several months.

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

What Is a Typical Day For a Contract Paramedic?

Amusement park

Like a traditional EMT or paramedic, much of the day for a contract paramedic revolves around routine and schedule, interrupted (as needed) by emergency calls.

The types of injuries that arise will depend on their contracted role and work-location. At amusement parks, for example, contract paramedics may spend most of their day inside a first aid station waiting for park employees to call in any injuries or emergencies. At a park, those could range from falls, sprained ankles, and ride-related injuries, to heatstroke, and other physical conditions.

Depending on where a contract paramedic is stationed, the stakes could be much higher. For example, contract medics who are hired to assist during an international disease outbreak, may have to treat patients suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Naturally, those types of jobs are more strenuous and carry a lot more risk, but the compensation is traditionally higher as well.

Contract Paramedic Hours

For contract paramedics, work hours are flexible and 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 will be the norm in most locations.

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

Contract Paramedic Salary

How Much Does a Contract Paramedic Make?

Currently, the average salary for a Contract Paramedic is $58,424 a year, or about $28.00 an hour (Zip Recruiter).

Contract Paramedics in the lower 25th percentile make an average salary of $23,500, and those who earn in the top percentiles can make between $90,000 to $128,000 annually on average.

Compensation also depends on how many contracts a paramedic can complete within a year.

Contract Paramedic Requirements

How to Become a Contract Paramedic

Patient on stretcher

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

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

EMTs interested in a career as a contract paramedic 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 are calm under pressure
  • You can work away from home for weeks at a time
  • You like frequent change and adventure
  • You can adjust to the expectations of each new employer
  • You can triage in emergency situations
  • You aren’t bothered by crowds

Contract Paramedic Education

What Training Is Required to Become a Contract Paramedic?

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

On-the-job training helps contract paramedics feel confident and prepared to respond to injuries and illness, regardless of how unfamiliar they may be with their specific location.

Contract Paramedic Certification

As mentioned earlier, to become a contract paramedic, you must first be a certified paramedic.

According to the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians), anyone applying to become a paramedic must 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

To begin, you must register for the exam at NREMT.org. The cost of the registration fee is $125, per attempt. Upon completion, you’ll then be emailed an ATT (authorization to test) with your exam location.

Paramedic certification 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 Psychomotor Exam – In addition to your computer exam (cognitive), paramedic students must also pass a psychomotor exam as well. This exam tests your ability to apply your knowledge 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.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Contract Paramedic?

The time required to become a paramedic depends heavily on the educational route you choose.

If you study full-time, you may be able to complete your paramedic training within a year.

If you study part-time while continuing to work as an EMT, your courses may take you two to three years to complete.

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

Paramedics also have the option of advancing their training with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university—though this route is typically reserved for paramedics who hope to advance to management roles or eventually enroll in medical school.

Contract Paramedic Required Skills

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

  • Patience – One of the most important traits of a contract paramedic is the ability to stay calm during stressful situations.
  • 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. They must also be capable of weighing the pros and cons of multiple solutions during any emergency.
  • Communication – Contract paramedics must maintain open lines of communication with their patients, their managers, and other emergency medical professionals.
  • Budgeting – 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 paying bills 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?

EMT and paramedic experience is a required foundation for becoming a contract paramedic.

While job-type and location may vary, the human body and its countless vulnerabilities remains constant, so experience, training, and a solid understanding of technique can be applied in any situation, no matter how remote or unusual.

Other benefits include:

  • Shift Experience – EMTs and paramedics already know the importance of getting rest when they can, and how to spring into action at any time, day or night.
  • Proof of Performance – EMTs and paramedics have proven experience in handling 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 is an exciting and potentially lucrative next step 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.

Not only will you be enhancing your career, you’ll be helping people and saving lives.  If this sounds right for you, now is an excellent time to take that first step towards your dream career.

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