Air Evacuation Paramedic Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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Get the truth about an evacuation paramedic's salary, training and licensure requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming an air evacuation paramedic.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Air Evacuation Paramedic

An air evacuation paramedic, better known as a flight paramedic, is a professional that provides emergency care while a patient is in transit to a hospital. Read the pros and cons of becoming an air evacuation paramedic to decide if it's right for you.

Pros of a Career as an Air Evacuation Paramedic
Good jobs prospects for paramedics in general (24% growth from 2014-2024)*
Pay increased 11% for paramedics from 2010-2011***
Limited education requirements (only need about two years of postsecondary training)*
Opportunity to save lives by providing crucial initial care*

Cons of a Career as an Air Evacuation Paramedic
Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) overall earn below-average wages (average annual salary of about $35,110 in 2014)*
Very competitive field (every opening attracts over 200 applicants)**
Physically taxing job (standing long periods, climbing, walking, stooping, bending and lifting)*
Have to deal with exposure to infectious diseases, blood, body fluids, dangerous levels of volume, heat, cold, humidity, vibrations, chemicals and fumes**
About one-third of all paramedics work more than 40 hours per week*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **International Association of Flight and Critical Care Paramedics, ***2011 Critical Care Transport Workplace and Salary Survey.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

An air evacuation or flight paramedic provides pre-hospital care to injured or critically ill patients, and provides patients with a safe environment while being taken to the hospital. The flight paramedic assesses patients and administers treatment where needed. They may also be responsible for keeping the plane or helicopter in good condition and making sure all equipment is working and present.

Career Prospects and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated in 2014 that paramedics and EMTs overall earned a median annual salary of about $31,700. However, PayScale.com found that most flight paramedics earned an annual salary of between about $36,000 and $66,000 (including bonuses and overtime) as of January 2016. The BLS anticipated a 24% increase in jobs for paramedics from 2014-2024. This growth may be driven in part by an aging population.

What Are the Requirements?

Education, Licensure and Certification Requirements

As an aspiring paramedic, you may either complete a series of EMT certificate programs leading to the paramedic level, or you can complete an associate degree program. In either case, training to become a paramedic takes about two years. After completing an approved program, you are required to become licensed as a paramedic in your state, which means you must meet minimum age, education and experience requirements and pass an examination. In many cases, becoming certified through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) is sufficient for state licensure.

Top Skills for Air Evacuation Paramedics

In addition to education and licensure, a paramedic is expected to possess a set of skills that are necessary to perform the tasks of the job. A flight paramedic needs visual, auditory, clinical decision-making, communication and diplomacy skills, along with the ability to lift at least 100 pounds and write legibly.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers look for air evacuation or flight paramedics that have state licensure. Candidates are typically expected to have a variety of certifications, along with critical care transport training experience. The following jobs were advertised in May 2012.

  • A hospital in Pennsylvania advertised for a flight paramedic who could complete transport missions. Candidates need a high school diploma, paramedic training, certifications in pediatric advanced life support (PALS), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) and flight team training.
  • A city in California was seeking a flight paramedic to become an air ambulance flight crew member. He or she will assess, triage and treat patients. Candidates need a high school diploma, EMT-P California license and three years experience in 911 or pre-hospital emergency medical services. Candidates must have ACLS, PALS, basic cardiac life support (BCLS) and Nationally Registered Paramedic (NPR) certifications, as well as experience in critical care transport.
  • A state police department sought an individual to be the sole paramedic on a helicopter. Candidates must be an EMT-Paramedic licensed to work in Maryland and have three years of experience. Chosen candidate must also train to be a state trooper and become familiar with the helicopter, equipment and helicopter safety procedures.

How to Stand Out

Get Specialized

Multiple universities throughout the country offer a critical care emergency medical transport program to nurses and paramedics interested in working in a transportation setting. This program prepares you to function in a critical care transportation team. You can learn about transporting patients between hospitals or other institutions, aeromedical considerations, flight physiology, organ transports, obstetrics, pediatrics and complications as they apply to critical care in flight. This specialized training could demonstrate your dedication to potential employers.

Certifications

The Board for Critical Care Transport Paramedic Certification (BCCTPC) administers two voluntary specialty credentials: the Certified Critical Care Paramedic and Certified Flight Paramedic. Eligibility qualifications include a current paramedic license and three years experience. Candidates should have experience working with a critical care or flight transport teams. Candidates also need to be up-to-date with various medical standards, including PALS and ACLS. Flight paramedics must renew their certifications every four years, which involves earning 100 continuing education hours.

Alternative Career Paths

Registered Nurse

If you're interested in working in the medical field but you don't want to work as a paramedic, you could consider becoming a registered nurse (RN). These professionals work under the supervision of physicians to perform a wide variety of tasks, which could include operating medical equipment, performing diagnostic tests and administering medicine. From 2010-2020, the BLS predicted RNs to see a 26% increase in employment, and in 2011 they earned a median annual wage of about $66,000.

A diploma, associate degree or bachelor's degree program can prepare you to become an RN, with an associate degree program being the most common path. State licensure is also required. Additionally, if you're still interested in working in an air transportation setting, you could become a flight nurse. According to PayScale.com, most flight nurses earned between about $45,000 and $89,000 annually after bonuses and overtime.

Firefighter

If you want to work in the emergency services sector but don't want to treat patients, another career option is a firefighter. Firefighters need at least a high school diploma; though a short postsecondary education program in a subject like fire science could also be useful. They are trained on the job or may complete an apprenticeship. Firefighters respond to emergencies, such as fires or traffic accidents. The BLS predicted that firefighters would see a nine percent increase in job growth from 2010-2020. Firefighters made a median wage of about $45,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS.

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