Emergency Medical Services Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Training Info

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What kind of job can you get with a degree in emergency medical services? Find out about degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and emergency medical services training programs.
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Studying Emergency Medical Services: Degrees at a Glance

Degree programs in emergency medical services prepare students to treat patients that have experienced a trauma or other medical conditions. As a student in this field, you will learn about pharmacology, infectious diseases, toxicology and environmental diseases. You will also learn how to assess patients and the initial treatments for numerous medical issues, including burns, bleeding, trauma and problems concerning pediatrics, geriatrics, obstetrics, cardiovascular and respiratory.

Graduates of this field are prepared for positions in private ambulance firms, emergency rooms, local governments, fire/rescue departments, medical research facilities and municipal emergency response services.

After you graduate from an emergency medical services degree program, you may be qualified for employment as a paramedic or emergency medical technician (EMT). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 33% increase from 2010-2020, which is a rate that is much faster in comparison to other careers. You must meet state licensing requirements before working as an EMT or paramedic, in addition to the training required to drive an ambulance.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Students interested in beginning the training path towards a career as a paramedic or EMT - Students who want to continue their education and receive advanced medical care training
- Students who wish to pursue advanced studies in medicine, business, education and pre-hospital or advance their career opportunities
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - EMT ($34,000)*
- Paramedic ($34,000)*
- EMT ($34,000)*
- Paramedic ($34,000)*
- Emergency Medical Services (EMS) director ($36,000-$94,000)**
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Internship
- Field experience
- Clinical Internship
- Field experience
Prerequisites - High School diploma or GED
- CPR certification
- Immunization requirements
- Pass a background check
- High school diploma or GED
- CPR certification
- Active license as an EMT
- Immunization requirements
- Pass a background check
Online Availability None found at this time Limited programs

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2010 figures) **Payscale.com (June 2012 figures, 10th-90th percentile).

Associate in Emergency Medical Services

While many schools offer associate degree programs listed under emergency medical services, you should note that other schools might list this degree program as emergency medical technology or EMT-Paramedic. Associate degree programs in emergency medical services can allow you to gain knowledge in medical and trauma care, medical terminology, anatomy and patient assessment.

The curriculum for this degree program includes both clinical and field internships. These internships give you the opportunity to have supervised experience in advanced life support, respiratory therapy, intravenous therapy, dialysis and phlebotomy. After you successfully complete all required courses and a written and practical skills exam, you will be eligible to take the state licensure exam.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Prepares you for employment in a growing field
  • Allows you to gain field experience
  • Prepares graduates for national and state licensing exams

Cons

  • May not make you competitive for jobs that require an advanced degree
  • Students are responsible for costs associated with uniforms, equipment, criminal background check, physical exams and vaccinations
  • You cannot select your own clinical placements

Courses and Training Requirements

While enrolled in an associate degree program in emergency medical services, you will take courses in anatomy and physiology, handling emergencies, dealing with trauma, pharmacology and airway/breathing. Courses typically consist of class lectures, skills training, laboratory work and supervised clinical experiences. In addition to the required coursework, you must meet state licensing requirements before you are eligible for employment.

Examples of courses you might take in an associate degree program:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Emergency medical technician - basic
  • Trauma management
  • Medical emergencies
  • Special populations
  • Patient assessment

Online Degree Options

Online learning is typically not offered for this degree program. If you are interested in an online program, check that the program meets the minimum requirements as set forth by the Department of Health Services and has received accreditation. You may have problems becoming licensed if you graduate from a program that is not accredited.

Stand Out With This Degree

To improve employment prospects, current students enrolled in a degree program and recent graduates should consider becoming a member of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT). The opportunity to network with other professionals and further expand your leadership skills are the primary benefits of your membership with NAEMT, in addition to opportunities for scholarships, monthly newsletters and discounts and credits that can be applied to continuing education courses.

Taking continuing education courses is another excellent way to advance your training and make you more marketable to potential employers. The NAEMT offers numerous continuing education courses in topics such as emergency pediatric care, pre-hospital trauma life support, advanced medical life support and EMS safety.

Degree Alternatives

If you'd like to work in the healthcare field, but the hands-on aspect of being an EMT and the idea of handling injured people don't appeal to you, then you might want to consider a career as a medical assistant, who help with the clerical tasks of healthcare-related offices and clinics. The BLS projected a 31% growth for medical assistant from 2010-2020, which is much faster than the average. A high school diploma usually suffices for the job, though you may take courses or even earned an associate's degree in that area. Medical assistants made a mean annual pay of about $30,000 as of May 2011, per BLS reports.

Bachelor's Degree in Emergency Medical Services

The curriculum for most bachelor's degree programs in emergency medical services covers general education courses, paramedic training and clinical work. These programs are designed to hone your clinical skills by providing opportunities to work directly with patients. In addition to a full year dedicated to clinical work, the curriculum includes a combination of laboratory and interactive classroom work. Courses include a mixture of teaching methods, including small groups of students working together, problem-based learning (PBL) and lectures.

You can expect to receive clinical training in a variety of settings, including ambulance services, fire departments and hospitals, where you can choose to perform your clinical work in labor and delivery, the emergency room, intensive care unit or operating room. After you have completed all coursework and clinical internships, you have the opportunity to take the National Registry Examination for Paramedics and receive state licensure.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Students receive instruction and mentoring from clinical experts, paramedics and emergency medicine residents
  • Program prepares you for advanced career opportunities, including positions in leadership and education
  • Curriculum primes students for advanced degrees and graduate study

Cons

  • Limited number of bachelor's degree programs available
  • Students must meet strict admissions requirements
  • Graduation from program does not guarantee licensing; you still must pass certification exams

Courses and Training Requirements

The curriculum for bachelor's degree students is quite similar to an associate degree program, although courses for a bachelor's degree program are often more advanced. Every school that offers a bachelor's degree in emergency medical services includes clinical internships and field experiences in emergency medicine. Courses are focused on pre-hospital medicine and learning how to deliver an advanced level of care for patients who present with a variety of medical conditions and types of trauma.

Common courses include:

  • Critical-care paramedic
  • Basic emergency care
  • Patient assessment and management
  • Advanced trauma management
  • Advanced cardiac life support

Online Degree Options

Although it is possible to find degree programs that offer individual classes or entire degree programs online, they are not very common. The majority of schools do not offer online availability for their courses, as the hands-on experience gained would be difficult to acquire through an online program. It is important to note that even online programs may require you to take specific core courses through another accredited program.

Stand Out with This Degree

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expected there to be a significant increase in the employment opportunities for paramedics, it noted that an increase in the populations of the elderly and middle-aged will lead to a number of medical emergencies involving strokes and heart attacks. As a result, this will lead to an increase in the need for paramedic services. In order for you to become better prepared for these opportunities as they arise, you can consider internships or special topics courses that deal with this population or specifically heart attacks and strokes.

You can also explore student organizations and associations that are for students enrolled in an emergency medical services degree program. This will provide you with the opportunity to participate in events around campus and within the community.

If you have a specific career in mind or know that you would like to work in a certain area of emergency medicine such as a hospital, fire department or flight services, you can seek internships and field experiences within these areas to advance your knowledge and improve employment prospects.

Degree Alternatives

If you'd like to help patients, but would rather avoid the stress of dealing with accident scenes and emergency situations, then you could consider becoming a registered nurse. The BLS reported an expected a 26% increase in employment opportunities for this career, which is faster than the average for all occupations. While the educational and licensing/certification requirements are similar between registered nurse and EMTs, registered nurses typically hold at least an associate's degree, with some employers preferring a bachelor's. Also, as a registered nurse, you'd have more advancement opportunities if you decide to earn a graduate degree, such as a master's degree in nursing. As of May 2011, registered nurses made an annual mean wage of about $69,000.

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What is your highest level of education?

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