Studying Emergency Medicine: Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance
In emergency medicine programs, you could learn to evaluate and treat injuries and illnesses in community and prehospital environments. Studying emergency medicine can prepare you for positions such as emergency medical responder, emergency medical technician (EMT), flight paramedic, emergency medical manager and paramedic. Typical work settings might include 911 first responder services, rescue teams, the prison system, government or corporate entities or hospital-based ambulance companies. Pursuing a degree can also prepare you to pursue certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), which can help you meet the licensure or registration requirements of your state's emergency medical service authority.
|Who is this degree for?||Individuals who want an entry-level position in emergency medicine||Individuals who want to advance their career in emergency medicine|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary)|| - Emergency medical technician ($30,000 - with 2-4 years of experience)|
- Paramedic ($39,000 - with 2-4 years of experience)*
- Flight medic ($41,000 - with 2-4 years of experience)*
| Similar career paths to the associate's degree, as well as:|
- EMS educator (salary not available)
- Director of critical care ($111,000 - with ten years of experience)*
- Emergency services director ($112,000 - with ten years of experience)*
|Time to Completion||Two years, full-time||4-5 years, full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - Around 60-70 credits |
| - Approximately 120 credits |
- Internship or capstone project
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or GED||High school diploma, GED or associate's degree|
|Online Availability||Courses may be available||Limited availability|
Source: *Salary.com (November 2012 figures).
Associate's Degree Programs Covering Emergency Medicine
Associate's degree programs, such as the Associate of Applied Science in Emergency Medical Services or Associate of Science in Paramedicine, can provide you with entry-level knowledge and skills in emergency medicine. You can learn how to respond to medical, crime scene or hazardous material incidents. Programs may focus on training in patient assessment in prehospital care situations like trauma and medical emergencies. You can qualify to work in search and rescue operations, hospitals and clinics, ambulance or airlift services and other EMS environments.
A 2-year program can prepare you to meet the combination of classroom, laboratory and field experience required to pass NREMT tests. Your degree may help you advance in the EMS profession by incorporating government, public health, administrative and education subjects.
Pros and Cons
- You will be prepared for positions that are projected to see faster-than-average job growth (33% for emergency medical technicians and paramedics from 2010-2020)*
- A variety of associate's-level programs are available in emergency medicine
- You may be able to transfer your credits and/or training to a 4-year program
- You may be competing for positions against applicants with less education and more experience
- For most positions in this field, you will still need to take a certification exam after graduating
- Bachelor's degrees may be needed for advancement to some professional opportunities
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Courses and Requirements
Programs typically involve a mix of lecture classes along with field, clinical and/or laboratory experience. Core courses might include social science, English composition, computer applications and basic clinical skills. You will also take core or elective courses related to EMS. Some programs may require a written report describing your experience.
You might take EMS-related courses like these:
- Applied anatomy and physiology
- Rescue scene management
- Cardiac life support
- EMS operations
- Prehospital trauma life support
Online Course Options
Due to the common require hands-on field and laboratory experience required in these programs, you may have difficulty finding 100% online programs. However, some programs offer online EMS courses or hybrid programs that support some distance study. In these courses, you will interact with your professors and fellow students online, meeting course requirements like those on campus. You may want to ensure that any virtual classes will also qualify you for any required certification examinations.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
To stand out with your degree, you might look for programs that have been vetted and recognized by the Committee on Accreditation of Education Programs for the EMS Professions (CoAEMSP). Some schools host student associations that support professional interests and leadership opportunities. A field experience program may help you bank hundreds of hours toward your certification or licensing requirements. Some programs offer specialization options that could position you for a niche, hard-to-fill opportunity.
Bachelor's Degree Programs Covering Emergency Medicine
Bachelor's programs in this field are not common, but they're available in various settings, including specialized academic divisions and emergency medicine departments of medical schools. These are designed to foster paramedic leaders for positions as clinicians, teachers and researchers. You might find curricula concentrating on clinical, administrative or scientific EMS careers.
A health service management concentration may be available with EMS emphasis. Whether you're studying full- or part-time, you can use these programs to develop administrative and management training in the field as well as build on your technical skills.
Pros and Cons
- This degree can help you advance to leadership or supervisory roles in EMS
- You may be able to specialize in an area of interest, such as wilderness first responder training
- Training at this level is more advanced and offers a variety of required and elective EMS courses
- In addition to your degree, you may still need to gain experience before advancing in an emergency medicine career
- You may face competition for some jobs from candidates with more generic health or public administration degrees
- A rigorous curriculum may require a paramedic license or certification for admission
Courses and Requirements
Programs will probably begin with general education courses in social and basic science and the humanities. You'll study anatomy and physiology and core paramedic topics, then select some electives. Advanced academic, laboratory and clinical work experience with hospitals and EMS agencies may round out your training.
You might find advanced courses like these in a bachelor's program covering emergency medicine:
- Advanced life support
- Emergency care systems management
- Prehospital pharmacology
- Cardiovascular and pulmonary emergencies
- Disaster medicine and management
- Introduction to community health
- EMS research and analysis
Similar to the associate's-level, limited, fully-accredited online bachelor's degree programs are available. Clinical requirements may preclude a 100% remote option, though you might be able to combine this work with clinical experiences near your home. You'll use various programs and browsers to access your coursework. Distance learning arrangements may be possible with some independent study courses.
Standing Out with This Degree
Programs affiliated with medical schools and hospitals may provide unique training opportunities and exposure to potential graduate careers. Schools may align their curricula with the Paramedic National Standard Curriculum of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the accreditation standards of the CoAEMSP to meet the EMT-Basic certification requirements during the course of study. You might join an EMS study consortium or be a student editor or contributor to a publication. If you are interested in a management or an administrative position in emergency medicine, you may consider professional certification, such as the Certified Medical Manager (CMM) credential. Certification like this can demonstrate to employers your dedication to the health care field and your professional skills.