Guide to studying Paramedic Science
Paramedics are the first to the scene of an accident, saving lives and helping those in urgent need everyday. See what it’s like to study the area, and if the career is for you.
- What jobs can you get with a degree in Paramedic Science?
Paramedic Science, or Paramedicine, is the study of emergency medical care away from the hospital environment. Most Paramedic Science students become professional paramedics.
Paramedics are often the first responders in an emergency situation. Working in a team of two, they take the lead in unknown situations and work to save peoples’ lives. They may be able to treat patients at the scene of an emergency, or they may have to transport patients to hospital for more medical support.
As a Paramedic Science student, you’ll learn how to give urgent assistance and train for the paramedic profession. This includes learning how to resuscitate and stabilise patients using expert techniques, drugs and equipment.
Study Paramedic Science and you’ll prepare for a career that involves saving countless lives. You’ll develop the right skills for handling emergency situations, thinking on your feet and making quick, informed judgements.
During your degree, you’ll develop the ability to treat numerous injuries and illnesses in high-pressure situations. Other skills you’ll build include:
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Leadership and teamwork
- Research and analysis
You’ll learn how to act calmly in unpredictable and stressful scenarios. A lot of driving is involved, too.
Courses are held in modern simulation facilities and you’ll also learn on placements and work experiences. This could be with healthcare providers and ambulance crews. You'll get to experience a variety of healthcare contexts so you’re well-prepared for your career.
There are many employment opportunities for paramedics both in the UK and overseas. This opens up work experience opportunities through international placements, giving you the chance to practice in various environments.
The NHS Learning Support Fund is currently offering £5,000 per year to support Paramedic Science degree students in England and Wales. This is a grant, so you don’t have to pay it back.
To study for an undergraduate degree in Paramedic Science, you’ll usually need two or three A Levels. At least one should be in a science subject. You’ll also need five GCSEs with grades C and above. These should include Science, Maths and English.
Other equivalent qualifications include relevant BTEC, HND, HNC, NVQ, Highers and Access courses.
Each university has specific entry requirements, so make sure to check with the institution and course you’re interested in.
Some ambulance trusts offer the chance to study alongside working. This is an apprenticeship degree that you apply for through an employer. You’ll usually need at least five GCSEs with grades C and above including in Science, Maths and English, or a relevant equivalent qualification.
Tips for applying
Entry to Paramedic Science courses can be competitive, so relevant experience is usually very helpful. This could be through volunteering or working with, for example:
- An NHS ambulance service
- Charities, such as St John Ambulance
- Care homes
- Daycare centres
- Youth organisations such as scouts and guides
Your course will likely include practical experience working with members of the public. So, you may also need to complete a DBS disclosure check for criminal records.
Courses typically last two to four years if studied full-time. Common options include:
- Paramedic Science BSc
- Paramedicine BSc
- Paramedic Practice BSc
- Nurse Paramedic MSci
You can expect a mix of both theoretical and practical work. Teaching is often through lectures, seminars, workshops, demonstrations, scenarios and student-led activities. Course content is informed from the latest research and best practices in the field.
During the coronavirus pandemic, courses have had to adapt to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This just means the way they're delivered is slightly different. For instance, teaching groups may be smaller and there may be more online learning.
There’s often a range of assessment methods such as coursework, exams, group work, placement assessments, case studies, and clinical, oral and practical tests.
Many graduates of Paramedic Science choose to continue their studies and become specialists in certain areas. Examples of postgraduate degrees include:
- Paramedic Science PhD
- Paramedicine MSc
After qualifying as a paramedic, you can specialise in different areas such as stroke, or choose to work for the air ambulance. Roles include:
- Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) paramedic
- Specialist paramedic
- Advanced paramedic
- Consultant paramedic
With more training you can become more senior and take on extra responsibilities. As an experienced paramedic, you could progress to a role as an executive director, researcher or teacher.
You can also go into other professions, as well as those in other emergency services and the military. This includes:
- Care worker
- Hospital doctor
- Police officer
In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of Paramedic Science have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.
The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate Paramedic Science students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.
Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18
To become a paramedic, you’ll usually need a qualification in Paramedic Science – either at degree level or through a degree apprenticeship.
After qualifying, you apply to the ambulance services and register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
When applying for a job, it’s handy to have a good level of physical fitness as well two years of driving experience. Before being offered a role, you’ll likely have to complete numerous stages of interview, tests, driving tasks and fitness assessments.
What it's like to work as a paramedic
A typical day for a paramedic is unpredictable, but you can expect to:
- Respond to both emergency and non-emergency calls
- Assess unknown situations at the scene
- Work quickly and calmly to stabilise patients
- Use medication and equipment to treat patients
- Deliver babies
- Support relatives, friends and members of the public at the scene
- Make sure equipment and records are of a high standard
As a paramedic, you’ll often work in an ambulance in a pair with an emergency care assistant or technician. You could be working alone on a bicycle or motorbike or give advice over the phone from a control room. You’ll work closely with the police and fire and rescue services, as well as other healthcare professionals like doctors, therapists, nurses and specialists.
Paramedics are based at an ambulance station but spend a lot of time on the road, working in all environments and weather conditions. A working week is typically 37.5 hours, which often includes nights, weekends, early starts and bank holidays. There is also on-call work.
Pay for paramedics is on the Agenda for Change system (the NHS staff grading and pay scale), usually on band 5. If you work for the NHS, you’ll have access to generous pension schemes, holiday allowances and health service discounts.
Is a paramedic role right for you?
A career as a paramedic isn't for the faint-hearted. You’re often in the middle of unpredictable situations. The job comes with a lot of responsibility, and you have to make quick judgements under extreme pressure. But it's also a very rewarding role, where you’ll be able to help many people and save lives.