Becoming a Paramedic

Currently the ambulance service is changing the way in which you can become a Paramedic. Traditionally Paramedics would work their way up the chain starting in Patient Transport Service before moving onto Emergency Medical Technician (approx 6 weeks IHCD training) and finally Paramedic (approx 6 weeks IHCD training) completed over at least 2 years. Now however training is done in a higher education environment either at University or (if currently employed by the ambulance service) through the Open University.

A description of the Paramedic role can be found here 
Universities offering courses through UCAS can be found here. Swansea and Birmingham City Universities also offer direct entry paramedic courses. 
A list of Health Professions Council approved courses can be found here. Part time courses are only available to those currently employed by the ambulance service and some of the courses listed are no longer running. 

Required qualifications

As the number of applicants increase year on year so do the required qualifications. For more mature candidates this may mean they do not hold the qualifications needed to apply.

If you don't have the required qualifications an Access to Higher Education course is often recommended. These can be studied in a number of ways and a number of different ones are appropriate. These are usually: Access to Healthcare Access to Nursing Access to Paramedicine Access to Science

Many colleges will offer one or more of these access courses. Most will be offered on a full time basis requiring attendance at college for about 15 hours a week and will take a year to complete. Some will also offer this on a part time basis over two years. It is also possible to do an access course via distance learning where you are sent the required study materials and complete the course at home. 
Access courses will give you a qualification to A level standard and the majority will give you the opportunity to top up GCSE equivalents as well if required. When applying for an access course ensure the course has enough credits for the university you want to apply to and check the grades required in the different modules.


When applying for a Paramedic Course whether through university or direct to the Ambulance Service they often like you to have some form of experience of working in the health care sector. Work with the elderly and children can be useful as these are often clients of the ambulance service. You may also want to volunteer with St John Ambulance, the Red Cross or as a Community First Responder. Below is a list of websites that may help you get experience:

When deciding what experience you want to acquire think about the different skills and qualities needed as a paramedic and try to make sure you can show them all. The majority of applicants will have experience with Saint John Ambulance or the British Red Cross, however, be warned that although this is excellent experience for you if that is all you have then you will likely be rejected unless you have been a member for a long time. Often it is best to choose something slightly different such as volunteering in a care home or at a scout/guide group.

Work Experience

Many applicants each year are rejected on the grounds of lack of experience. If you then decide to get a job to gain more there are a number of different options you can choose.

First you can attempt to join the ambulance service at a lower level, this could be within patient transport services, as a call taker or as an emergency care assistant. These job's will be advertised here These have the added advantage of giving you experience within the ambulance setting and with patients, however, it is extremely competitive. 

You could otherwise attempt to get a job in a primary or secondary care environment such as a healthcare assistant or similar. These job's will be advertised here. They have the advantage of being in the healthcare environment, although not pre-hospital, and are usually easier to get into than ambulance service jobs. 

Care support Work in the home care or care home environment is also excellent experience. Through this you will meet a wide variety of people, most of these will be elderly and as a paramedic they will make up a large amount of your work load. These job's are normally advertised is local papers and on the internet.

If you are unable to get a job in the caring environment then a job where you are able to show communication and team work skills is best. Remember it doesn't matter what work experience you have, if you aren't able to put it across well in your personal statement you won't get an interview.

Useful to Research

One thing they will scrutinise in interview is your knowledge of the ambulance service and legislation that affects it. The following websites are useful to look at for an overview of the ambulance service:

Health Professions Council These are the guys that regulate Paramedics and who you must be registered with to call yourself a Paramedic. On this website there are documents such as the Standards of Proficiency and Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics. It also has a list of hearings that are useful to read through to see what can get you disicplined / struck off. 
Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee These guys set out the guidelines Paramedics practice using. You don't really need to know much about them at interview but its nice to have a knowledge of their existance. 
Department of Health A really important website for getting information on legislation and reports affecting Paramedic practice and the ambulance service in general. Good searchs to do include 'Ambulance' and 'Paramedic' also where you can find the Bradley report which is a must know for interview! 
Taking Healthcare to the Patient 2 Is a review of the Bradley report and as such will allow you to find out how the changes recommended are being implemented. 
Time to make a Difference This the the Welsh version of Taking Healthcare to the Patient. If you are having an interview at Swansea University this is essential reading. 
College of Paramedics This is the professional body for paramedics. They fight our corner with one of their current projects being the attempt to allow student paramedics to administer drugs. 
Other things to research includes the roles of Paramedics and a knowledge of other people who work in the ambulance service. Also current news in relation to the ambulance service both locally and nationally.


Many people will wonder what the difference is between the FdSc, DipHE, and BSc, and which is better.

FdSc and DipHE are usually 2 year courses offering you a level 2 HE qualification. A BSc is usually a 3 year course offering you a level 3 HE qualification. As long as you are on an approved course there is NO advantage of one over the other. Many people will have heard rumours that you will be offered more money if you have a BSc but this is not true.

If you gain FdSc or DipHE then there are a number of courses available allowing you to top up to a BSc whether full time, part time or distance learning. Many jobs such as emergency care practitioner, specialist paramedic and critical care paramedic will require you to have a BSc, however, they will usually require specific modules to have been undertaken and even if you have a previous BSc you will need to do these extra modules to get the job.

Many students will choose to do the FdSc or DipHE before topping up their qualification to a BSc. The reason for this is that becoming a paramedic, whichever qualification you choose, requires the intake of a large amount of new information. By going out into practice as a qualified paramedic and making sure the basics are right they feel better able to take on and utilise the new information provided by the BSc.

If you decide to continue your education past this level there are now a number of Masters courses available as well as the ability to study at Doctorate and PHD level. You will find that consultant paramedics will have studied at Doctoral level. Increasingly paramedic's are also being encouraged to undertake research to allow the expansion of the pre-hospital knowledge base.

Personal Statement and Interviews

The personal statement is the most important part of your initial application. This is what admissions tutors will look at when deciding whether or not they want to give you an interview. It is your first chance to shine and your personal statement will need to show you have the qualities required to be a paramedic along with a good knowledge of the ambulance service.

Advice on writing your personal statement can be found here
All paramedic courses require candidates to attend an interview before being offered a place. The style of interview varies hugely between courses and some will include other tests such as maths tests, English tests and a fitness tests. The best way to find out the style of test at a particular university is to ask them. Usually if offered an interview they will put basic detail of the interview style in the offer letter. It is possible to ask previous applicants, however, be aware that interview style can change year on year.

When preparing for an interview you will want to do a large amount of research into your chosen course and career. Guidance on this can be found in the Useful to Research section. It is also advisable to take in any questions you have as you will usually be given an opportunity to ask these at the end.

Having been interviewed the universities will again respond in various times. For the majority straight rejections will hear soon after the interview. For offers some will send them out shortly after the interview whereas others will wait until they have completed all the interviews. If you are a borderline acceptance you will often be waiting until after all the interviews have been done. If you are rejected at any stage make sure you get feedback. Some universities will give this out automatically, however, at some you have to request it. If you need to request feedback this is best done by telephone as emails are often not responded to.


When applying for a job with an Ambulance trust, whether after graduating or direct entry, they will expect you to have the C1 category on your driving licence. Many Paramedic graduates without C1 on their licence find themselves relatively unemployable.

The universities vary on their requirements when it comes to driving. Some will require you to get your C1 and give you blue light training (increasing your employability on graduation), some just require a driving licence and others don't require you be able to drive. Whether or not the university requires you to have C1 on your licence it is highly recommened to gain it prior to starting at university.

It is also almost essential to take a car or motorcycle with you to university so that you can get to placements which may be some distance away or start/finish at odd times.


Many potential students with family and children will worry about whether or not they will be able to balance studying to become a paramedic with family time. Although the courses are quite intensive and very time consuming those currently on university paramedic courses have found it manageable and each has come up with their own way way of coping. As a paramedic student you will be doing long days at university and long ambulance shifts at varying times of day and night and so time management will become a very important skill.


As part of your training you will be expected to do various placements. These will be both on ambulances and in hospitals and most universities will expect you to do at least 1500 hours over the duration of the course. When on placement you will be expect to do the same hours as the staff working there and you will be given a mentor who's shifts you will be expected to do.

The way placements are conducted will vary between universities. At some you will be given the same mentor for the duration of the course and at others you will remain with a mentor for a term before changing station. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but it certainly something to consider when deciding where you want to go.

When it comes to placement areas there can be a large variation on area size. For example, at Surrey University you will be placed somewhere within the county of Surrey and once given your area you will remain there, however, at Swansea University you can be placed anywhere in Wales. If on a course where you are placed into an area group of stations the university will usually look at a number of factors. First if students are commuting from home they will attempt to place them in their home area or as close as possible, next if a student is from the local area but staying in halls they will attempt to place them close to home. Finally, the students who are in halls can be placed anywhere.

Again when deciding on university it is wise to look at whether travel to placement is funded. At some universities they will pay you per mile travelled to you placement location, plus accommodation if needed, however at others this must all be paid for yourself.

The 'Non-Uni' Route

This route is now almost none existent and where it is possible will usually take a good number of years.

To go through the employed route you now have to apply to a trust for a job as an emergency care assistant (or technician in Scotland) and then apply through the trusts internal route. Be careful though as not all trusts currently have an internal route. This is by no way an easy option as there is often only a small number of emergency care assistant jobs advertised each year and an even smaller number of internal route progression places. If you do decide to become a paramedic through this route then you will usually be required to undertake a degree through either a partnered university, or the open university, on a part time basis.


For many people, especially mature applicants, finances will be a large consideration. Unlike the majority of other health care courses paramedic courses in England are not funded by NHS bursaries. Some universities have managed to organise tuition fee payment and a bursary with the local health authority but at many universities you will be required to get a student loan or self fund. When applying for student finance you need to contact the organisation for your home country.

If attending Swansea University your fee's will be paid and you will be receive a means tested bursary from NHS bursaries Wales. 
As well as student finance there are a number of other grants and loans you may be eligible for. These can be found here. It is always worth checking with the university whether they have any extra bursaries that you might be eligible for. 


Many people find that their route to becoming a paramedic is blocked by the fact they are unable to obtain a C1 licence. This doesn't mean you definatly can't become a Paramedic it will just make it a lot harder.

Paramedic Although a lot of university courses require C1 as an entry requirement some do not. If you can't get C1 then you may be able to do the university course and work for a private company. However, before taking this route research is vital. You will need to find companies that will take you and you will need to ensure that the Health Professions Council will register you. 
Nursing Nursing can often be a good alternative career. It offers a wide range of opportunities and large amounts of career progression. If you want to work in the emergency environment then doing an adult nursing degree before working in A&E may be for you. Many universities offer nursing degrees and jobs are always being advertised online. 
Voluntary Ambulance Service If you decide on an alternative career then working for a voluntary ambulance service may give you your pre-hospital fix. Organisations such as St John Ambulance and the Red Cross offer volunteers a wide range of opportunities from first aiding at events, through to working on ambulances, through to being a community first responder. Some areas of St John Ambulance also offer full-time paid work on ambulances. 
Ambulance Control Ok so its not front line work but to work in ambulance control you don't need to drive. You will usually start off as a call taker before moving on to dispatch the ambulances. There is a lot of potential for career development and in some cases there is the opportunity to gain qualifications such as NVQs. It also allows you to be actively involved in the ambulance service and really make a difference to people lives. 

Websites, books and blogs

There are a multitude of websites, books and blogs out there that can give an insite into the work of paramedics and the ambulance service.

Websites UK Ambulance Forum A forum frequented by ambulance personnel. It is a mine of information where people interested in the service can find out what it is like from the people who do the job. 



Useful links

Anything else that should be added to the list? Let us know in the comments. 

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