Is It Hard to Become a Flight Medic?

Flight paramedic positions are extremely competitive. The most common Air Ambulance Flight Crew configuration in the United States is one pilot, one flight nurse and one flight paramedic.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics held about 210,700 jobs in 2008.

The 2008 Atlas and Database of Air Medical Services (ADAMS) lists 699 rotor wing (helicopter) and 154 fixed wing (airplane or jet) air medical bases in 2008.

To staff an air ambulance base 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – a minimum of 4.5 full time nurses and 4.5 full time paramedics are needed. Multiplying a total of 4.5 flight paramedic positions per base times 853 total bases (RW and FW) equals 3838.5 flight paramedic jobs in the United States.

Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not distinguish between paramedic and EMT jobs, we divided the 210,700 total EMT and paramedic jobs to estimate 105,350 ground paramedics in the United States.

3838.5 flight jobs divided by 105,350 potential applicants equals 3.64 percent.

The result is fierce competition for each and every open flight medic position.

So what can you do to make yourself more competitive?

Here are five ways to improve your chances for a flight paramedic position:

1. Build experience working for a ground ambulance service.

2. Earn as many instructor certifications as possible.

3. Pursue critical care certifications as soon as possible.

4. Make your interactions with local air ambulance flight crews positive.

5. Request to meet with the program director or senior staff of air ambulance programs you’re interested in.

There is simply no substitute for experience. Many flight programs require a minimum of three years experience as a ground paramedic. The average experience requirement is 3 to 5 years of ground experience.

Instructor ratings are also helpful. They distinguish the average candidate from the exceptional. The theory is that if you can teach, you can do. Instructor ratings also show a commitment to improving your industry, as well as the ability to work well with your peers and other professionals.

Critical care experience, although not required, is something else that distinguishes applicants for flight crew positions. As soon as you start to reach a comfort level with your skills as a paramedic, it is highly recommended that you pursue critical care training as soon as possible. If critical care training is unavailable in your area, consider traveling to obtain certification. Yet another option is to work as an emergency room technician and gain exposure and experience to higher-level trauma inside a hospital setting.

Make your interactions with air medical crew positive. Remember, this is the team you want to be a part of. The more professional you present yourself the better.

As soon as possible, request to meet with program directors of air ambulance programs you want to work for. Ask them directly the best way to work for their program.

Flight paramedic positions require a herculean amount of effort. The good news is that almost every flight paramedic we work with reports the career is absolutely worth the effort.