The Elephant in the Room: Paramedics vs. Degrees by John Hamilton, NRP, FP-C


The Elephant in the Room: Paramedics vs. Degrees by John Hamilton, NRP, FP-C

On June 8th, in this disaster of a year we call 2020, I sat down at my kitchen table, opened my laptop, and became a college student (again). I had put off going back to college for 12 years as of last December, and thanks to a little nudge from a school on the Texas coast, called that time long enough. Requiring Paramedics to get a degree has been a hot topic lately, and I can’t really wrap my head around why. The argument I always hear is “the courses a degree require won’t make me a better Paramedic.”

I couldn’t disagree more.  Countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa either all require their highest-level paramedics to have a bachelor’s degree, or are moving toward that requirement and have already transitioned many diploma and certificate programs into degree programs.1 We are behind the curve, and it shows. Paramedics are first to own doing a lot with little. Some drive around with trucks that should have been put out of their misery long ago, and others work far too many hours for not enough money.

That leads me to my next topic. Don’t compare a Registered Nurse to a Paramedic; It’d be comparing an apple to an orange. The one thing we can take from nurses is their education, however. Nurses have the ability to obtain everything from an associate degree to a doctorate. Paramedics do not have that option to choose from, yet. If Paramedics want to advance their career choice, stand in unity and get an education! Nurses have been around for 100+ years, do you know when the first Paramedic appeared? The answer is 1969… that’s half the time Nursing has been a thing. If you want salaries comparable to an RN, do the education to justify it.

I assure you, the writing class you will be required to take will pay off in the long run. We write reports, remember? Reports that could save your own butt in front of a jury and a lawyer that might want to make you look like a fool. If that report is written well, that will be much harder to do. History doesn’t scratch your itch? That’s fine, take it and learn something new. The endpoint is that you’ll be more educated, thus leading to an educated workforce.

The one thing I’ve learned in my college experience thus far, is to take courses you enjoy. If that’s not possible, find a professor with good reviews to take a less desirable course. Maybe they will make it fun and maybe you’ll learn something.

I get it, college is expensive. Start small and go for an associate degree. If you’re not yet a Paramedic and looking to head that direction, go to a school that offers a degree option. While this is strictly my opinion, if a fire department offers an “in-house” Paramedic program, just don’t. Link up with an accredited school and do things right. You will thank yourself later. Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw recently published a book called “Fortitude”. One of the chapters in that book is titled “Do Something Hard” and at the end of the day, that’s it. DO something hard, it will be far more rewarding when you are done.

Below is a link to EMS degree programs throughout the world, some are completely online.


Good luck and stay safe!!


  1. Schulz, M (2016) Weighing the Pros and Cons of Higher Education in EMSJournal of Emergency Medical Services, Issue 12 and Volume 41.https://www.jems.com/2016/12/01/weighing-the-pros-and-cons-of-higher-education-in-ems/ 
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