Thursday, June 26, 2008
So it turns out that a student that came into the office this morning has a significant other who is a paramedic. Jackpot! I've always wondered why paramedics make so little; here's what I gleaned:
- Salary information was, on the whole, accurate. She mentioned paramedics in larger cities make more, but I'd doubt it's much more than a rough cost-of-living adjustment.
- It turns out that you don't need that much training to be a paramedic, or at least not as much as I was imagining. In order to be an EMT (the one who drives the ambulance), it takes one year of night classes, and depending on the outfit you are with, it could take more classes/tests/experience to graduate to paramedic status (the one in the back working on the patient). I don't know what I was imagining, but I think it was more than that. The supply of paramedics/EMTs is not as inelastic as I believed.
- Said significant other, at least partially, became a paramedic as a stepping stone to another job. She verified that it would be a plus on the resume for the job he was going for to have had experience working as an EMT. I (still) think this is the biggest reason to explain the seemingly low wages.
- She mentioned turnover in the paramedic industry was high; that doesn't surprise me. But it does lead to some interesting questions. Is experience not valued? Evidently not; higher wages would retain more EMTs. (On a side note, is it scary that you are likely to have an inexperienced EMT coming to get you when you're in bad shape?) Do new paramedics persistently lack information about the job they are getting into? Evidently, a lot of paramedics get out of that line of work after dealing with not-too-pleasant things day after day (I know I could never do that). Why the constant information shortcoming, i.e., why do people consistently not know what the job entails? Perhaps it's something that existing paramedics don't want to talk about. The fact that a lot of people find out that EMTing isn't for them could explain why wages were low to start with, but not why they would continue to be low.
I'm still a bit perplexed.