Growth Trends for Related Jobs
Being a flight medic is about as close as a person can get to being a superhero. When someone is trapped in a remote area or a newborn baby is very sick, flight medics come zooming in to help. The path to donning your own
cape uniform is a long one, and it starts with becoming a traditional paramedic. From there, it takes a few more years of training before you'll be ready to take to the skies.
When summoning a traditional ambulance isn't an option, flight medics are called to help. They ride in medical helicopters to the sites of accidents that are remote or too far from a city for an ambulance to reach quickly. They're also called on to do air transports of patients between hospitals, which might be necessary if a critically sick person needs to move to a better-equipped hospital in a hurry.
Flight medics do most of the same things that paramedics working in ambulances do. They act as first responders in some situations, so they have to assess and stabilize patients at the scene before loading them into the helicopter. During the trip, flight medics work to keep the person stable until they reach the hospital. They can provide some medical treatment, like reviving patients who lose consciousness and administering some medications. They also communicate with hospital staff so doctors and nurses have up-to-the-minute understanding of the patient's status.
Unlike ambulances, in which the driver is also a paramedic, on a medical helicopter the flight medic doesn't have to double as the pilot. He or she works on the patient in the back while a pilot controls the chopper.
Like all paramedics, flight medics must have education beyond high school – but a four-year college degree isn't typically required for this job. Candidates must go through a certified paramedic training course, which generally takes between one and two years to complete. (Community colleges, trade schools and other institutions have these programs.) Each state also has licensing requirements for paramedics.
Before you can become a flight medic, expect to spend at least three years getting experience as a paramedic on the ground. You'll need some extra training during this time; after all, working on a helicopter is a little more complicated than working in the back of an ambulance. Different employers have different certification requirements, but expect to take some extra courses related to trauma and critical care. Ultimately, paramedics who have earned enough continuing education credits can take the Certified Flight Paramedic (FP-C) exam and (hopefully) become certified.
Because this is a specialized job that requires so much time and training, flight medics can expect to earn more than their counterparts on the ground. The median salary for paramedics and EMTs was $33,380 as of May 2017, which means half of paramedics earn more and half earn less. By contrast, a typical flight paramedic salary is generally between $40,000 and $55,000 per year. A flight paramedic salary is usually hourly, and it's common to make between $20 and $25 per hour.
Because flight medics are only needed for a small number of medical emergencies, there aren't a ton of these jobs available, especially in smaller cities. The International Association of Flight and Critical Care Paramedics says there are a little more than 3,000 flight medics in the U.S., while the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are about 250,000 paramedics and EMTs of all kinds in the U.S.
As a flight medic, expect to work on a team with a pilot and flight nurse. Medical choppers typically don't have space for many more people than that.
Years of Experience
This industry is fairly small, so no conclusive data shows the relationship between flight medic salary and years of experience. But because this isn't a job in which you can really get promoted or given more duties over time, don't expect to see your salary sharply rise over the course of your career.
Job Growth Trend
As long as people keep getting hurt and sick, paramedics will always be needed. In fact, the BLS estimates that this industry will grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is a faster-than-average growth rate. It doesn't break down that forecast to address flight medics specifically, but it's safe to assume that these jobs won't go away before you're ready to find one.
Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.
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