This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Paramedics attend to ill and injured people at accident sites or in medical emergencies, and transport them to hospitals or other medical facilities. They also transport patients between hospitals and from homes to hospitals.
Paramedics usually earn
$58K-$72K per year
Source: New Zealand Ambulance Association, February 2016; St John, March 2016
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Paramedics starting out usually earn between $45,000 and $58,000 a year.
Experienced paramedics usually earn between $58,000 and $75,000 depending on their qualifications and where they work.
Sources: New Zealand Ambulance Association, February 2016; St John, March 2016
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Paramedics may do some or all of the following:
- attend medical emergencies and deal with traumatic injuries
- treat ill and injured people at accident or emergency scenes
- stabilise patients for transport by treating shock and injuries
- transport patients to and from medical facilities
- be on hand at large gatherings, such as sports events, in case of accidents or illness
- record patient information.
Paramedics may also do specialised rescue work in air ambulances.
Skills and knowledge
Paramedics need to have:
- good knowledge of pre-hospital emergency care
- knowledge of anatomy and physiology of the human body
- knowledge of medications and treatments
- excellent driving skills
- knowledge of the geographic area they work in
- the ability to use technical equipment such as cardiac defibrillators
- empathy in dealing with people and an appreciation of different cultures.
- do shift work – usually two 12-hour days, two 14-hour nights, then four days off
- work in ambulances and air ambulances, and locations and situations that can be dangerous.
What's the job really like?
Confidence is important
"To be a good ambulance officer you have to be a person who can put the public at ease and you need to come across as confident, even if you don’t feel it sometimes.
"Making patients comfortable and getting them to trust you are vital. It's definitely a job where you need maturity."
Looking after yourself
"We do a fair bit of lifting. Back injury rates can be quite high in the profession, so you need to be careful and look after yourself. Ambulances now have self-loading stretchers and we keep ourselves fit. You should never put yourself in a position where you are going to harm yourself."
Job satisfaction and variety
"You just never know what lies ahead for you each day. One of my colleagues went out this morning and delivered a baby and she's still buzzing. It's those kinds of things that give you a real sense of satisfaction."
To become a paramedic you need a relevant degree or experience as an ambulance crew volunteer with St John.
The study pathway requires you to:
- complete a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in paramedicine through Whitireia Community Polytechnic or Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
- hold a full Class 1 driver's licence for one year, and have a good driving record.
The volunteer pathway requires you to:
- apply for an operational volunteer position with St John
- hold a full Class 1 driver's licence for one year or,
- hold a full Class 1 driver's licence and complete a defensive driving course
Paramedics working in air rescue may require postgraduate qualifications.
- AUT website - information about the Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedicine)
- St John website - find out more about volunteering as an ambulance officer
- University of Otago website - information on Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences
- Whitireia Community Polytechnic website - information about the Bachelor of Health Sciences (Paramedic)
NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry and English.
Paramedics need to be:
- mature and caring
- good communicators who work well as part of a team
- able to work well under pressure and remain calm in emergencies
- good at problem-solving and decision-making
- conscious of cultural and religious beliefs about how the body should be treated.
Useful experience for paramedics includes working:
- in a hospital or other health-related environment
- as a volunteer ambulance officer
- as a patient transport service officer
- in an emergency services call centre, handling emergency calls
- as a medic in the New Zealand Defence Forces.
Completing a defensive driving course may also be useful.
Paramedics must be physically fit and healthy because lifting patients and equipment is an essential part of their job.
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Paramedic Organisation
- firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzparamedic.org
- The Skills Organisation
- 0508 754 557 - www.skills.org.nz
- St John
- 04 472 3600 - email@example.com - www.stjohn.org.nz
- Wellington Free Ambulance
- (04) 499 9909 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.wfa.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Despite increasing demand for paramedics, a rise in the number of graduate paramedics has created competition for available vacancies.
Experience boosts chances of securing paramedic work
Graduate paramedics with related work experience are more likely to gain full-time employment. Working as a volunteer or assistant ambulance officer is a good way to gain work experience.
Changes in New Zealand population driving demand
Increasing diversity in the New Zealand population, especially in Auckland, has created demand for paramedics with the knowledge and experience to assist people from a range of cultures. Understanding of Māori and Pasifika cultures is particularly valuable.
St John the largest employer of paramedics
St John is New Zealand's largest employer of paramedics and provides ambulance services for about 95% of New Zealand's population.
The other employer of paramedics in New Zealand is the smaller independent ambulance service, Wellington Free Ambulance.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupational Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- New Zealand Ambulance Association website, 2016, (nzambulance.org.nz).
- St John recruitment team, Careers New Zealand interview, March 2016.
- St John website, accessed March 2016, (www.stjohn.org.nz).
- Ward, T, head of department, Paramedicine, Auckland University of Technology, Careers New Zealand interview, March 2016.
Progression and specialisations
Paramedics may move into:
- pre-hospital care at locations such as oil rigs, ski fields, and zones of conflict
- international relief work
- safety and emergency management roles
- aeromedical retrieval and transport roles such as air search and rescue.
They may also move into education and management roles, such as clinical education and mentoring of paramedic students, or management roles within the ambulance service and wider health sector.
Last updated 21 April 2016