Paramedics assess and treat people who are seriously ill or injured, and transport them to hospital if necessary.
Paramedics with up to five years' experience usually earn
$74K-$76K per year
Intensive care paramedics usually earn
$83K-$89K per year
Source: St John and Wellington Free Ambulance, 2019.
Pay for paramedics varies depending on experience and qualifications.
- Paramedics with up to five years' experience usually earn $74,000 to $76,000 a year.
- Paramedics with five to 10 years' experience usually earn $78,000 to $80,000.
- Intensive care paramedics, who have extra training, usually earn between $83,000 and $89,000.
Paramedics may also receive overtime payments and allowances.
Sources: St John, 2019; and Wellington Free Ambulance, 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Paramedics may do some or all of the following:
- attend medical emergencies and accidents
- triage patients (work out which patients need to be treated first)
- treat ill and injured people, including those with traumatic injuries and shock
- give pain relief, including intravenous (IV) treatment
- stabilise patients and transport them to and from medical facilities
- attend large gatherings, such as sports and music events, in case of accidents or illness
- record patient information and follow handover procedures when transferring patients
- clean their ambulance.
Paramedics may also do specialised rescue work in air ambulances and rescue helicopters.
At an accident scene, we make sure everybody is safe. We find the sickest patients, treat them first, and then give the right treatment for each patient.
Skills and knowledge
Paramedics need to have:
- knowledge of emergency care
- knowledge of human anatomy and physiology
- knowledge of medicines and life-saving procedures
- advanced driving skills
- knowledge of the location where they work
- the ability to use medical equipment such as defibrillators, which restore a patient's normal heartbeat.
- usually work 12-hour shifts (including nights and weekends), although some work standard hours, or work seasonally
- may work full time, as casual staff, or as volunteers
- work in stressful and sometimes dangerous conditions, with people who may be highly distressed
- travel locally and nationally in ambulances, air ambulances and helicopters.
What's the job really like?
Why did you become a paramedic?
"I wanted to get out into the community and help people."
Did you have any problems becoming a paramedic?
"I never saw myself as academic, and even trying to enrol for the course seemed like a mountain. The essays were really difficult to begin with, so I took up all the courses the university provided on study skills."
What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing this job?
"The job involves working shifts – night-time, weekends, Christmas Day. But I can get quite a bit of time off work with my roster, so I can go away with my family and do nice things as well."
How do you cope with the stress of the job?
"The big thing is maintaining a good, healthy lifestyle – good work-life balance. After big events we usually have a debrief, all sit down and talk about the event, and see if there’s anything we can learn."
What’s the best thing about being a paramedic?
"Working with people. I get to help them when they’re in need – I can take them from really unwell to getting better, take their pain away, get them to hospital if necessary. Also it's good helping the family members, who are always really distressed."
To become a paramedic you usually need to have:
- a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in paramedicine, from Whitireia New Zealand or Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
- a full Class 1 driver's licence
- an Authority to Practice, issued by your employer.
From 2021 you also need to be registered with Kaunihera Manapou Paramedic Council.
You can study:
- full time
- part time while working in a relevant paid or volunteer role for St John or Wellington Free Ambulance.
- AUT website - information on Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedicine)
- Whitireia New Zealand website - information on Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedic)
- St John website - information on operational volunteer positions
Other ways to become a paramedic
You may be able to register as a paramedic if you have one of:
- an Authority to Practice at paramedic level or above from a Te Kaunihera Manapou Paramedic Council approved provider such as St John, Wellington Free Ambulance or Search and Rescue Services
- extensive paramedic experience and knowledge, and the ability to pass an assessment.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, health, maths and English.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
To specialise as a flight paramedic you need to complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences, endorsed in aeromedical retrieval and transport.
Paramedics need to be:
- understanding towards others, caring, and empathetic
- excellent communicators who work well in teams
- alert and able to work well under pressure and in emergencies
- problem solvers and good decision makers
- respectful of different cultural and religious beliefs
You've got to be able to explain to patients and family what’s happening – especially if someone is potentially dying.
Useful experience for paramedics includes work in:
- hospitals and other health services
- ambulance and patient transport
- emergency services call centres
- the New Zealand Defence Force as a medic.
A defensive driving course may also be useful.
Paramedics need to have excellent fitness and health. They must be strong as they lift patients and equipment.
Paramedics need an Authority to Practice, which is issued by their employer after they pass yearly assessments.
From 2021 paramedics need to be registered with Te Kaunihera Manapou Paramedic Council.
Find out more about training
- St John
- 0800 785 646 - www.stjohn.org.nz
- The Skills Organisation
- 0508 754 557 - www.skills.org.nz
- Wellington Free Ambulance
- (04) 499 9909 - www.wfa.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Strong demand for paramedics
Opportunities for paramedics are expected to continue to grow due to:
- the ageing New Zealand population, which is creating increased demand for health service workers, including paramedics
- a $21 million government funding boost for ambulance services in 2019
- the trend to have two paramedics working in each ambulance, rather than one.
According to the Census, 624 paramedics worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Volunteering boosts job chances
Your chances of getting a job are best if you:
- have relevant paid or volunteer experience as an ambulance driver, emergency medical assistant or emergency medical technician
- can relate to people from a wide range of backgrounds, including migrants
- are willing to work outside the main cities and towns.
Most paramedics work for St John
St John is New Zealand's largest paramedic employer.
Paramedics may also work for:
- Wellington Free Ambulance and other private ambulance services
- air ambulance and rescue helicopter services
- the New Zealand Defence Force.
- Bradley, T, Authority to Practice manager, St John, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2019.
- HealthCentral, 'One-off Investment Brings Relief to Ambulance Services', 21 May 2019, (healthcentral.nz).
- Klap, A, talent sourcing manager, St John, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2019.
- Philpott, J, talent sourcing adviser, St John, careers.govt.nz interview, July 2019.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Steel, E, 'Busiest Year for Ambulance 111 Clinical Control Centres', 7 December 2017, (www.stjohn.org.nz).
- St John website, accessed June 2019, (www.stjohn.org.nz).
- Te Kaunihera Manapou Paramedic Council website, accessed November 2020 (www.paramediccouncil.org.nz).
- Tunnage, B, et al, 'Regulating our Emergency Care Paramedics', The New Zealand Medical Journal, 4 September 2015, (www.nzma.org.nz).
- Ward, T, head of department, Paramedicine Department, Auckland University of Technology, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2019.
- Wellington Free Ambulance website, accessed June 2019, (www.wfa.org.nz).
- Westenra, B, paramedic programme co-ordinator, Whitireia New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2109.
- Wright, C, executive director, people and culture, Wellington Free Ambulance, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
With further training, paramedics may progress to become:
- intensive care paramedics (ICPs), who provide more advanced treatment than paramedics
- flight paramedics, who work in air ambulances and rescue helicopters.
They may also move into management or education roles.
Paramedics may specialise in:
- search and rescue
- pre-hospital care at locations such as oil rigs, super yachts and ski fields
- international relief work, and work in conflict zones
- research and education.
Last updated 11 December 2020