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.
New paramedics usually earn
$45K-$58K per year
Experienced paramedics usually earn
$58K-$75K 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.
Pay rates for paramedics vary depending on level of experience, qualifications and where you work.
Paramedics starting out usually earn between $45,000 and $58,000 a year.
Experienced paramedics usually earn between $58,000 and $75,000.
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 geographical 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 New Zealand 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 on Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedicine)
- St John website - information on operational volunteer positions
- University of Otago website - information on Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences
- Whitireia New Zealand website - information on Bachelor of Health Sciences (Paramedic)
NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, health 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
- as a medic in the New Zealand Defence Force.
Completing a defensive driving course may also be useful.
Paramedics need to be reasonably fit, healthy and strong as lifting patients and equipment is an essential part of the job.
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Paramedic Organisation
- The Skills Organisation
- 0508 754 557 - www.skills.org.nz
- St John
- (04) 472 3600 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.stjohn.org.nz
- Wellington Free Ambulance
- (04) 499 9909 - www.wfa.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of getting a job as a paramedic are average, as although demand for paramedics creates vacancies, competition is high due to an oversupply of graduates.
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.
Knowledge and experience of other cultures valuable
Increased 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.
Wellington Free Ambulance is a smaller independent ambulance service that also employs paramedics.
Paramedics are also in demand in the New Zealand Defence Force.
- Buerkeman, C, Capt., Careers New Zealand interview, August 2016.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- New Zealand Ambulance Association website, accessed September 2016, (www.nzambulance.org.nz).
- St John recruitment team, Careers New Zealand interview, March 2016.
- St John website, accessed September 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
- air ambulance and transport roles such as air search and rescue.
Paramedics may also move into training roles, such as clinical education and mentoring of paramedic students. Paramedics with experience may progress into management roles within the ambulance service and wider health sector.
Last updated 16 January 2017