Are you curious about the medical field and thinking about becoming a nurse or a paramedic and wondering what the differences between the two professions might be? Then we’ve got you covered – we’ve set out everything you need to know regarding salaries and the qualification process to make an informed career choice.
On average, paramedics do not make more money than nurses. The average nurse will earn a higher salary than the average paramedic. However, paramedics in some areas will certainly earn more money than some nurses.
To learn more about the differences between being a nurse and a paramedics, including job tasks, skills, salaries, and education paths, keep reading.
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Also read: Firefighter vs Nurse: Which Job Is Better?
What Is The Difference Between A Paramedic And A Nurse?
In this video you will hear about the difference between being a nurse and a paramedic from someone who has worked as both:
What Does a Nurse Do?
Okay, when we talk about nurses in this article, we mean a registered nurse or an RN. These are fully qualified and, as the name suggests, legally registered nursing staff.
There are other types of nursing staff out there and they may/may not be treated the same way by the employment market.
An RN’s job is to deliver healthcare (including treatment) to patients in a variety of settings including hospitals and the home.
They may also be asked to teach patients how to take care of themselves, they offer advice and will provide emotional support to the patient and sometimes, to their family too.
Nursing staff will often specialize in a specific area of practice from end of life care, to oncology (cancer treatment) to mental health. There are so many different medical disciplines that it would be impossible to list them all here.
In general terms nurses:
- Work to gain rapport with the patient and those people around the patient
- Work as part of a larger medical team and support not just patients but often other nurses, doctors, and surgeons as well
- Keep an eye on the overall well-being of the patient and all their related vital signs
- Make notes and sometimes, draft reports regarding the care that they provide
- They may request and order certain types of testing for the people in their care too
- They are trained to deliver medications, set up intravenous drips, insert catheters, etc.
Watch this video for some more inside advice about what nurses actually do:
What Does a Paramedic Do?
Paramedics, on the other hand, don’t work in hospitals or homes or other buildings, (at least not usually). Their job is to be the first line of medical response when first aid treatments are needed at the site of the incident. You will find that they are much more mobile than nurses because of this.
A paramedic is not concerned with the holistic care of a patient. They respond to emergencies and perform life-saving treatments.
They are meant to ensure that the patient is able to be transported to a hospital in a stable condition, such that the individual can then be treated in full.
Paramedics do not specialize in specific disciplines of medicine (which is not to say that some paramedics don’t have specialist skills, of course they do).
In general terms paramedics:
- Work to gain rapport with the patient and those people around the patient
- Work to provide emergency first aid
- Ensure that medical emergencies are dealt with in a calm and rational manner
- Administer emergency treatments and medications
- Check the scene for environmental risks when they arrive at the incident site
- Monitor the patient’s vital signs and overall health and well-being
- Seek to stabilize a patient for the most efficient journey to a full treatment center
- Know how to prioritize care when there is more than one patient at an emergency scene
- Drive the vehicle to take the patient to a full treatment center
- They communicate with “dispatch” using radios to explain progress, patient needs, etc.
This video talks about what paramedics actually do while working:
What’s Harder Paramedic Or Nursing School?
These jobs are both skilled jobs and as you might expect, no-one can turn up and become a nurse or a paramedic without getting fully qualified to do so.
These are the qualifications that you need to enter each profession:
What Qualifications Do Nurses Need?
A nurse will need, at a minimum, a degree in nursing though there are still a few states that will allow someone holding a diploma in nursing to practice.
This means that a nurse needs to begin their career at university and to spend 3-4 years in constant study.
They are then required to pass a licensing exam after they graduate. It is not until they pass this exam that a nurse becomes a fully qualified RN with a license to practice in the field.
There are different requirements in each state as to what, exactly, a nurse must do to be considered fully qualified and you’d need to check with the state authority to confirm what they need – the above is a general guideline, only.
Nurses are expected to develop or display certain skills following their training and these include:
- A compassionate and empathetic demeanor – patients want to feel cared for
- A rational, cool-headed approach to work – panic can cost lives, nurses work best when they are thinking and assessing their work
- The ability to multi-task and to organize their work for the benefit of the patients
- A total compliance to the concept of confidentiality when it comes to patients
- A good sense of problem-solving
Overall, a nurse will spend up to 5 years becoming fully qualified and gaining their registration papers.
This video gives some insight on how difficult it is to become a nurse:
What Qualifications Do Paramedics Need?
Paramedics must have a basic high school diploma but are not required to undertake a degree program to become qualified. (There are some states that do require a college degree for paramedics, but most don’t.)
Instead, they are expected to first become an EMT-Basic. They will usually need some experience working as an EMT before they will be excepted to paramedic school.
Some paramedics will progress onto an associate’s degree because of the demands of the coursework from their chosen college.
As with nurses, a paramedic is required to complete a certification program and be licensed before being allowed to practice their trade. Typically, this involves sitting the NREMT test but this can vary from state-to-state.
Paramedics are expected to learn similar skills to nurses but not to quite as high a level. Once you are an EMT, it will usually take between 1 and 2 years to become a paramedic.
Thus, we suppose that nursing school is “harder” in terms of years served, but we would say that neither is an “easy” option. Paramedics work hard and develop valuable skills during their time of study.
This video gives some good tips for preparing for paramedic school:
Why Are Nurses Paid More Than Paramedics?
As you can see, a nurse needs to spend 5 years in training in order to start practicing. That’s 5 years in which they are not earning a salary and which they expect a return on investment for in the long run.
This means that there are fewer nurses in the labor pool than paramedics and it means that they can charge a higher rate for their services, this is particularly true if they are operating in a specialist and in-demand field.
Nurses earn, on average, about $79,940 a year according to Salary.com. However, it’s worth noting that pay and conditions can vary a lot by both field and location of work.
Do Paramedics Get Paid Well?
Paramedic pay can vary too based on their location and whether they undertake any additional duties (such as working as a firefighter).
Overall, a paramedic earns around $43,720 a year (using Salary.com’s benchmarks) which is a decent wage. But paramedics can earn much more in some places.
Also read: Can You Live Off an EMT/Paramedic Salary?
Are Nurses Smarter Than Paramedics?
There is no evidence that nurses are smarter than paramedics at all.
Taking a longer course of education will be better rewarded by the job market, but this is not an indicator of intelligence, just an indicator of time served at university or college.
Do paramedics make more than nurses? No, they don’t. As you can see, this is simply a factor of the amount of time spent studying to become a member of either profession and it is not a comment on paramedic’s intelligence, worth ethic, etc.
When choosing a profession, it’s better to make sure that you are motivated by and will enjoy the work than to look at the salary you will earn. We spend 1/3 of our adult lives at work and if you’re not happy, then earning more will not make up for it.