Friend of the blog Bill Carey posted on Facebook wondering why so many in EMS think that salary is the one thing holding us back.

Curious, question for EMS folks on FB: It appears, based on comments to various news stories in the past, that the greatest solution to all that ills EMS is greater pay. Respect is restored, working conditions and staffing improve and the general idea of professionalism is better. Fire-based, hospital-based, third service, doesn’t matter, just pay us more and the service will get better.

No, not really.

The same issues I had when I got the paid gig for $4.35/hr are here at my current gig where medics average $65,000 to start (according to

EMS in general is paid what the market allows and what we are worth.  Keep in mind that EMS does not require a degree and Paramedics can get licensed in as little as 1 year in some places.  If some kid walked into my office and told me he went to school for something for a year my first question would be “When are you going back to finish?”

Pay is a result of our goals, not our goal.

Increasing our education standards and proving our worth to the industry is step number one.  But of course the stumbling block to education is how to pay for it.

If you think the reason you are not treated like a Professional is the size of your paycheck I think I know where your priorities are.  If your first concern is that you don’t have access to enough education I’ll ask where you live and why you’re still there.

There are high paying EMS jobs out there, folks, I’ve had one for 10 years, but you have to be willing to put the effort into it.  No one is going to wander into the station or yard one day and say “You guys are great, here’s a raise.”  Your employer has no incentive to increase your compensation unless they desire a particular set of skills that bring that kind of salary.

EMTs are entry level and their compensation reflects it.

Paramedics have more responsibility and therefore more compensation.

A flight medic has even more responsibility, so more compensation.

A Firefighter/Paramedic has a different skills set, different compensation.


You get the salary you’re getting because that’s what you’re worth to your employer.  If you started off at $10 an hour, got your degree, teach on the side, and are still making $10 you need to talk to your employer about the increased value you can bring to the organization.  Maybe you’re in line for a promotion or reassignment with your increased education and experience.

It all comes back to education.  If you learn more, not only can you increase the care you can give to your patients, but you become a more responsible care giver and show your manager that you’re not just in the seat for a thrill, but to make a difference.  Folks like that make less errors, collect less complaints and are more likely to collect extensive billing and demographic information.

That makes you a keeper and worth more to them.  You increased your value.  That is the only way you will increase your compensation.


Let’s imagine that I’m wrong and simply snapping our fingers and giving you more money is the solution.

Now you make twice what you did yesterday.  Now what?  Now will you go back to school?  Teach?  Where is the added value we’re paying for?

The patients are the same, your rig is the same, your protocols haven’t changed and you haven’t changed.  There isn’t much we as EMTs and Paramedics can directly control but our own attitude and education are the easiest to improve in a short amount of time.

Just raising your pay won’t improve your attitude or the attitude of your co-workers.  It won’t help your manager see the worker bees from the cling ons and it surely won’t help your patients.

If you think you’re worth more to your organization than you’re being compensated, tell them, and get ready to pack.  The high paying jobs are out there, but you’ll likely be in a busier system and competing against higher education and higher motivated applicants for the extra money.


Case in point: me.

When I left my last job I was a Firefighter/Paramedic serving a suburban area working on both the Engine and Ambulance.  I was making just under $10 an hour on a 24 hour schedule.

When I got my degree in EMS and began teaching I knew I could reach out an look around for something better and have a good chance of landing it.

When I got hired in San Francisco as a Firefighter/Paramedic assigned to a 24 hour Ambulance I had tripled my salary.  Tripled.  But the cost of living was double and my old shifts of sleeping most nights turned into 32 run paramedic pinball sessions that I loved, but took their toll.

I moved 800 miles to get that gig and I have the broken down UHaul story to prove it.

You can get a high paying EMS job.  They exist, but you have to work for it.

What are you willing to do to prove your worth to EMS?

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