How to Become a Paramedic in the Army

If you’ve been struggling to decide between serving as a Soldier in the United States Army or becoming a paramedic, venture no further; you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will explore the intersection between the medical profession and military service. Specifically, we’ll be diving deep as we discuss how to become a combat paramedic in the United States Army.

Learn everything you need to know

Battlefield medicine has been developing for as long as wars have been fought. As new information is extracted from the numerous obstacles encountered on the battlefield, new equipment and procedures are developed to decrease the number of fatalities experienced in the both the combat and training environments. Instrumental in implementing these new procedures and equipment are the Army combat paramedics.

Let’s start with defining the subject of our discussion today—the paramedic.

What is a Paramedic?

A paramedic is an emergency medical technician, or EMT, who holds a treasure of complex medical knowledge and possesses advanced training on complex medical equipment and procedures. 

Paramedics are the most highly-trained medical professionals of all EMTs. They are primarily tasked with the care and transport of emergent and critical patients accessing their emergency medical system.

Army Paramedic School 

While many of the Army’s careers options require little to no background knowledge or experience, the Army paramedic career path does have some hefty prerequisites, the EMT-B certification being amongst them. 

Before a candidate can even sit for the NREMT-paramedic certification exam, they must have completed the NREMT-P candidate prerequisites. These prerequisites include maintaining a valid EMT-B certificate or higher, successfully completing a CAAHEP-accredited education program within the past 2 years, maintaining valid CPR-BLS credentials or their equivalent, and successfully completing the cognitive and psychomotor examination portions of the NREMT-P curriculum. 

In the Army, the typical first step on the path to becoming a paramedic is becoming a combat medic. The steps to becoming a combat medic in the United States Army will follow in the next section. 

Army Medic School

After reading about what it takes to become a paramedic in the United States Army, some of you may be reconsidering your career path; this option may seem too long, too hard, or too competitive. 

That perception is certainly understandable. Paramedic school appears long and arduous because it is; though, there is an equally fulfilling and slightly less tenuous profession in the Army—combat medic or 68W.

The United States Army combat medic is an essential role within the military, especially within the largest of this nation’s military branches. Candidates for this role still need to be dedicated and detail-oriented individuals; the reduced time expectation for this course’s completion does not indicate that a lesser level of responsibility should be assumed when working toward this profession. 

For those still interested in becoming a United States Army combat medic, or 68W, the typical training plan is as follows:

Graduate with a High School Diploma or GED

Candidates for military service must have completed the high school requirements for their state and be at least 18 years old, or 17 years old with the consent of the candidate’s legal guardian. 

Complete the ASVAB

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, evaluates each candidate on a variety of skills. The candidate will earn a score out of 99 which indicates where they rank amongst all other military applicants; a score of 99 indicates that a candidate has higher aptitude than 99% of all other military applicants.

The test results are also broken down into 10 knowledge areas such as word knowledge, arithmetic reasoning, and mechanical comprehension. This information is used to predict the candidate’s success in any particular MOS. Thus, ASVAB scores will determine what job options are available to each candidate, so do your best.

Meet with a Recruiter

Candidates must go through an Army recruiting office before enlisting. At this stage, candidates will review their complete life history to ensure their eligibility for military service. This information will include medical history, employment history, criminal history, drug history, and family history.

Honesty is imperative; if contradicting information surfaces after the candidate has enlisted, a fraudulent enlistment may be declared. The candidate could face discharge and legal action taken against them.

Endure MEPS and Enlist

Military Entrance Processing Stations, or MEPS, is the final stop before the candidate ships to Basic Combat Training. MEPS personnel will conduct a thorough evaluation of each candidates fitness for duty.

Then, the candidate is sworn in under oath. Enlistment contracts are typically 3 to 6 years. Depending on the contract, the contract may start immediately or only after AIT is complete.

Basic Combat Training

Basic Combat Training, or BCT, is approximately 10 weeks and will take place at 1 of the 4 locations available. Every Soldier must successfully complete BCT, regardless of their rank or MOS.

During that 10-week period, civilians are deconstructed and Soldiers are built. Recruits learn everything they need to know for a great start to a rewarding Army career.

Advanced Individualized Training

Advanced Individualized Training, or AIT, is where Soldiers acquire the specific skills necessary to fulfill the MOS which they selected. For a 68W, training is 16 weeks long and is conducted at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX.

If you’re going in the Summer, I hope you like the heat. To start, candidates will spend roughly 8 weeks preparing for the NREMT exam. After passing the exam, Soldiers move into the field-craft phase; in this portion of their training, each Soldier will apply what they have learned in the civilian EMT training to their broadened scope of practice as an Army combat medic.

Future medics will learn things like how to treat casualties under live combat stress, how to triage in a mass casualty situation, and how to tactically move a casualty to an evacuation point.

Transition to Duty Station

Following BCT and AIT, each combat medic will move to their new duty assignment where they will use their sharp skills to conserve the fighting force.

Again, this course is shorter in comparison to the Army combat paramedic training program; however, this course will still require your full attention as you train to become a medical professional tasked with conserving the largest fighting force of this great nation.

Working as an army paramedic is a massive responsibility.

History of Army Combat Paramedic Initiatives

Over approximately the past decade, the United States Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, has initiated a few paramedic pilot programs in its attempts to produce and test a singular, comprehensive paramedic training program. Some of these pilot programs have been isolated to small portions of the Army while others have been implemented Army-wide.

For example, at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Womack Army Medical Center, or WAMC, partnered with Fayetteville Technical Community College in 2016 to provide their Army medics the opportunity to earn their EMT-P certifications. This training opportunity was implemented to close the gap between the skills Army combat medics already hold and the certifications that will transfer to the civilian sector. During this training period, the combat medics received 300 hours of clinical-care experience in conjunction with 300 hours of ambulance experience; this training time also exposed the combat medics to a greater variety of medical scenarios than those experienced in the combat medic’s average day. 

Following the Vietnam War and well into the wars in the Middle East, the Department of Defense assessed and reassessed the military’s medical evacuation, or MEDEVAC, protocol. As the wars waged on, the MEDEVAC aircraft began to see improvements in performance and operational capabilities. As the Army focused on better MEDEVAC equipment, the civilian medical community was seeing advancements in medical personnel training.

Civilian MEDEVAC teams began to routinely consist of a paramedic and flight nurse with many years of experience between them; meanwhile, U.S. military MEDEVACs are noticing more difficulty caring for critical casualties over long periods of time due to lack of advanced training on equipment and procedures involving sedation, intubation, ventilation, and medication drips.

As civilian MEDEVAC treatment statistics began to trend in a favorable direction, the military had no choice but to follow suit.

In more than 40 after-action reports, or AARs, from actual combat situations, the key issue with treating critically ill or severely injured casualties was lack of flight paramedics.

In 2011, the Army medical institutions collaborated to create the Critical Care Flight Paramedic program, or CCFP. The CCFP program was conducted in Texas and Alabama. The prerequisites for the CCFP program included the following: already being a combat medic, having no less than 3 years of combat medic experience, maintaining CPR-BLS and EMT-B certifications, and having a valid flight physical. The program also required that all candidates maintain compliance with Army height-weight and overall physical fitness standards.

The CCFP consisted of 3 phases. Phase 1 consisted of paramedic classroom instruction and NREMT-P examination preparation; the duration of this portion was 26 weeks and ended with the candidate’s successful completion of the NREMT-P exam in addition to the paramedic cognitive and psychomotor assessments.

Phase 2 lasted 8 weeks and built on the critical care skills acquired in phase 1. Training hours and resources in phase 2 were predominantly spent working in hospital intensive care units, or ICUs. 

Additionally, candidates spent ample time training with critical care transport units, both ground and air. Phases 1 and 2 are conducted at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. 

In Phase 3, the candidates spend 5 weeks learning how to be an effective member of a MEDEVAC flight crew. Phase 3 is conducted at Fort Rucker in Alabama.

The Combat Paramedic Program

Since 2020, the Army has been conducting trials for the Combat Paramedic Program, or CPP; and the goal of this 30-week program is to produce more technically trained medical providers capable of rendering advanced medical intervention in tactical environments. This course is currently aimed at training current 68Ws in more than 100 skills they can expect to use in their day-to-day operations. 

The CPP is an accumulative curriculum compiled from all the medical data we have collected in the past. This curriculum aims to implement all of the best practices from the other pilot programs in addition to other improvements made to the medical community’s standard practices and procedures.

What Rank is a Paramedic in the Army?

Because Army paramedics are enlisted Soldiers, pay rates are determined utilizing the enlisted pay scale based on rank. Army ranks will range from Private, pay-grade E-1, to Sergeant Major, pay-grade E-9. The lowest and highest pay-grades an enlisted Soldier can attain are E-1 and E-9, respectively.

Typically, higher rank indicates more military service years and more experience in the respective field. 

The United States military service as a whole derives its pay rates from the same source, the pay chart for the corresponding fiscal year. For example, a 2021 pay chart will outline the base pay and some of the additional allowances that service members at various ranks may receive during the 2021 fiscal year.

Becoming an Army Paramedic isn't easy, but it can be rewarding.

Army Paramedic Salary

All United States military members have set salaries; thus, there are no clocks to be punched for service members. As we discussed earlier in this article, the base pay and the sum of eligible allowances for each service member can be derived from the current fiscal year’s pay chart. For instance, military members serving during fiscal year 2021 may reference the 2021 pay chart.

The pay chart referenced above also allows readers to view the available allowances, including eligibility criteria for each allowance. 

Special pay is awarded to military members serving in positions or maintaining special skills that carry additional responsibility or place the service member at additional risk for injury. Examples of special pay designations include flight pay, diving pay, foreign language proficiency pay, and hazardous duty pay.

Additionally, service members may be eligible for further compensation via bonuses. Each MOS can have a bonus associated with it. The amount for each bonus, or the award of a bonus at all, is determined by the number of vacancies a particular MOS holds. Jobs in the Army go unfilled for a number of reasons. 

These reasons include but are not limited to elevated course-failure rates, a reduction in the number of overall enlistments, retirement, and promotion. The amount of the bonus will most likely correspond with the level of difficulty the Army is experiencing in filling a particular position.

Concerning pay, the military Leave and Earnings  Statement, or LES, can be a large amount of information to digest for some; and, for others, the LES may not be much to digest at all because so little is understood. In either event, a breakdown of the LES is a beneficial tool for anyone looking to join the military.

Army Paramedic vs Civilian Paramedic 

The main difference between Army paramedicine and civilian paramedicine is licensing; civilian paramedics require a state license to practice medicine. Army paramedics do not require a state license in order to perform their duties; though, the scopes of practice between the two are comparable.

Do you know the difference between an Army Paramedic vs Civilian Paramedic?  If not, find out in this article.

When referencing the 2021 Army pay charts, we find that paramedics in the civilian and military groups are compensated comparably. However, the civilian is likely responsible for their daily life expenses in addition to the training costs while studying to become a paramedic. On the other hand, the service member is able to focus more intimately on their training objective because the military is covering most living expenses during the training period. 

As far as fulfilling the prerequisites, both the civilian and military training paths have waiting periods before an EMT-B license holder can sit for the EMT-P exam. Although the training timelines are comparable, a civilian may have to search for a program matching or exceeding the acceleration of the Army EMT-B portion of 68W training.

Overall, the worlds of the civilian paramedic and the Army combat paramedic are quite similar at most data points.

Army Paramedic vs Navy Corpsman 

The role of the Navy Corpsman in relatively close in description to the Army combat medic. However, there is one major difference; the corpsman does not require an EMT-B certification to practice medicine within the Navy. As we know, the Army paramedic requires the most advanced NREMT certification one can attain – EMT-P. 

The lack of an NREMT certification requirement is a matter the Navy continues to revisit as more former Corpsmen struggle to convey their skill sets to civilian employers without any certifications to support their claims.

Army Paramedic Career Growth

While serving as a paramedic in the United States Army, each service member will naturally be presented promotion opportunities as their career matures. Your career path may be impacted by certain career decisions like deployments, Army schools, and special duties.

In addition to better-equipped medics in the combat theater, a major benefit of the paramedic licensing requirement is the increased marketability the Soldier Medics following their military service.

The NREMT-P certification and training allows the service member to qualify for paramedic positions in the civilian sector; this is, of course, after receiving any further licensing individual states require of their paramedics. With the critical care experience the service member accrues while in uniform, a lateral transition to the civilian paramedic profession could very well attract compensatory incentives from prospective employers desiring those skill sets. 

Other career options include civilian or military paramedic instructor, firefighter, police officer, nurse, and Army flight Warrant Officer. Service members who honorable complete their service contract are by no means limited to the shallow list of potential careers above; the career options for veterans, especially those with medical training, are nearly boundless. Some career transitions my require additional training.


In conclusion, we explored the Army paramedic profession; and, by no small feat, we have uncovered a hearty trove of paramedical information. As you continue to research careers in healthcare, hopefully this article has had a hand in providing you with some encouraging words and some much-needed direction.

To all those future Army paramedics out there, let this article foreshadow the greatness you will exude as the next generation of our fighting force’s premiere of pre-hospital healthcare.

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This article was a guest post for Paramedic Training Spot.

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