How do I become a Paramedic?
Paramedic and EMS Training in South Africa
Many young South Africans wish to become paramedics, however many do not know what the requirements, different training options are and how to access them. Most people also don’t know that there are several different qualifications available and several different levels of care which paramedics operate at.
One of the main functions of paramedics is to provide emergency medical care to patients in the pre-hospital setting. This means that the patient is not in a health facility and is essential, where ever the patient is. This could be at the patient’s house or workplace, in the street, or down an embankment. Paramedics respond to the patient and treat and stabilize the patient on scene before transporting the patient to a health facility in an ambulance.
Paramedics can provide more than just simple 'first aid'. Procedures and interventions that can be provided by paramedics differ, according to their qualification (which is discussed below).
Paramedics also continue the medical management of patients in the ambulance while the patient is being transferred between hospitals.
Paramedics can also be trained to perform a medical rescue, which includes using the 'jaws of life' to rescue people from crushed cars and using complex rope rescue systems to rescue people in the mountains.
Being a paramedic is not a 'job' but a calling, which requires you to be:
- Physically fit and healthy
The demands placed on paramedics can be demanding and stressful, it is, however, a rewarding profession which is developing.
These are currently the different levels of care which paramedics in South African can perform:
Basic Life Support (short course)
These practitioners provide Basic Medical Care interventions to patients in Emergencies. This will include CPR, stopping of bleeding, helping women in labour and other non-invasive procedures.
Intermediate Life Support (short course)
These practitioners provide Intermediate Medical Intervention including IV therapy (drips) Bronchodilators, Defibrillation (shock)& chest decompression etc.
Emergency care technician
Two years of formal training.
Advanced Life Support Paramedic
This category of staff is pre-hospital Advanced Life Support providers. This includes; Advanced Airway Management, IV Drug Therapy up schedule 7 drugs, advanced midwifery, Advanced Resuscitation, Aviation Medicine, Marine Medicine.
South African advanced life support Paramedics are highly in demand throughout the world due to the nature of training and skills.
However, there have been massive changes in the way paramedics are trained. There is no longer registration of Basic ambulance assistants and Ambulance emergency Assistants/ ILS, with the HPCSA. They have been replaced with courses that are all NQF recognised and that can smoothly progress from one course to the other.
- ECA - Emergency Care Assistant. This will be a one-year course.
- Diploma in Emergency Medical Care. This will be a two-year course, or only one year if the ECO has been completed.
- Bachelor of health sciences- this is a four-year course provided at universities. It is level NQF8 and equips the paramedic with all the necessary skills to practice as advanced life support.
Some private colleges have started training for the ECA and Diploma Emergency Medical Care courses. Several universities currently offer a Bachelor of health sciences. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Bachelor of Health Sciences is provided at Durban University of technology and more info is available at:
The applicant with a national senior certificate with a higher certificate endorsement must have the following subjects and ratings: Either 1 or 2 or 3:
1. The applicant with a Senior Certificate (Prior to 2009) must have at least a minimum of an E symbol on Higher Grade or a D symbol on Standard Grade for all of the following subjects:
- Biology and/or Physical Science
2. National Senior Certificate and must have an achievement rating of at least a Rate Code 3 (40%-49%) for each of the following subjects:
- Life Sciences and / or Physical Sciences
3. National Certificate (Vocational), must have achieved a minimum pass of 60% for all of the following subjects:
- Life Sciences and / or Physical Sciences
Please note these are provisional symbols and subjects and they may be changed by the relevant universities.
KZN EMS only does in-house (for KZN EMS staff only) medical training at our college.
The department of health does offer Bursaries and more details are available at:
When the department advertises posts they are advertised at:
There is more information on KZN EMS and how we work at: