Paramedic and Emergency Care Worker

Paramedics resuscitate and stabilize the condition of critically ill or injured persons by applying emergency care prior to their transport to hospital and by ensuring that their patients continue to receive care en route to hospital.

They drive in specially equipped vehicles to the scene of emergencies. As and when necessary, they will request additional help from the police or fire department. At an emergency scene they make quick assessments of patients and give appropriate treatment. All ambulances are in contact with a central control centre by radio or computer. On receiving a call, the nearest available ambulance or rapid response vehicle is despatched to the scene. After a call has been received, two paramedics hasten to the emergency scene, observing traffic safety rules and legislation pertaining to emergency vehicles. 

Upon arrival at the scene they make a survey of both the patient and the situation to decide upon suitable treatment, which is then applied, including basic life-support and the treatment of wounds and fractures. They resuscitate and stabilise the condition of critically ill or injured persons by applying emergency care procedures. Specialised equipment and rescue tools, such as the “Jaws of Life” can be used to free anyone that is trapped in the wreckage.  Procedures may include:

  • opening airways
  • restoring breathing
  • controlling bleeding
  • treating for shock
  • administering oxygen
  • immobilising fractures
  • assisting in childbirth
  • managing emotionally disturbed patients
  • treating and assisting heart attack victims
They also make the site of the emergency safe and manage bystanders. The patient is placed on a stretcher and taken to hospital. En route treatment is provided and a report on the patient’s condition and the treatment received is supplied to the hospital. After this procedure the ambulance and emergency care workers return to a base where the vehicle, linen and equipment are cleaned and/or replaced.

Paramedics or emergency care workers work mostly outdoors in and around their vehicles. Work settings vary according to the different emergencies they respond to, while working hours may vary from one service to another. Paramedics work on a two-platoon, with every second weekend off duty. They may be required to work overtime. Unfavourable weather conditions or less than pleasant circumstances often prevail.

Some form of previous medical training or knowledge is advantageous but not essential as training generally starts at a basic level. Paramedics are at the top of the ambulance service grades. A career route usually progresses through the following levels of Ambulance Care Assistant and Ambulance Technician.

Personal Requirements

  • at least 18 years old
  • have a valid driver’s licence
  • above-average physical strength and fitness to be able to move unconscious or injured patients
  • good health and pass a medical test
  • manual dexterity
  • sound judgement and level-headedness
  • sympathetic and able to remain calm in emergency situations
  • think clearly and act quickly, appropriately and purposefully
  • able to work individually and in a team
  • reliable and responsible

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Grade 10 Certificate for in-service training
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Training: Emergency Medicine - UCT, Emergency Medical Care - UJ, CUT, CPUT, Emergency Medical Care and Rescue - DUT

In-service training: Basic Ambulance Course (BAC): a 4-week orientation and training course must be passed for permanent appointment.
Ambulance College: After 6 months service, the candidate may enrol for the Ambulance Emergency Assistant (AEA) course of 11 weeks offered here.

Successful candidates register at the Health Professions Council of SA as an ambulance emergency assistant.

Advanced training courses include: Basic Medical Rescue; Critical Care Assistant; and Minimum Safety Driving.


  • municipalities, divisional councils and provincial administrations
  • industry
  • private ambulance organisations
  • private clinics and hospitals
  • civil defence units

Further Information

South African Emergency Services Institute
295 Jorrisen Street, Off Voortrekker Road
Krugersdorp, 1739 
Tel: (011) 660-5672

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Getting Started

  • take a first aid course
  • join a civil defence unit
  • arrange to speak to a paramedic or emergency care worker about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

A PACE Career Centre Product. © All rights reserved | Developed by Netgen (Pty) Ltd. Disclaimer: Please see disclaimer