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Ambulance and Paramedic

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Ambulance and Paramedic sector and workforce.

The Ambulance and Paramedic sector delivers fundamental pre-hospital and out-of-hospital care services. Services can be provided in both emergency and non-emergency scenarios, and workers in the sector carry out important roles in terms of injury/illness prevention, health promotion and the determination of patients' long-term outcomes. Demand for emergency and non-emergency health care services both in pre-hospital and out-of-hospital settings has been growing steadily, and statistics show 3.5 million patients were assessed, treated or transported by ambulance service organisations from 2017–2018.

In 2017–2018, the total full-time equivalent (FTE) salaried workforce in ambulance services in Australia was 17,883, of whom 81% were in operative ambulance roles and 19% were in corporate and operational support roles. Strong employment growth is expected for Ambulance Officer and Paramedic roles over the next five years, with the majority of this growth, expected to be across Paramedic job roles.

Volunteering is a significant practice across the sector and in 2017–2018, 6,600 volunteers were involved in ambulance services, with the majority (92%) active in operational roles rather than administrative or support function areas. Volunteering within operational roles has been increasing steadily over the past five years.

The Ambulance and Paramedic Training Package Products include seven qualifications that support pathways to employment in various job roles across the sector. The Ambulance and Paramedic Industry Reference Committee (IRC) has responsibility for these seven qualifications within the HLT – Health Training Package.

There is no new Training Package Product development work proposed for 2019–2020. However, work is currently being conducted to update one skill set, seven qualifications and 14 units of competency in the Ambulance and Paramedic Training Package.

For information on other health-related training and employment, visit the Health industry page and the various sectors.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The employment levels for Ambulance Officers and Paramedics have fluctuated between 2001 and 2021, with an overall upward trend. In 2021 there were 17,200 Ambulance Officers and Paramedics, and this number is projected to grow to 22,400 by 2025.

Training trends

Training snapshot

In 2020, there were approximately 4,560 program enrolments in Ambulance and Paramedic-related qualifications, off a peak in 2019. Completions increased year on year, peaking in 2019, before declining in 2020 to just more than 2,540. Approximately 39% of enrolments in 2020 were at the certificate II level, followed by nearly 24% at certificate III, and almost 19% at diploma or higher level. More than 39% of enrolments were in First Response-related qualifications and one fifth (20%) in Health Care and Basic Health Care. The main intended occupation was Ambulance Officer, followed by Emergency Service Worker.

Nearly half of the training delivered in 2020 was by private training providers (49%), followed by enterprise providers (29%). Both universities and community education providers delivered about 10% each. Just over three-quarters (77%) of funding for subjects was domestic fee for service and nearly a quarter (23%) was government subsidised.

Victoria had the highest proportion of students enrolled in Ambulance and Paramedic-related qualifications (30%) in 2020, followed by New South Wales with 20% and South Australia with 16%.

Nearly 30% of training was delivered in Victoria, followed by Queensland (20%), Western Australia (18%) and New South Wales (16%).

There were no apprentice and trainee commencements or completions in Ambulance and Paramedic-related qualifications from 2017 onwards, following a downward trend of commencements from 2013 and completions from 2014.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region please visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, please sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The Ambulance and Paramedic IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast identified the top priority skills for the sector as critical thinking, emotional intelligence, problem solving, self-management, and teamwork and communication.

The top five identified generic skills are:

  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self-management (adaptability)
  • Customer service / Marketing
  • Technology.

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers in the sector were communication skills, followed by research and planning. The top employers were the Tasmanian Government, followed by New South Wales Government and the Government of Queensland.

According to the Ambulance and Paramedic IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast the sector supported by the Ambulance and Paramedic Training Package has been experiencing several challenges which are impacting workforce skills requirements, including:

  • Skills shortages and the need to consider work-integrated learning to better transition graduates into practice
  • Retention of staff through wellbeing and resilience of the workforce
  • Government policy/legislative changes and the impact the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme will have on the future workforce
  • An ageing population and an increased demand for services.

Skills shortages

The transition to practice can be difficult for graduates of the Ambulance and Paramedic Training Package Products. There is currently not nearly enough apprenticeship training in the sector. Exposure to the workplace environment is more commonly gained through experiences such as volunteering, traineeships and on-the-job training. To ease the transition into practice for Ambulance and Paramedic Training Package graduates, it would be productive to consider work placement during study to establish job-related foundational knowledge and experience before graduates enter the workforce.

Separately, an Ernst & Young Australia report Country Ambulance Strategy: Driving Equity for Country WA, examines the goal of a sustainable and skilled workforce capable of meeting the needs of the population now and into the future. It finds that the volunteer model is the foundation of the country ambulance service and there is wide-spread concern about the future supply of volunteers. Further, the lack of alignment between qualifications and nationally recognised course making it difficult to structure a career pathway, the need for national recognition of volunteer training and improved career pathways. The report makes recommendations to address the issues and concerns raised.

Mental-health related presentations account for a considerable proportion of paramedic’s prehospital care workload. Research examining paramedics’ perceived confidence and preparedness in metropolitan and rural areas revealed significant gender and regional differences. Support, education and training are needed to increase the confidence of the portion of paramedic workforce comprising younger females, and the confidence and preparedness of paramedics, who were generally older and have fewer qualifications in regional, rural and remote areas.

Retention of staff/wellbeing and resilience of the workforce

The nature of providing pre-hospital and out-of-hospital health care services involves a range of everyday stressors such as long hours on shift-work schedules, possible heavy workloads and physically demanding and emotionally challenging shifts. In addition to these relatively common workplace risks, ambulance service-related roles are often the first to respond to an emergency or communicate with distressed patients.

Due to these interactions, individuals in ambulance service-related roles have an increased risk of being repeatedly exposed to traumatic events, such as death or violence, which can trigger increases in workplace stress and can undermine individuals' resilience. These experiences can either have an immediate effect or may build up over weeks, months or years.

The importance of training first responders to develop a range of skills to build resilience and cope with the demands of their jobs is paramount. As such, good practice frameworks have been developed to support first responders and Training Package products should evolve with the strategies outlined in good practice frameworks to maximise workforce wellbeing.

Given the mental health issues affecting paramedics, there is need to promote positive mental health and well-being among future student paramedics. Findings from the Preparing Student Paramedics for the Mental Health Challenges of the Profession by Using the Wisdom of the Experienced suggest there is widespread recognition for the need to include preparation for mental health challenges within accredited tertiary paramedic courses. Extensive advice based on paramedics’ lived experiences comprised of three themes; support, health and profession. These findings were mapped against the aims of Australia’s current Mental Health Policy to provide evidence-based and policy-informed guidelines for integration into tertiary paramedicine curricula.

Government policy/legislative changes and registration of paramedics

In December 2018, paramedicine became a nationally regulated profession and paramedics are required to register and satisfy registration requirements to work as a paramedic. One of the mandatory registration standards is continuing professional development. Attitudes Towards Continuing Professional Development: a Qualitative Study of Australian Paramedics explores the attitudes and perceptions of a small group of paramedics.

For the VET sector, mapping VET qualifications across registration requirements and, more widely, across the post-registration occupational environment is important in order to be able to gain an understanding of the supportive ways in which the Training Package Products can contribute to facilitating career pathways.

Ageing population and demand for services

Australia’s population, like most developed nations, is ageing. Demand for ambulance services are among the many health services which are expected to significantly increase due to the growing ageing population and the related trend in favour of senior Australians continuing to live independently in their own homes.

The evolution of paramedicine and the role of paramedics presents new opportunities for paramedics. The Paramedic Workforce in Rural, Regional and Remote Australia highlights the workforce’s diversity and opportunity to use paramedics in new roles and settings can be used to advantage. Paramedics can and, in some cases, are increasingly operating is in palliative care and/or at the end of life to manage chronic pain and complex health needs. This is explored in The Role of Paramedics in Palliative Care. However, the author of the editorial Paramedic Delivery of Community-Based Palliative Care: an Overlooked Resource? argues that paramedics have been a notable omission in health service policy and planning.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

 

Relevant research

Attitudes Towards Continuing Professional Development: a Qualitative Study of Australian Paramedics – Brett Williams and Tanya Edlington

Characteristics of Confidence and Preparedness in Paramedics in Metropolitan, Regional, and Rural Australia to Manage Mental-Health-Related Presentations: A Cross-Sectional Study – Kate Edmond, Melanie Bish, Michael Savic, Dan Lubman, Terence McCann, Karen Smith and George Mnatzaganian

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information for Paramedics and Ambulance First Responders – Australian Government Department of Health

COVID-19 Paramedic Updates – Australian College of Paramedic Practitioners

Paramedic Delivery of Community-Based Palliative Care: an Overlooked Resource? – David Long

Pandemic Pupils: COVID-19 and the Impact on Student Paramedics – Australasian Journal of Paramedicine

Preparing Student Paramedics for the Mental Health Challenges of the Profession by Using the Wisdom of the Experienced – Lisa Holmes, Natalie Ciccone, Richard Brightwell and Lynne Cohen

Responding to a Cardiac Arrest: Keeping Paramedics Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Steve Whitfield, Alexander MacQuarrie and Malcolm Boyle

Responding to Cardiac Arrest: Keeping Paramedics Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Australasian Journal of Paramedicine.

Responding to COVID-19 – Australian Health Practitioner Registration AgencyThe Country Ambulance Strategy: Driving Equity for Country WA– Ernst & Young, Australia

The Paramedic Workforce in Rural, Regional and Remote Australia – National Rural Health Alliance

The Role of Paramedics in Palliative Care – Susan Gravier and Andrew Noble

 

Government departments and agencies

ACT Health

Australian Government Department of Defence

Australian Government Department of Health

Northern Territory Government Department of Health

NSW Health

Queensland Health

SA Health

Tasmanian Government Department of Health

Victoria Government Department of Health and Human Services

Western Australia Government Department of Health

 

Peak and industry associations

Australasian College of Paramedicine

The Council of Ambulance Authorities (CAA)

 

Employee associations

Ambulance Employees Association of South Australia (AEA)

Australian Paramedics Association (NSW)

Australian Paramedics Association (Queensland)

Health and Community Services Union (HACSU)

Health Services Union (HSU)

National Council of Ambulance Unions

Transport Workers’ Union (TWU)

United Workers Union

 

State and territories service providers

ACT Ambulance Service (ACTAS)

Ambulance Tasmania

Ambulance Victoria

NSW Ambulance

Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS)

SA Ambulance Service

St John Ambulance Australia

St John Ambulance Australia (NT)

St John Ambulance Australia (WA)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 4111 Ambulance Officers and Paramedics.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, Employed persons by occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards 6291.0.55.003 - EQ08, viewed 1 August 2021 https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSCO 4 digit occupations, 2001 to 2021, May quarter
    • 4111 Ambulance Officers and Paramedics.

 

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • HLT – Health Training Package
  • Ambulance Communications
    • HLT31015 - Certificate III in Ambulance Communications (Call-taking)
    • HLT31020 – Certificate III in Ambulance Communications (Call-taking)
    • HLT31912 - Certificate III in Ambulance Communications (Call-taking)
    • HLT41015 - Certificate IV in Ambulance Communications (Dispatch)
    • HLT41020 – Certificate IV in Ambulance Communications (Dispatch)
    • HLT41107 - Certificate IV in Ambulance Communications
    • HLT41112 - Certificate IV in Ambulance Communications
  • Emergency Health Care
    • HLT50407 - Diploma of Paramedical Science (Ambulance)
    • HLT50412 - Diploma of Paramedical Science (Ambulance)
    • HLT51015 - Diploma of Paramedical Science
    • HLT51020 - Diploma of Emergency Health Care
  • First Response
    • HLT21015 - Certificate II in Medical Service First Response
    • HLT21020 – Certificate II in Medical Service First Response
    • HLT21107 - Certificate II in Emergency Medical Service First Response
    • HLT21112 - Certificate II in Emergency Medical Service First Response
  • Health Care and Basic Health Care
    • HLT31215 - Certificate III in Basic Health Care
    • HLT31220 – Certificate III in Basic Health Care
    • HLT33107 - Certificate III in Basic Health Care
    • HLT33112 - Certificate III in Basic Health Care
    • HLT41007 - Certificate IV in Health Care (Ambulance)
    • HLT41012 - Certificate IV in Health Care (Ambulance)
    • HLT41115 - Certificate IV in Health Care
    • HLT41120 – Certificate IV in Health Care
  • Non-Emergency Transport
    • HLT30207 - Certificate III in Non-Emergency Client Transport
    • HLT30212 - Certificate III in Non-Emergency Client Transport
    • HLT31115 - Certificate III in Non-Emergency Patient Transport
    • HLT31120 – Certificate III in Non-Emergency Patient Transport
  • Paramedical Science
    • HLT50407 - Diploma of Paramedical Science (Ambulance)
    • HLT50412 - Diploma of Paramedical Science (Ambulance)
    • HLT51015 - Diploma of Paramedical Science
    • HLT51020 – Diploma of Emergency Health Care
    • HLT60307 - Advanced Diploma of Paramedical Science (Ambulance).

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 program completions.

 

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

HLT – Health Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions 
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

 

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2021, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2021, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills and occupations according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2018 and June 2021 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

ANZSCO occupations have been used as industry filters because they provide more relevant job vacancy data for this sector.

  • Generic skills / Occupations / Employers
    • 4111 Ambulance Officers and Paramedics.
Updated: 08 Nov 2021
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