Hospitals and the U.S. military rely on flight medics to pick up and transport the injured when they need immediate care. Flight medics can transport people more quickly through the air than in land emergency vehicles. They may also transport patients with spinal cord injuries by helicopter to provide a smoother ride that protects them from further injury. To become a flight medic, you need to train as either an advanced EMT -- emergency medical technician -- or paramedic, which can take up to two years. In return, expect to earn an above-average salary compared to most occupations.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary for flight medics was $60,000 as of 2013, according to the job site Indeed. Most flight medics have high school diplomas and qualify as one of two types of emergency medical technicians: advanced EMT or paramedic. Advanced EMTs must complete 1,000 hours of training, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Paramedics, who need 1,300 hours of courses and training, may stitch injured patients and administer intravenous fluids. As a flight medic, you must also be certified in the following specialties through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians: basic life support; advanced cardiac life support; pediatric advanced life support; prehospital trauma life support; and neonatal resuscitation. Additionally, you must complete flight training through the U.S. Department of Transportation. Other essential requirements are compassion and communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, communication and leadership skills.
Salary by Region
In 2013, average salaries for flight medics varied significantly in most U.S. regions. In the South region, they earned the highest salaries of $71,000 in Washington, D.C., and the lowest of $51,000 in Louisiana, according to Indeed. Those in the West made $42,000 to $66,000, respectively, in Hawaii and California. If you worked as a flight medic in Maine or New York, you'd earn $52,000 or $73,000, respectively, the lowest and highest salaries in the Northeast. In the Midwest, your earnings would be highest in Illinois and lowest in South Dakota -- $65,000 and $46,000 per year, respectively.
A flight medic may earn more in certain industries. For example, EMTs and paramedics, including flight medics, earned some of the highest salaries of $50,186 in the waste treatment and disposal industry in 2012, according to the BLS. State government agencies paid these medics an average of $48,126 per year -- versus the industry average of $34,370. Your salary as a flight medic would be higher in New York or California, because living costs are higher in those two states. For example, if you earned $60,000 in Memphis, you'd need to make $152,828 in New York City to enjoy the same living standard. In Los Angeles, you'd have to earn $92,759.
The BLS projects a 33-percent increase in jobs for EMTs and paramedics, including flight medics, between 2010 and 2020, much faster than the 14-percent growth rate of all occupations. The demand for flight medics during medical emergencies, natural disasters and car accidents should keep job growth relatively strong for those interested in this career. You may also see more flight medic jobs due to an increase in the senior population -- including the large baby boom generation.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What EMTs and Paramedics Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics
- The University of Maryland, Baltimore County: Critical Care Transport: Frequently Asked Questions
- Indeed: Flight Medic Salary
- CNN Money: Cost of Living: How Far Will My Salary Go In Another City?
- Indeed: Flight Medic Salary in Maine, and New York
- Indeed: Flight Medic Salary in Hawaii, and California
- Indeed: Flight Medic Salary in Louisiana, and Washington, DC
- Indeed: Flight Medic Salary in South Dakota, and Illinois
- Lifeflight.org: Flight Paramedic
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images