IT is one of the toughest jobs in the world, and as reported by the Daily Echo, paramedics are in demand in the south with our ambulance service short of around 260.

Unions have claimed low pay and high pressure as the reasonswhy South Central Ambulance Service and its counterparts across the nation are struggling to recruit more to the profession.

But how does a paramedic’s pay and working conditions compare to others employed in the front line emergency services?

It comes as the Paramedic Resource Centre has claimed ambulance crews are the most likely to be assaulted across the NHS.

According to last year’s NHS England staff survey – between 28 and 45 per cent of frontline ambulance staff experienced violence during their work across the various trusts in the country, ahead of the mental health service who were next nearest at 19 per cent.

But does their pay and benefits make up for such experiences and how does it compare to the other professions who face equally difficult circumstances during their day jobs?

The Daily Echo has looked at the wages and circumstances facing paramedics, police officers, nurses and firefighters to see how the difficulties of their jobs shape up compared to each other.


Daily Echo:

PARAMEDIC salaries are covered by the NHS scale and start at around £21,500 to £28,000 depending on experience.

But salaries can rise to £34,500 for team leaders and paramedics who have taken on extended skills training.

Benefits can include an NHS pension, study leave for training courses, relocation packages and access to counselling and physiotherapy treatment.

The full-time working week is typically 37.5 hours but includes night and weekend shifts as well as cover for public holidays.

Annual leave starts at 27 days per year plus public holidays but rises to 33 after 10 years’ service. Lieu time is also available.

Work is physically demanding and can be psychologically and emotionally stressful with counselling and chaplaincy services in place and stress management courses available.

Paramedics are also required to be on stand-by or on-call, particularly in remote areas.

Crews are also often exposed to verbal and physical abuse, in part due to an increase in alcohol-related call outs.

Uniforms are required as is protective clothing including bright jackets and boots.

A degree is not yet required to become a paramedic but there are a growing number of university graduates taking on jobs and more courses are becoming available.

To drive an ambulance you need a full manual licence and may need extra qualifications to drive large vehicles and carry passengers.


Daily Echo:

PAY is also covered by the same NHS scale and starts at £21,000 rising to £28,000 but top levels range from £30,000 to £98,000, dwarfing the highest salaries available for paramedics.

Nurses also qualify for unsocial hours payments and overtime plus 60 per cent of wages for working Sundays and public holidays.

Their working week is the same at 37.5 hours and includes regular night work and covering holidays, although there is increasing scope for 9am-5pm working hours.

Benefits include NHS pension provision, paid maternity and paternity leave, possible childcare provision while some trusts offer medical and dental benefits.

Conditions vary according to location but can include high pressure on intensive care and emergency wards in a hospital to lower pressure community work and residential care.

The job is described as potentially physically and emotionally demanding and support is available, particularly through the Royal College of Nursing union.

Opportunities to work and travel overseas are available.

Annual leave is the same as paramedics, starting at 27 days per year and rising to 33 after 10 years’ service.

Nurses can also specialise which can affect salary and travel.

Recent changes to the entry system mean anyone wanting to be a nurse must obtain a degree in nursing and register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Police Officer.

Daily Echo:

SALARIES vary between forces but the average starting annual salary for PCs is between £23,000 and £26,000, the latter after completing training.

But wages can rise far above the top level for a paramedic along a sliding scale depending on promotion.

Sergeants can earn up to £41,000 per year, rising to £50,000 for inspectors and £53,000 for chief inspectors.

Benefits also include pensions and paid overtime.

Their working week is similar – between 37-40 hours including two rest days, unsocial hours, shift work and emergency call-outs.

Overtime may also be available.

Officers start with less annual leave than paramedics at 23 days per year rising to 27 days after 10 years’ service and 30 days after 20 years on the force, while sick leave is fully paid.

Work is described as high pressure, potentially dangerous and “harrowing”

although duties vary from in-office work to patrols both on foot and in car.

Police are not permitted to join a trade union but become members of the Police Federation which represents its interests.

Officers are also governed by a code of conduct both on and off-duty.

No formal qualifications are required but community volunteering experience is advantageous as is volunteering as a PCSO or special constable.


Daily Echo:

THERE is a nationally agreed salary structure for firefighters that starts at £21,500 but rises to £28,700 upon completion of training.

And the scale again slides above the top bracket for paramedics, rising to £32,000 for crew managers, £35,500 for watch managers, £41,000 for station managers and up to £55,000 for area managers.

Firefighters undergo intensive 12-to-18 week training courses and their performance is then continually assessed during the first two years in the job.

They are also expected to participate in extra training throughout their careers to maintain competence such as hazardous materials, rescue skills, fire prevention and leadership.

Annual leave is similar to that of a paramedic, starting at 28 days and rising to 35 days after five years’ service.

The working week is around 42 hours per week separated into distinct shifts but can rise to above 50 depending on workload.

As with all the above, the job is described as physically and emotionally demanding.

First aid skills are required and equipment and uniform is provided but firefighters are expected to maintain fitness.

Extra pay is available for night drills and additional duties while pensions and vehicle training are also available.

Personal and physical qualities are more important than academic grades although a good general education is required.

Entry without a degree or diploma is common although there are courses available.

Applicants must be over 18 and to qualify must go through physical tests in full uniform before a formal interview and medical exam.