Negotiating a better EMS salary can be tricky.
If you ask for a raise at the wrong moment, you might put yourself on your manager’s bad side, career experts agree. If you have decided to ask for an EMS salary increase, know that you will need plenty of tools to answer key questions your boss likely will have.
Follow these six tips to boost your skills before asking for that raise or extra benefits.
1 — Negotiation skills 101
Before it’s time for your annual review, keep a running list of all your good deeds from the year. This will help you know your worth so you can negotiate for better pay, said Jennifer Wheeler, BS, FP-C, C-NPT, a critical care flight paramedic for Boston Medflight.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for more money,” she said. “You’d be surprised what they might give you in the pay scale.”
Show your value and remind the right people because the boss cannot remember everything you do for the company on a daily basis.
“They may have forgotten that you ran the biggest patient reunion or hosted a patient BBQ, but you were the one in charge,” Wheeler said.
Other standout qualities include being on time every day, rarely calling in sick and mentoring other employees.
“You can’t be ashamed of your success,” she said. “Ask them to please recognize this. Write that list down before you go into your next salary review. That way, you can remember it.”
2 — Perks work, too
If you cannot negotiate a higher hourly rate, consider asking for better perks. The organization may have another bucket of money outside of the EMS salary budget.
- Reimbursement for education, such as certifications, continuing education, textbooks or course materials
- Flexible schedule
- Better shifts or flex time
- Day care reimbursement
- Pre-planned severance package
- Transportation assistance or subsidized mass transit
- Housing subsidy
- Student loan forgiveness or loan repayment program
- Maternity or paternity leave
- Gym membership
- Paid time off to volunteer
- Signing bonus
- Relocation assistance
3 — Launching a teaching career to help increase your EMS salary
“Certifications may not be required to do your job, but if you take the initiative to get the right ones, it could help you find a teaching gig that adds money to your paycheck,” Wheeler said.
Opt for the EMS state instructor license, Wheeler suggests.
“With the EMS-I, I can teach what the state requires for our state’s employees to maintain their license and certifications,” she said.
Plenty of commercial EMS companies run their own education functions, according to Wheeler. Employees with EMS-I can teach directly to their peers so your company won’t have to outsource education.
In Boston, Wheeler said instructors make up to about $30 per hour to teach classes.
“Experience is the key that opens the door,” she said. “If you want to move the timeline along quicker for better pay, getting more certifications shows you are self-driven.”
A willingness to obtain more education also tells employers you care about career growth, and it increases your value.
4 — Solve the identity crisis
Many people agree the pay rates for EMS professionals could be better and vary greatly. There are many reasons EMS work is undervalued.
EMS is still in its infancy. As the profession continues to prove its value, the EMS salary rates should follow, said Scott McConnell, RN, BSN, CEN, NRP, senior channel marketing manager and lead instructor with Relias.
Before that happens, though, McConnell said the profession’s identity crisis must be solved.
“EMS is part of the public safety sector, but what we do is not just public safety, it’s also healthcare,” McConnell said.
Many people think EMS is a form of paramilitary style public safety, especially as more talk continues about whether paramedics should be armed. McConnell said the public safety element creates an identity crisis that prevents first responders from having a stronger foothold in the healthcare profession.
“You would not expect a physician or nurse to carry a gun,” he said. “We are working in healthcare. Until we can get over the hump of that, we won’t get the respect from the other healthcare verticals.”
5 — Light up your pay the fire squad way
If all else fails, opt for a career at a fire squad, Wheeler said. Admittedly, Wheeler nearly cringed as she shared that tip, only because the hospital side is losing quality paramedics, she said.
Whether you simply want to earn more money or are feeling squeezed while raising a family, it’s important to think about which jobs pay best. The fire departments generally pay better, according to Wheeler.
“If you want to make the most money, get into a fire department and within a few years you can make six figures with a tad bit of OT,” she said. “That’s not unusual in the state of Massachusetts, if you are a paramedic.”
6 — Check your attitude at the door if you want better EMS salary
Expecting more money won’t make it grow on trees. To earn more, Wheeler said attitude matters.
“If you are a positive person, they tend to pay you more money,” she said.
It requires taking good care of yourself so you can cultivate a healthy mindset. Wheeler said she keeps a healthy attitude about her job and demonstrates her value as an employee by making self-care a priority.