The job market for paramedics is projected to grow by 25 percent in the next five years. At Palomar College, Sarah DeSimone leads a team that’s training the next generation of life-savers.

ESCONDIDO — When Sarah DeSimone took over as director of Palomar’s Emergency Medical Education (EME) program with its rigorous Paramedic Academy in August, she inherited an academic program with deep roots in the community and a stunning 100 percent employment rate.

After five years of teaching at Palomar, DeSimone has heard from a variety of fire departments and ambulance companies that Palomar’s graduates are consistently among the best new hires in their field.

“We’re very proud of how well-prepared our students are,” she said. “The people who come out of our academy are all either with one of the private ambulance companies, or they’re picked up by a fire department.”

Palomar’s graduates will be especially sought after in the near future, as the number of careers in the field is projected to grow by 25 percent statewide over the next five years.

The EME program offers a range of courses, beginning with EME 100—in which students with no previous experience can earn their CPR certification—and culminating in the intensive, full-time Paramedic Academy that requires not only academic prerequisites but at least six months of experience working in the field as an EMT.

Located at the Escondido Education Center, the academy accepts 36 students at a time, and there are two cohorts every year, so at any given time there are 72 students pursuing a career as a paramedic.

“I’d heard nothing but great things,” said Shane Applegate, who started in the academy last fall after working for a year and a half at North County Fire in Fallbrook. “I know (prospective employers) like it when they see you went through this program—it gets their attention, and they know you’re well-prepared.”