GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP)  — Wake County has created tough competition in the fight for qualified and trustworthy EMT and paramedic candidates after raising the wages by 21%.  

CBS 17 reports that in March, Wake County raised the minimum wage of EMTs from $17 to $20 and $21 to $28 for paramedics.

They are just one of a handful of counties that have begun to raise the wages for first responders, who have experienced shortages, overtime hours and burnout during the pandemic.  

Forsyth County and Guilford County are going through a salary study to help determine where each county stands with their overall payment of all county employees and where they can compete for talent financially.

“We have started to adjust with everybody else,” County Commissioner James Upchurch said. “This year will be pivotal for us moving forward.” 

The commissioner campaigned on raising wages for first responders and other essential county employees.  

He told FOX8 that EMS wages have increased by more than 25% in the past four years.  

Currently, Guilford County EMTs make roughly $15.80 per hour, while paramedics make $19.25 per hour.  

“We have a lot of competition, and we are doing what we can that we make sure that we stay higher than the surrounding counties, and we have to be mindful of the dollars and budget we have,” Upchurch said.  

Forsyth County EMS crews have also had to find ways to compete.  

EMS Director Daren Ziglar has begun to lean heavily on the selling point that Forsyth County EMS is a “family” and that the job will not cut into their personal lives.  

That being said, the job is incredibly stressful.  

“Our crews work 12 hour days. They are working the entire time they are here,” Ziglar said.

EMTs currently make $14.57 per hour, while paramedics earn $19.57 per hour.

The wages have increased slightly over the years, but Ziglar is hoping the county will raise them to help with recruitment and retention.  

“They are in this range to where they can go somewhere else and make as much money,” he said.

His department and others not only have to compete against the pay of the job but also the cost of inflation.

“Going home and now having to deal with inflation and rising costs – that’s just an additional burden. So whenever your lift the salary, you can lighten that burden a little bit,” Upchurch said.

The salary studies will take between the start of July to the end of the 2022 year to complete.  

They will then go to county commissioners to decide where to raise the wages and by how much.