How Is an EMT Different From a Paramedic?

Both emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics are present at the scene of an emergency. At first glance, it might seem like they’re both doing the same medical tasks, but these are distinct roles with different responsibilities. 

So, what is the difference between an EMT and a paramedic? The main dissimilarities root back to their education and training, and they also have contrasting levels of complexity when it comes to their responsibilities in the field. 

EMTs assess critical illnesses and injuries, offer first-aid treatment, and perform basic life-saving care before and during ambulance transport. Paramedics are more highly trained, so they provide more advanced medical interventions like administering medicine and inserting an IV. They also carry out their duties even when a patient reaches the emergency room or hospital.

The Differences Between EMTs and Paramedics

EMTs and paramedics are important pillars of emergency medical services (EMS). Whether you’re training for an EMT exam or advancing your career to become a paramedic, here’s a quick guide on how the two EMS positions differ:

Qualifications

Aspiring EMTs don’t need any previous medical experience to enroll in an EMT course. Usually, the minimum requirement is that the applicant is at least eighteen years old, has a GED certificate or high school diploma, and possesses a valid driver’s license. An EMT school may also employ additional prerequisites before granting admission into a training program.

To get into paramedic training, one must already be an EMT and generally have at least six months of work experience in the field. Some courses also have their own admission requirements, like college-level anatomy and physiology units, or an entrance test.

Education and Training

EMT students must complete a course that runs a minimum of 170 hours. This program mainly focuses on patient assessment and includes training on basic life-saving interventions.

Paramedic students need to finish a program that’s between 1,200 to 1,800 hours in length, which lasts roughly twelve to eighteen months–or two years, if it’s an associate’s program. The program covers anatomy and physiology, cardiology, medications, and advanced medical procedures.

Certifications and Licenses

EMTs and paramedics are both required to be CPR-certified and must pass a corresponding National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam that includes cognitive (knowledge) and psychomotor (skill) tests. Once they pass, they get certification, but they’re typically not yet allowed to practice until they can obtain a license from their state.

EMTs are also typically certified in Basic Life Support (BLS), so they’re equipped with the essential skills and knowledge needed to provide immediate life-saving care in emergencies. Meanwhile, paramedics are ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support) and PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) certified, which means they can effectively respond to cardiac emergencies and provide critical care to infants and children in need.

Responsibilities

How demanding is being an EMT? It can get tough, but the responsibilities of an EMT are generally less taxing than those of a paramedic. EMTs often see patients first and provide entry-level care, such as splinting injuries and administering oxygen, during ambulance transport. They’re responsible for assessing and monitoring a patient’s condition and reporting this information to the hospital. 

Paramedics are pre-hospital service providers, so they can perform similar interventions as emergency room caregivers. They can perform advanced cardiac interventions, use advanced airway management techniques, and administer intravenous medications, among other emergency services.

Salary and Job Outlook

Both EMTs and paramedics earn a median salary of $37,000. EMTs often earn a bit less, ranging between $28,000 to $47,000. Paramedic paychecks, on the other hand, usually come in between $35,000 to $55,000. Many paramedics also work overtime, which allows them to earn more money. That said, the salaries of EMS professionals will vary based on location, experience, and employer.

How to Become an EMT or a Paramedic

To become an EMT or a paramedic, you must enroll in a training program and pass an NREMT exam. After passing, you can get certified or licensed. 

Before all that, however, you need to build a solid foundation in EMS–which you can do with the help of The Paramedic Coach’s Video Vault, a comprehensive training supplement that can help you understand key concepts that you’ll need to pass the NREMT exam. Bulk up your training and purchase lifetime access to our Video Vault today!

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