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EMTs Vs. Paramedics: What's The Difference?

Posted by Thomas Oliver on 12/10/2014

EMTs and Paramedics both provide emergency medical services, or EMS. They both may obtain positions with fire departments, medical clinics, hospitals and ambulance services. They are also both known as "first-responders."

Therefore, they have many similarities, but there are also several differences.

Emergency Medical Technicians

The emergency medical technician, or EMT, is an entry-level position, and it is known by several different names, such as EMT-1 and EMT-Basic. Some states also include a mid-level position called "EMT-Intermediate."

Although EMTs are in an entry-level position, they are very involved in life-saving procedures. In order to move to a higher level, students must have learned the skill set of an EMT first.

EMT Training

The course required to become an EMT takes between 120 and 150 hours to complete. EMTs spend 80 hours in the classroom and the remaining time as interns working in the field.

Those who obtain the extra 250 hours of training become EMT-Intermediates.

The Certification Process

After successful completion of the EMT course, students must take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians certification exam.

Those who pass the exam must also pass a background check, and when they do, they can officially call themselves "certified EMTs."

The EMT's Duties

An EMT is equipped to give glucose to patients with diabetes and treat people who are experiencing serious asthma attacks or allergic reactions. They also administer CPR and give patients oxygen when needed.

They can perform basic airway management, apply bandages or splints, take a patient's vital signs and immobilize people's spinal columns. They can also perform artificial ventilation.

The EMT's job is to provide basic support in situations where people have been injured.

The median national salary for an EMT is equal to $31,993.


The training to become a paramedic is more extensive and requires between 1,200 and 1,800 hours.

First, paramedics-to-be must complete the EMT course. Then, they can move on to obtain their associate's degrees.

They will spend 1,100 hours in the classroom and 500 hours as interns training in real-world settings.

The Extended Training Process

Paramedics learn to provide emergency medical care in the EMT course, but their extended training also includes classes in physiology, anatomy, medications, medical procedures and cardiology.

This training allows them to do what EMTs may not, such as give injections, administer medication, start intravenous lines, provide advanced airway management and resuscitate patients who have experienced a heart attack.

They can also provide endotracheal intubation, manual defibrillation, hemodynamic monitoring, mechanical ventilation, external transcutaneous pacing, intraosseus infusions and EKG monitoring.

The Certification Process

Once they have earned their degrees, paramedics-to-be must take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians certification exam and pass a background check.

When they are finished, they will be certified paramedics, but they may also hold specialty classifications.

Some of the specialty classifications include the following:

  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support 
  • Certified Flight Paramedic 
  • Critical Care Paramedic 
  • Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support 
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Program 
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support

The median national salary for a paramedic is $39,757 for 2014.

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