EMT vs Paramedic – What’s the Difference?
Some people may be unsure whether there’s a difference between a career as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and one as a Paramedic. So what is the difference of an EMT vs Paramedic? The entertainment industry has it right in that both are well-trained healthcare professionals who respond to medical emergencies in a pre-hospital setting.
However, the emergency medical procedures a Paramedic can perform go far beyond the more basic responsibilities of an EMT. Consequently the education requirements to become a certified Paramedic are much longer and more complex than for an EMT.
The bottom line in the differences rest in the amount of schooling required to enter the field, the responsibilities of each level of the profession, pay gaps, and advancement opportunities. In the field of emergency medicine, EMTs are considered to be more entry-level providers, whereas Paramedics have a more advanced scope of practice. This is also why there is also usually a pay increase for Paramedics over EMTs — but of course this will depend on your region and employer.
How to Become an EMT
To become an Emergency Medical Technician, a candidate must meet the eligibility requirements and prerequisites to attend and complete a post-secondary educational program in emergency medical technology, and obtain a state license. These programs involve approximately 120 to 150 hours of specialized instruction on how to handle emergency situations. They must also take and pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam.
Following completion of the required program and exam, EMTs are able to provide CPR, give patients oxygen if appropriate, extricate patients from their surroundings, help with allergy treatments and administer glucose for diabetes. These professionals are not able to insert needles or break the skin and therefore they cannot start IVs or inject patients with medications.
How to Become a Paramedic
Entering a career as a Paramedic also requires having completed a post-secondary education program, but the course of study takes between 1,200 and 1,800 hours to complete. Usually Paramedic schools will only take EMTs as applicants although this is not always the case. Paramedics must also be licensed in the state they want to practice. Some Paramedics obtain specialty classifications such as Critical Care Paramedic and Certified Flight Paramedic.
While both careers in healthcare require that professionals be equipped with hands-on experience and clinical internships, Paramedics provide the most extensive pre-hospital advanced life support. Additionally, Paramedics learn therapies which include breaking the skin for IVs and medication administration and monitoring electrocardiograms. Depending on the regulations of their region, they may also be allowed to intubate the patient and provide other more advanced life support procedures.
Paramedics often start their careers as EMTs. This gives them valuable practice with basic skills. Paramedic training classes typically take 6 to 12 months and always include an “internship” which can last for months. EMTs on the other hand are only required to complete 48 hours of “on site training”. Paramedics learn much more advanced skills such as airway management, administering medications, resuscitating patients and endotracheal intubation. Paramedics must pass a computer-based exam to become certified nationally. Learn more about becoming a Paramedic.
As they hold advanced training and certification, Paramedics are usually responsible for managing EMT providers that arrive on the scene. If you are interested in managing others, Paramedic positions offer more leadership opportunities than EMTs. Fire departments will also weigh a Paramedic’s license more than an EMT license, but do not usually require applicants to be Paramedics as the training is expensive and requires a great deal of additional training.
Which Path is Right for You?
The careers of an EMT and a Paramedic are both rewarding and allow a new professional to truly help their community in times of need. They both have strong projected growth, with available opportunities and stable employment.
However, when making the selection between these career pathways, learners should consider the additional schooling, testing, and ongoing requirements of becoming a Paramedic. They should also determine whether or not they would feel comfortable administering medication through needles and intubating patients to gain direct control of the patient’s breathing.
Of course, since a Paramedic is an advanced role, the pay is often considerably higher. If you are actively considering a career as an EMT or Paramedic but are not sure which is right for you, start by becoming an EMT. After gaining skills and experience as an EMT, you can then decide if the role of first responder suits you. If the answer is yes, your EMT experience will help you get into the Paramedic program.
Do either of these careers in healthcare sound interesting? Learn more about the educational requirements to become an Emergency Medical Technician or Paramedic today!