Difference Between EMT and Paramedic


When it comes to EMTs and paramedics, there is often a fair amount of confusion regarding what each of them does. Some may be under the false belief that they are essentially the same, but in reality an EMT and a paramedic perform very different tasks. The circumstances could be quite similar, but their duties are not.

EMTs and paramedics are more than just mere drivers of the ambulance, they both go through extensive training to obtain their employment. However, a paramedic experiences additional training, while an EMT is considered to be much lower on the proverbial totem pole. Each profession goes through vastly different training levels that have been distinctly defined by the Emergency Medical System.

Primary Differences

The main distinction that can be made between the two is that EMT is considered to be the most basic level of training that an emergency medical staff member can receive. EMT is actually short for EMT-B, which is short for EMT-Basic. Meanwhile, EMT-P stands EMT-Paramedic and indicates that a person has reached the next level of medical training available to them.

In order to become a paramedic, a person needs to have received their EMT-B certification. While a paramedic can perform the same duties as an EMT, an EMT cannot handle the same tasks as a paramedic. The line between the two is drawn at the ability to handle the potential breaking of patient skin.

EMTs Career and Training

The vast majority of states do not allow their EMTs to perform any duties that involve the breaking of skin. An EMT must wait for a qualified paramedic to arrive on the scene, at which point the paramedic handles any shots that need to administered or any insertion of an IV into the patient’s skin.

An EMT is limited to using first aid techniques that were learned during their training and can also administer oxygen and glucose to patients who are in need. EMTs are also allowed to provide asthma inhalers if necessary.

The exception to the breaking of the skin rule is when an EMT is able to give a patient a spring loaded auto injection of epinephrine. These injections are responsible for providing measured doses of adrenaline to those who are in the midst of an allergic reaction.

Paramedics Career and Training

Paramedics are schooled in much more advanced techniques, including air passageway management. A paramedic is skilled is performing tracheotomies and can also give a patient the shots they need. They are able to start an IV if necessary and have the training to administer dozens of medications on the spot, should the patient show signs of requiring them.

The training program for each profession is also much different. For example, EMT is merely the first step that one takes on the road to becoming a paramedic. Paramedics are able to do the job of an EMT, while an EMT is legally barred from performing the same tasks as a paramedic.

This is not to say that an EMT does not undergo extensive training or that is easy to become one. An EMT must go through at least 120 hours of training to become sufficiently proficient and sometimes may need up to 150 hours. There are then two tests that need to be passed, a National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam and a background check.

If the prospective student is able to pass both of these exams, then they are able to work as a certified EMT. On the flip side of the equation, a paramedic has to put in far more hours during their training program in order to become fully certified.

A paramedic also needs to have obtained an EMT certification before they begin working on their paramedic career. Paramedics must enroll in an associate’s degree program, where they will spend at least 1,000 hours in training. In many instances, a paramedic spends 1,200 hours training, or even 1,800.

Paramedics are also required to pass a test from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians and submit to a background check before they are able to become certified. Regardless of which career they wish to pursue, a person who wants to work in the field of emergency medical personnel must get their start as an EMT, before moving onto the paramedic training program, should they want to take on more advanced duties.

An EMT is allowed to be in the back of the ambulance alongside of the paramedic, but they are restricted in how much they can help a patient who is in need. EMT certification is the base level of medical emergency training, while paramedics are able to provide more advanced levels of support and can even perform resuscitation techniques. They are also well versed in patient maintenance following a resuscitation.

While emergency medical service tends to be a very complicated and difficult industry to learn, the difference between an EMT and a paramedic is much easier to ascertain. Paramedics have a far more advanced level of knowledge than an EMT does and can provide additional services that an EMT is unable to.

Different states tend to have different rules regarding the duties of EMTs and paramedics, so it is important to research the laws in your region. Both professions are integral parts of a hospital’s emergency personnel and you will find each of them in the back of an ambulance. But a paramedic is far more qualified than an EMT, even though each of them goes through an extended training process.