The term “EMT” has become one of two catchall terms used loosely to refer to all emergency medical practitioners. In reality, however, EMT is merely one of four categories under which an emergency medical practitioner can fall.
“Paramedic” is the second catchall term thrown around loosely to refer to all emergency medical practitioners. It, too, just like “EMT,” is merely a single category of emergency medical service.
Below we take a deep dive into both terms, examining the true meaning of each. We also explain their distinctions and similarities in detail, including education, experience requirements, and where they work.
EMT Vs. Paramedic - Job Definitions
Emergency medical technicians, generally called EMTs, are emergency medical personnel whose duties are to respond to medical emergencies and transport victims to appropriate medical facilities.
As mentioned below, EMTs are just one of four categories of personnel who carry out similar functions with a few notable distinctions. For example, a regular EMT can perform basic health procedures such as CPR and oxygen to stabilize a victim.
However, there is a limit to what a regular EMT is authorized and capable of doing. This is where paramedics come in.
Just like EMTs, paramedics belong to a class of emergency medical personnel. Of the four categories, paramedics belong to the highest level.
Not only do you need to complete an advanced program to become a paramedic, but certified paramedics can also complete more complex emergency medical procedures such as administering drugs and inserting IV lines.
EMT vs Paramedic - The Similarities
Yes, there are quite a handful of significant differences between EMTs and paramedics, but there are also a few similarities. Below are some of the most notable.
- Emergency Responders - Both EMTs and paramedics are emergency medical personnel. So on the basic level, both can respond to medical emergencies, de-escalate situations, and stabilize patients.
- Non-Invasive Interventions - There are many medical interventions that an EMT cannot attempt. But at the primary level, EMTs and Paramedics can perform non-invasive procedures on the scene, such as administering CPR and oxygen.
- Patient Transportation - After stabilizing an emergency patient, EMTs and paramedics can take charge of transporting victims to an appropriate hospital.
- Recertification - EMTs typically have to renew their certifications every two years. They must take cognitive examinations or complete continuing education programs to restore and get recertified. The same goes for paramedics, who must also get recertified every two years.
EMT vs Paramedic - The Differences
To become an EMT, you only need a high school diploma or GED, a CPR certification, and a postsecondary education through an accredited EMT training program. These programs usually take about 150 hours to complete
Afterward, candidates must complete one cognitive and one psychomotor exam before becoming fully licensed EMTs.
Paramedics, on the other hand, must finish an EMT training program and then complete an additional paramedic training program. These programs usually take between 1000 and 2000 hours of training to complete.
Afterward, candidates must complete an additional set of one cognitive and one psychomotor exam before they can become fully licensed paramedics.
Even though both EMTs and paramedics respond to medical emergencies and can provide treatment on scene, there is a great deal of distinction between what they can do. For instance, while paramedics can carry out what is known as invasive interventions, EMTs cannot. Advanced EMTs can only carry out limited invasive interventions. Examples of invasive Interventions include starting an intravenous line, applying pacemakers, and administering drugs.
Where They Work
Generally, EMTs are often limited in where they can work compared to paramedics. For instance, EMTs can be found in private ambulance services, police departments, fire departments, and government hospitals.
Paramedics, however, can be found in all the places above, along with air ambulance services that EMTs cannot work in.
Requirements For Credential Renewal
As mentioned under their similarities, EMTs typically have to renew their certifications every two years. The same goes for paramedics, but the difference here can be found in the course requirements.
The EMT recertification course, the EMT National Continued Competency Program (NCCP), requires only 40 hours of continuing education credits. However, the Paramedic Continued Competency Program requires 60 hours of continuing education before recertification can be granted.
Despite these fields being categories of the same medical service arm, their salary range differs. Thanks to their higher level of proficiency and more stringent course requirements, paramedics earn much more than EMTs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for EMTs is around $36,930, and wages can range from $33,000 on the lower end to about $51,000 on the upper back.
For paramedics, however, the national average is around $55,000. On the lower end, paramedics earn $40,000 and can reach as high as $70,000 on the upper spectrum.
EMT vs. Paramedic - Job Duties
- Respond to 911 calls
- Transport patients from one medical facility to another
- Stabilize patients at the scenes of emergencies and make sure they remain stable on the way to the hospital
- Assess patients and pass on vital information to hospital personnel about the nature of injury or illness
- Keep patients still and safe in an ambulance by making use of the backboards and restraints during transport
- Carry out CPR and bandage wounds where necessary
- Deescalate situations and prevent further escalation
- Carry out invasive interventions to help stabilize patients at scenes of emergencies.
- Carry out tracheotomy to create airways for patients with trouble breathing before getting to a hospital.
- Intubate patients on the scene to provide breathing support
- Help deliver babies
- Administer medicine, even through intravenous injections and infusions
- Administer pacemakers in situations where patients suffer from heart arrhythmias
Summing Up EMTs vs. Paramedics
While EMTs and paramedics work in the same medical service arm, they are two distinct categories with significantly different functions.
Paramedics spend longer in training. During this time, they acquire proficiency in performing specific pharmacological interventions and maneuvers. EMTs spend less time training and cannot carry out the same interventions as paramedics.
Furthermore, EMTs earn less than paramedics and cannot work in specific environments that paramedics can, such as in an air ambulance.