EMT Vs. Paramedic - A Comparison

emt vs paramedic comparison

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Through the years, 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 to which an emergency medical practitioner can fall under.

“Paramedic” is the second catchall term that is thrown around quite 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 in detail their distinctions and similarities including education, experience requirements, and where they work.

EMT Vs Paramedic - Job Definitions


Emergency medical technicians, generally referred to as EMTs, are emergency medical personnel whose duties it is to respond to medical emergencies and transport victims to appropriate medical facilities.

EMTs, as mentioned below, 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, certified paramedics are also able to 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 too. 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 lots of medical interventions that an EMT cannot attempt. But at the basic level both EMTs and Paramedics can both perform non-invasive procedures on scene such as administering CPR and oxygen.
  • Patient Transportation - After stabilizing an emergency patient, both EMTs and paramedics can take charge of transporting victims to an appropriate hospital.
  • Recertification - EMTs typically have to renew their certifications every two years. To renew and get recertified, they are expected to take cognitive examinations or complete continuing education programs. 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

Afterwards, candidates must complete one cognitive and one psychomotor exam before they can become 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.

Afterwards, candidates must complete an additional set of one cognitive and one psychomotor exam before they can become fully licensed paramedics.

Invasive Interventions

Despite the fact that 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 both 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 of the places above along with air ambulance services which EMTs are unable to work in.

Requirements For Credential Renewal

As mentioned under their similarities, EMTs typically have to renew their certifications every two years. Same goes for paramedics but the difference here can be found in the course requirements.

The EMT recertification course, known as the EMT National Continued Competency Program (NCCP) requires nothing less than 40 hours of continuing education credits. The Paramedic Continued Competency Program, however, has a requirement of 60 hours of continuing education before recertification can be granted.

Salary Levels

Despite both of these fields being categories of the same medical service arm, their salary range is quite different. Paramedics, thanks to their higher level of proficiency and more stringent course requirements, typically earn much more than EMTs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for EMTs is around $36,930, and salaries can range from $33,000 on the lower end to about $51,000 on the upper end.

For paramedics, however, the national average is around $55,000. On the lower end, paramedics earn $40,000 and can earn 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 patient and pass across vital information to hospital personnel about 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 who have 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 both work in the same medical service arm, they are nonetheless two distinct categories with significantly different functions.

Paramedics spend longer in training. During this time, they acquire proficiency in performing certain pharmacological interventions and maneuvers. EMTs don’t spend as much time in training and are unable to carry out the same level of interventions as paramedics.

Furthermore, EMTs earn less than paramedics and are unable to work in certain environments that paramedics can, such as in an air ambulance.