In a medical emergency, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel are among the first to arrive. They are in charge of taking care of patients on the scene and while en route to the hospital. If you have an interest in the human body, you perform well under pressure and you have the ability to work quickly while being very gentle, you might consider a career as an EMS professional. If that type of work interests you, you’ll need to understand the differences between two of the best-known types of EMS professionals – paramedics and EMTs.
Though both play important roles in emergency medical situations, there are several differences in responsibilities and training between EMTs and paramedics.
EMT and paramedic roles and responsibilities:
One of the main differences between EMTs and paramedics is the procedures they are able to perform when helping patients. Specific responsibilities depend on their level of qualification and training. Here is a look at each level of experience:
EMTs with basic training take care of patients at the scene of an accident and while transporting them by ambulance to the hospital. They administer basic first aid and cannot provide any services that involve breaking the skin such as giving shots or inserting IVs. Epi-pens for allergic reactions, however, are permitted.
Advanced EMTs have more advanced training, and the care they are allowed to provide varies from state to state. Unlike EMTs, an EMT at the advanced level usually has the ability to use more advanced airway aides, start unmedicated IV lines and might be able to administer a limited number of medications.
Paramedics are able to provide the most extensive pre-hospital care. They have access to more advanced equipment and can administer drugs orally and intravenously. Other responsibilities include interpreting electrocardiograms (ECGs), which records the electrical activity of your heart at rest, performing endotracheal intubations to help a patient breathe and using monitors and other complex equipment.
How to become an EMT or paramedic:
To become an EMT or paramedic, you need to fulfill some basic prerequisites:
- Earn a high school diploma or GED
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a CPR certification.
Then, there are two more steps – education/training and certification:
Education and Training
The first step is to complete a state-approved EMT or paramedic course. For an EMT, these education courses – which focus on basic medical training – take about four months and can require between 120 to 150 hours of study.
Paramedics need to complete basic EMT training and certification before paramedic and advanced training. The educational programs will include from 1,200 to 1,800 hours of coursework and are often offered through a two-year degree program. The classes include advanced training to prepare you for the responsibilities expected in the field.
Herzing University’s Birmingham, Alabama campus offers four to 20-month paramedic/ EMT training programs that provide students with the required training. There are associate degree and diploma options as well as other pathways to continue education in related fields.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be 18,700 new careers created for EMTs and paramedics between 2018-2028. EMTs and paramedics who have advanced education, certifications and EMT training are likely to get more desirable job opportunities because there is a demand for the highest levels of care before patients arrive at the hospital.
The final step to becoming an EMT or paramedic is getting your certification. To be nationally certified, you need to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) cognitive and psychomotor certification exams.
After passing the NREMT exam, you must apply for state licensing within two years.
Interested in enrolling in our EMT and paramedic program? Check out our training page to learn more!