EMTs and paramedics work together

The Real Difference Between EMTs and Paramedics

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics are the medical professionals who ride along in ambulances or emergency helicopters to provide emergency medical care in between the emergency site and the hospital. They are important professionals who make the difference between life and death of individuals in critical condition.  If you’ve ever been in an emergency situation before, you’ve probably interacted with either an EMT or a paramedic, but you may not have known the difference between the two.

The term “Emergency medical technician” is an umbrella term for a range of emergency personnel. Every state has different versions and levels of EMT professionals, which means that different EMTs have different levels of training they’ve undergone in order to become an EMT. Essentially, all paramedics are EMTs, but not all EMTs are paramedics. A paramedic goes through more training and has a higher level of emergency medical expertise and responsibility than other kinds of EMTs.

Most states recognize at least 2 levels of EMTs, and many have three or four levels. Generally, every state has a basic EMT level and an EMT-paramedic level. The third and fourth levels usually equate to intermediate and pre-paramedic advanced EMT. Basic EMTs typically have training in CPR, First Aid, and other forms of basic emergency medical training. Paramedics, on the other hand, have the training of all EMTs and then some. For instance, paramedics typically are able to use emergency drugs and break the skin to perform certain emergency surgical procedures if a doctor isn’t readily available.

Basic EMTs typically have 100-200 hours of medical training, whereas paramedics go through around 1400 hours of training and have usually earned a two-year degree by going through training. Most states require other emergency personnel, like firefighters and policy officers, to be trained EMTs at the basic level.

When it comes to ambulances arriving at the scene of an emergency, there may be a range of training among the professionals who are riding in the ambulance. Typically, at least one will be trained as a paramedic in order to perform the necessary medical procedures if it means the life or death of the patient. All EMTs should be trusted as qualified medical professionals.

If you’re thinking about becoming an emergency medical professional, you should consider going through advanced EMT training to become a paramedic rather than just a basic EMT. This will allow you to have more responsibility and usually equates to higher pay. 

Last Updated: April 15, 2015