If you’re considering a career in emergency medical services, you may be wondering what the difference is between an EMT and a paramedic. Both roles are important in providing emergency care to patients in need, but there are some key distinctions between the two.
This article covers the daily work lives of each profession and compares their training requirements, responsibilities, and salaries.
EMT vs Paramedic: Overview
EMTs, or emergency medical technicians, are entry-level responders who provide basic life support. This includes things like CPR, controlling bleeding, and using a defibrillator to restart a patient’s heart. Paramedics, on the other hand, are advanced life support providers. In addition to the skills of an EMT, paramedics are also trained in IV therapy, administering emergency medicine, and performing more complex medical procedures.
When it comes to EMTs vs paramedics, one of the biggest differences is their respective levels of education and training. For instance, to become a paramedic, you are generally expected to have at least six months of work experience in emergency care. EMTs, however, do not need any prior medical experience to find work. Additionally, paramedics complete over 1,000 more hours of training than EMTs. Though, training hours vary from state to state and school to school.
As a result of the differential in training, the scope of practice and autonomy of paramedics and EMTs also differs. Paramedics, for example, can perform more invasive medical procedures and have a wider range of treatment options available to them. EMTs, on the other hand, are limited to providing basic life support. Paramedics have more autonomy to make decisions about patient care, while EMTs generally keep patients stabilized until a paramedic arrives or the patient is transferred to a doctor.
Further down, we compare in more detail the training, salary, and responsibilities of EMTs vs paramedics side-by-side. To begin, let’s look at each job title in greater depth to gain a better understanding of the work these medical experts perform daily.
What is an EMT?
An emergency medical technician (EMT) is a first responder who provides basic life support to patients in need. EMTs are trained in a wide range of skills, including CPR, bandaging, and using a defibrillator. They also assess patients for signs and symptoms of more serious conditions.
In the event of an emergency, EMTs are typically the first to arrive on the scene. Assessing the patient and providing initial care is their primary focus. Once the patient is stabilized, EMTs will then transport them to a hospital or other medical facility for further treatment.
Transporting patients is one of the most important duties of an EMT. They must do so quickly and safely, while also ensuring that the patient receives proper care en route. When they arrive at the hospital, they will then transfer care of the patient to the medical staff. Explaining the condition of the patient and what treatments were administered en route is also a key responsibility of EMTs.
EMTs generally work in ambulance crews of two or more people. In some cases, they may work alone. Regardless, they are always in radio contact with a dispatcher who can provide instructions and support as needed.
Knowing the signs of an emergency and being able to provide quick and effective care is essential for all EMTs. Even though EMTs are trained to perform basic life support, they also learn how to assess a patient’s condition and when to call for additional help.
Understanding and being able to identify a wide range of injuries and medical conditions is crucial to the work of EMTs. For serious conditions to be successfully treated by paramedics or hospital staff, EMTs have to think quickly and act decisively to ensure a patient is stabilized and transported in a way that doesn’t further harm them.
Thus, EMTs must be able to think and act quickly in high-pressure situations. They must also be physically fit, as their job often requires them to lift and carry patients.
What is a Paramedic?
A paramedic is an advanced life support provider who has received extensive training in emergency medical care. In addition to the skills of an EMT, paramedics are also trained in IV therapy, able to administer many more medications, and generally perform more complicated resuscitation procedures.
For instance, EMTs cannot perform any medical procedure that involves breaking the patient’s skin. Paramedics can administer IVs and perform intramuscular injections and tracheotomies.
Paramedics are often the first to arrive on the scene of an emergency. However, in some cases, they may be dispatched after an EMT has already assessed the patient. Regardless, their primary focus is to provide advanced life support and stabilize the patient.
Paramedics work under the medical direction of a physician, who they contact by radio to receive instructions on the care of a patient. They also consult with the dispatcher to receive information about the emergency and any special instructions.
Whether following the orders of their supervising doctor or making their own decisions about patient care, paramedics are also responsible for delegating tasks to other members of the ambulance crew. This includes EMTs, who they often work with to provide care.
Like EMTs, paramedics work in teams of two or more people. In some cases, they may work alone.
Paramedics must also transport patients to a medical facility for further treatment. During transport, they continuously monitor the patient’s vital signs and administer any necessary treatments. They also keep in radio contact with dispatch and hospital staff to update them on the patient’s condition.
When they arrive at the hospital, paramedics will transfer the care of the patient to the medical staff. They will also provide a complete report on the patient’s condition and any treatments that were administered en route.
The treatment provided by paramedics is comparable to that given in an emergency department. They can provide a wide range of life-saving interventions on-site and must respond to changes in a patient’s condition quickly and effectively.
Training, Scope of Practice, and Salary: The Differences Between EMTs and Paramedics
As we’ve seen, the daily work lives of EMTs and paramedics are comparable, even though the differences in responsibilities result in different levels of medical practice and decision-making abilities.
So let’s get into the finer points of what makes these two medical professionals distinct from one another.
EMT vs Paramedic: Education and Training
To become a paramedic, you must first become an EMT.
Training programs for EMTs are offered at many institutions, such as community colleges and technical schools. There are no degree requirements for enrolling in an EMT training program.
EMT training programs typically take about six months to complete.
During this time, students will learn how to assess and manage medical emergencies. They will also receive instruction in basic life support, including CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).
EMT students undergo 120-180 hours of education and training before they can take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam. You’re required to pass the NREMT to become a certified EMT. Once certified, EMTs can apply for licensure in their state.
Paramedics typically work at least six months as an EMT before beginning their training. Overall, paramedics undergo an additional 1,200-1,600 hours of education and training after becoming EMTs.
The educational requirements for paramedics vary by state. In some states, paramedics must have an associate’s degree from an accredited institution. Other states may require the completion of an EMS-approved certification program. Some colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in paramedics. Depending on the program, you may be required to complete prerequisite college courses before applying.
Paramedic programs teach physiology, anatomy, trauma life support, advanced life support, and other health-related topics. Outside the classroom, paramedics undergo clinical training at EMS agencies.
It generally takes two years of training and education before paramedic students can take the National Paramedic Certification (NPC) exam and become certified.
EMT vs Paramedic: Scope of Practice
Basic life support measures, such as bandaging wounds and performing CPR, are within the scope of EMTs. While they can’t perform complex medical tasks, they must understand numerous medical conditions to communicate with doctors and safely transport and/or monitor patients without causing further injury.
EMTs cannot perform invasive medical procedures, even if they have the training to do so. The medications EMTs may administer are also limited.
Paramedics, on the other hand, are trained to perform a wide range of invasive medical procedures. This includes intubation, administering IV fluids and medications, decompressing lungs, using breathing tubes, managing airways with tracheotomies, performing amputations, and more. Paramedics perform the same emergency tasks as ER doctors, but on-site.
EMT vs Paramedic: Salary
An entry-level EMT makes $30,500 a year on average. Paramedics make an average of $46,500 a year.
The salary for both professions varies widely depending on where you work and how much experience you have.
For instance, in New York, an EMT with five years of experience earns around $68,700 a year. Paramedics in New York with five years of paramedic experience earn $86,000 a year.
In Illinois, EMTs make an average of $43,993 per year and paramedics $49,774.
In North Carolina, EMTs make $25,072 a year and paramedics earn $44,173.
So, while salary differences vary across the U.S., paramedics earn more than EMTs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics , EMT and paramedic job openings are expected to increase by 11% over the next ten years.
EMT vs Paramedic: The Bottom Line
So, what’s the difference between an EMT and a paramedic?
EMTs are trained to provide basic life support, while paramedics are trained to provide advanced life support. Paramedics have more training and education than EMTs and a wider scope of practice, such as being able to perform invasive medical procedures.
Both EMTs and paramedics are important members of the healthcare team who provide vital services to those in need. If you’re interested in a career in emergency medical services, either as an EMT or a paramedic, you can be assured that you’ll be making a difference in people’s lives every day.
Voluntary Healthcare Internships Abroad
Whether you’re interested in becoming a paramedic or planning out your path to medical school, IMA’s healthcare internships abroad are unique, hands-on educational experiences that will give you the skills, confidence, and experience you need to reach your goals.
We lead internships abroad to help students gain compelling, meaningful experience. But also to serve. Our internships are undertaken in an ethical, not-for-profit program model. We help communities around the world through free clinics, public health education programs, and first responder/first aid training. And we would love to have you along for the ride.
Our healthcare internships abroad include paths for many specialties, such as emergency medicine/urgent care, neurology, internal medicine, OB/GYN, and more.
You’ll shadow physicians and see what it takes to serve some of the world’s most underserved populations with limited resources and staff.
You’ll also get to experience another culture through our adventure safaris and excursions, facilitated by a team of international experts and local university faculty.
IMA operates in beautiful regions around the world, including East Africa, the Caribbean, and South America.
If you’re interested in learning more about our healthcare internships abroad or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
You can learn more about our healthcare internships abroad here.