What is the Difference between an EMT and a Paramedic?

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Fact Checked by Matt. H. Firefighter/Paramedic

It’s one thing to be watching a show and the Ambulance rolls up and does movie magic. It’s another thing to watch it happen in person, and not understand who does what role (or wonder why some people aren’t helping more when time is of the essence!)

The answer lies in the truth that there are different certifications and skill levels on ambulances and in other emergency situations. Not all people are trained in all things.

What are the differences between and EMT and a Paramedic?

The biggest difference between an EMT and a Paramedic is the scope of practice and the skills each are allowed to perform. EMTs provide BLS Care (Basic Life Skills) like administering oxygen and dressing wounds. While a Paramedic has a larger practice and can establish IVs, intubate with advanced airway, Administer Restricted/Narcotic medications, and more depending on the Medical Directives in that area.

While Paramedics and EMT’s carry a lot of the same equipment on their person, the Equipment that they use on the ambulance is different. Paramedics can use the full range of Equipment and Medications available according to their State Guidelines, while EMTs will be ‘support staff’ for the Medics.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Rescue team (doctor and a paramedic) resuscitating the man on the road.

Requirements and Demands of EMT School

EMT school is approximately six months in length along with a certain amount of clinical hours. This can vary though, as some crash course are just a few months, and other night classes can go almost an entire year.

However long the program, the goal is the same. To make sure an EMT can provide basic care on an ambulance or medical setting and work well with the Paramedic who may be calling the shots.

In school EMT’s learn a lot about the human body, how to transport without causing more injury, and how to stabilize a patient to get them to higher level of care. This equips the student with knowledge on assessing a patient and providing BLS treatment. This is different than Fire Academy or Paramedic School.

Paramedic taking out stretcher from ambulance car

Requirements and Demands of Paramedic School

Paramedic schooling however is a year plus. Also EMT is a prerequisite. The knowledge and scope of practice is much larger and requires more training in the emergency settings such as ambulance clinicals and hospital clinicals.

The Paramedic course tends to be a much faster paced and self study type of schooling. Schooling for a Paramedic is significantly longer as well as more challenging. Not only are you learning more, but you will also have more responsibilities when you are working as a Paramedic. Since the Stakes are Higher, the Schooling is more intense.

If you are considering becoming a Paramedic, you will need to consider the demands of the job and wether you should become a Paramedic.(Pros and Cons List).

EMT’s and Paramedics Working Together

Often times once on the job the EMT will be partnered with a paramedic to assist with patient care, but this is not always the case. Sometimes EMT’s are stationed with other EMT’s- and their main goal is basic patient care, stabilizing and transporting to the next location with a higher trained medical professional.

Likewise a Paramedic can work with another paramedic, work alone, or work with an EMT. It depends on many factors like the location, the work demands, the budget and the schedule.

In most places, EMT can work without a Paramedic, and vice versa. Paramedics are not required to have an EMT, and EMT’s are not required to have a paramedic to preform job tasks.

What may be required for the Municipality (City, State, County) are certian licenses. For example, if a Truck says it is an Advanced Life Support Truck, it MUST have a Paramedic. Sometimes Municipalities will choose to staff the truck with Two Paramedics, sometimes an EMT and a Paramedic.

If a truck is Basic Life Support, they only need to have EMT’s. Sometimes Municipalities will choose to staff the truck with Two EMT’s, sometimes an EMT and a Paramedic.

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