Difference Between EMT and Paramedic

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EMTs and paramedics are often the first responders to the scene. While these two roles may seem similar, they are actually very different. We will review the difference between EMTs and paramedics in this guide.

When looking at EMT vs. paramedic, it is important to remember there are different certification levels within this field. EMT is the second level, while paramedic is the 4th and final certification level someone can achieve.

Summary: We will review Paramedics vs. EMTs and break down similarities and differences below. If you want to start practicing, use our NREMT practice.

EMT vs. Paramedic

The main difference between an EMT and a paramedic is the level of education required and the procedures they are allowed to perform. A paramedic requires more education hours and, therefore, can perform more procedures versus an EMT.

EMTs and paramedics both serve a vital role in the health care system, but they perform different functions.

It is essential to know the different EMT levels when looking at the difference between an EMT and a paramedic. The levels are:

  • Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  • Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT)
  • Paramedic

Each level builds on itself. A paramedic may have gone through the other three levels before becoming a paramedic. Or, at the very least, they need to complete an EMT program before attending a paramedic course. You can read our guide to EMT certifications for more information.

The following are the main differences between an EMT and a paramedic.

Education Requirements

Both EMTs and paramedics do not require a college degree. However, both DO require a high school diploma or GED.

EMTs will need to complete an EMT training program that is usually around 150 hours. This can take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years, depending on your specific program.

Paramedics may have gone through the first 3 EMT levels before completing the specific education requirements to become a paramedic. However, only completing the level of EMT is generally required to enroll in a paramedic program.

If a paramedic decides to complete the first three EMT levels before attending paramedic school, the training usually consists of 1200 to 1800 hours and takes about two years.

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Actual Job Duties

EMTs and paramedics are authorized to provide life-saving emergency healthcare and will be called to a scene after a 911 call. An EMT will monitor the patient, provide treatment, and determine the severity of the patient, which they will then relay to the hospital.

Depending on the jurisdiction, EMTs might be the first healthcare provider to see the patient and provide basic life support (BLS) care while on scene and in transit to the hospital.

If an EMT determines the patient needs advanced life support (ALS) care, they will call dispatch and request an ALS unit to respond. Paramedics are better equipped at treating acute illnesses and severe injuries due to their extensive training, providing treatment on par with emergency department care. 

Paramedics can perform advanced procedures such as intubation, needle decompression, cricothyrotomy, establishing IVs, and administering many life-saving medications. The technical term for the care provided is “pre-hospital care.”

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Where They Work

When looking at the difference between EMTs and paramedics, it is interesting to see where they work. 

Governments, hospitals, fire departments, police departments, and private ambulance services often employ EMTs. Private companies will sometimes hire EMTs for concerts or other large venues such as triathlons.

Private ambulance services, hospitals, fire departments, and air ambulances employ paramedics. Most often, paramedics are recognized as working on ambulances alongside EMTs.

EMTs and paramedics both work under the supervision of a medical director or physician. You can learn more about EMT salaries with our guide.

Renewal Requirements

EMTs and paramedics are both required to renew their certification every 2 years. This requirement can be met by taking the cognitive exam or completing continuing education.

EMTs will need 40 hours of continuing education hours to recertify, while paramedics will need 60 hours of continuing education hours. While both EMTs and paramedics are certified, paramedics are unique because they are also licensed by the state where they are employed. Paramedics will also need to follow their state’s licensure requirements.

Difference Between EMT and Paramedic – Bottom Line

Paramedics are EMTs, but EMTs are not paramedics. To become a paramedic, you will need to undergo the training required to become an EMT before attending a paramedic program. 

EMTs and paramedics are first responders who work on the front lines and provide pre-hospital care to patients before they reach the hospital. Paramedics are licensed to provide more advanced life support due to the number of education hours and training required to become a paramedic.

Krista Wenz
Krista is our EMT and paramedic expert. She has been a licensed paramedic for 34 years. Krista is an adjunct instructor for various colleges.