With over 18 million healthcare workers in America, the medical field is one of the most rewarding professions in the world.
Are you considering a career in the healthcare field but aren’t sure which path to follow?
There are countless possibilities outside the traditional position of doctor or surgeon. From nurses to EMTs and paramedics, you can help people in so many ways.
Are you wondering about the differences between EMT vs. paramedic? Though similar, these two positions carry different responsibilities, certifications, and skills.
Keep reading to learn more about the requirements to become an EMT vs. paramedic and how you can start touching people’s lives by changing your own.
What is an EMT?
An EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) takes care of patients at the entry level. EMTs are the most common type of healthcare professional in the field of EMS (emergency medical services).
EMTs are generally first on the scene in the event of a medical or traumatic emergency. Upon arrival, EMTs evaluate the severity of injuries and place the patient in an emergency vehicle, if needed.
EMTs must then notify the hospital ahead of time about the patient’s condition, including details about their injury or illness. This gives the hospital time to prepare for the patients’ arrival.
In most cases, EMTs travel with the patient, monitoring their condition en route to the hospital.
What is a Paramedic?
Paramedics are EMTs with advanced skills and training. Like EMTs, paramedics are pre-hospital service providers.
As licensed healthcare professionals, paramedics are trained and permitted to provide advanced life support to patients in need. This is often done on the scene or en route to the hospital.
Paramedics provide the same level of care to patients as they would receive in the emergency room. They’re also highly trained in treating and diagnosing acute injuries and illnesses.
Their extensive education includes training on medication administration and medical procedures and cardiology and physiology, among other things.
In addition to arriving when called upon, EMTs have a list of responsibilities they must uphold. These include, but aren’t limited to the following:
- Transporting patients
- Treating and stabilizing patients en route to the hospital or medical facility
- Communicating with the hospital about the patients condition (including the number of patients, their condition, and estimated arrival time)
- Collect information about the patient and keep detailed records
- Perform various medical treatments and tasks (controlling bleeding, bandaging wounds, performing CPR)
- Keeping patients safe and stable during transport using backboards and restraints
- Keeping patients comfortable and preventing further injury or shock
EMTs work together with paramedics to ensure patients receive the treatment they need both on the scene and during transport to the hospital.
Paramedics undergo advanced training and are able to perform specific medical procedures above what an EMT can provide, including:
- Delivering babies
- Prioritizing medical care on the scene (ensuring the most severely injured patients get medical treatment first)
- Administer medication via IV or infusion
- Create airways for nonbreathing patients via tracheotomy or other techniques
- Provide breathing support (using ventilation devices or tubes)
- Decompressing collapsed lungs (usually via a needle in the chest)
- Keeping track of the patient’s medications and administration
- Control heart arrhythmias using pacemakers
Paramedics are trained to make split-second decisions regarding patient’s care, wellbeing, and needs. In the event of an accident with multiple victims, paramedics will assess the situation and direct EMTs and other medical staff on how to proceed.
Education and Training for an EMT vs. Paramedic Position
Both EMTs and paramedics offer on-scene medical care and attention, but on different levels. Since paramedics can administer medication, clear airways, and prioritize medical care, they require more extensive training.
Here’s a breakdown of the certifications and training required to become an EMT vs. paramedic.
Required EMT Training and Education
Some people don’t realize that you don’t need a college degree to become an emergency medical technician. A high school diploma or GED is enough to qualify.
All EMTs must be CPR certified and complete an EMT training program offered at most vocational schools and community colleges. Although they vary from state to state, most EMT training programs are 150 hours.
Once complete, candidates must pass the National Registry Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) cognitive exam. This exam is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) and contains between 70 and 100 questions.
Questions are pulled from a variety of sources and topics, including:
- Joint and long bone immobilization
- Cardiac arrest management
- Bleeding control
- Trauma and medical patient assessment and management
- Oxygen administration
- Bag-valve-mask ventilation
Candidates have 2 hours to complete the test. The NREMT allows you to take the exam three times before requiring a refresher course.
The good news is, you’ll receive an email with feedback about your failing score, which may help you better prepare the next time.
Required Paramedic Training and Education
In the world of emergency medical services (EMS), paramedics have the highest level of training and certifications. Although a college degree isn’t required, be prepared to complete up to 1,800 hours of training.
College degree programs for paramedics are available and generally take two years but aren’t required.
Many paramedics start as EMTs first. This is a great way to get hands-on experience before continuing your training and education.
You’ll need a paramedic certificate before entering the field. After completing your training, you need to take and pass the National Paramedic Certification (NPC) exam and other required state licensing courses.
Paramedic candidates must also complete a psychomotor competency portfolio and have a current healthcare provider credential.
Salary and Job Opportunities
Now that you know what it takes to become an EMT vs. paramedic let’s talk numbers.
As rewarding as the healthcare profession is, you’re likely pursuing it as a sustainable career and source of income. So, how much can you expect to make?
As with most professions, an EMTs’ annual salary varies from state to state, but you can expect to make between $25,000 and $35,000.
Some small towns and cities also have volunteer EMT positions, which is a great way to gain initial experience.
Since paramedics are more extensively trained and perform additional tasks, their salary is slightly higher than an EMT. Paramedics make between $35,000 and $46,000 annually.
Both EMTs and paramedics are in high demand, which means you’ll have job security once you complete the required certifications and exams.
Once you obtain your certifications and licenses, your work isn’t done. You’ll need to renew these certifications to continue working in good standing.
Even if you’re not actively working as an EMT or paramedic, you’ll need to perform these renewals so that your certifications don’t expire. If they do, you’ll need to start over if you ever want to work in the medical field again.
As an EMT, you’ll need to renew your certificate every two years. Recertification for failure to renew consists of another cognitive exam or 40 hours of continued education.
Similar to EMTs, paramedics must also renew their certification every two years. Recertification involves a cognitive exam or 60 hours of continued education.
It’s in your best interest to remain up to date on your certifications to avoid additional training and coursework.
EMT vs. Paramedic Overview
If you’re considering a career in the medical field but aren’t interested in becoming a doctor or nurse, work as either an EMT or paramedic is both rewarding alternatives.
Not only will you get an opportunity to work hands-on with patients, but you’ll work in the fast-paced environment of emergency services.
EMTs and paramedics are dispatched by 911 operators and tasked with assessing the scene and administering proper medical attention.
You’re the first person on the scene, which means you’re capable of turning an emergency from a tragedy into a life-saving event.
EMTs require less training than paramedics and can’t perform the same medical services. While their salaries are less, EMTs are still a vital part of the EMS profession.
If you want to take things one step further and don’t mind putting in more hours and education, becoming a paramedic puts you at the forefront.
You’re responsible for not only assessing the situation but directing medical care and possibly saving a life through tracheotomy, IV, or ventilation.