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What is the Difference Between EMT and Paramedic?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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The difference between an emergency medical technician (EMT) and paramedic is not only the amount of training received, but also the scope of what he or she is allowed to do once on site at an emergency. An EMT typically receives 100 to 150 hours of training, whereas a paramedic can receive upwards of 1,800 hours of training. One rule of thumb is that an EMT cannot break the skin of a patient, as in giving a shot while a paramedic is allowed to administer injection-type medications.

When referring to an EMT and paramedic, it is accepted to call a paramedic an EMT. It is unacceptable however, to call an EMT a paramedic. Paramedics can obtain a two-year college degree in the field of paramedics. There is no degree offered for an EMT, only a certificate. EMTs receive training in basic life support only, while paramedics receive training in life-sustaining medicine.

Both an EMT and paramedic can be called to an emergency scene. It is also true that all ambulance drivers must have EMT training to drive an ambulance. This allows the ambulance crew to perform life-saving measures on a transported patient. However, once on scene and it is determined that the victim needs medical treatment, only a paramedic may inject drugs or establish an airway.

When comparing an EMT and paramedic, the EMT is allowed only to give oxygen or perhaps an asthma inhaler. The paramedic, however, is schooled in the uses of up to 40 different medicines to administer to a patient. In some areas of the United States, ambulance crews can be manned by two EMTs, an EMT and paramedic, or two paramedics. Often, the deciding factor in which ambulance is dispatched to a particular call is dependent on which type of crew is manning the ambulance.

While an EMT and paramedic can both provide care in an inter-facility patient transfer by ambulance, only the paramedic is allowed to administer medications. It is for this reason that an EMT and paramedic often accompany the patient on the transfer. In most circumstances, a paramedic receives higher pay than an EMT, so an EMT and paramedic are often paired on a shift as a cost-saving measure.

Both medical personnel are first responders and can save a life by their actions. Being schooled in the most important aspects of emergency training measures, the EMT is a valued support team member. The paramedic, on the other hand, has the training to treat a patient after the initial resuscitation has taken place.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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