The general public tends to assume that EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and paramedics are the same. Paramedic and EMT job duties and skills complement one another, but differ in key ways. Whether you’re a student contemplating your future or someone considering a career change, review the different requirements for each. Learn about EMT job duties versus paramedic job duties. Find out how much education each position involves, and the potential compensation. And importantly, who gets to drive the ambulance?
Education for EMTs
EMTs receive less training to start, but they sometimes become paramedics. To become an EMT you need to be 18 years old and have a high school diploma. You will complete a 120-150 hour training course, which can take four to six months, part-time. The course will include lectures and hands-on training. You will then need to pass a national, computer-based test.
Some states certify an intermediate level position called an AEMT or EMT-Intermediate.
Education for Paramedics
A paramedic represents the highest level of prehospital care. To become one, you must first become an EMT. Some training course set a minimum number of EMT hours of experience. Paramedic courses can be between 1,200 to 1,800 hours, over one to two years. You will generally need some college-level education, including courses in biology, math, and English. You will study topics such as anatomy and physiology, cardiology, medications, and medical procedures. Your program may award you a two-year degree, depending on where you study.
Review certification requirements for the state of Ohio. Both types of personnel must keep up with continuing education requirements (CREs). As the field evolves, professionals must stay current and keep their skills sharp.
Another path some people take to this field is through the U.S. military. You will need to complete 10 weeks of basic training, followed by 16 weeks of Advanced Individual Training. If you pass the exam, you earn the same certification as EMTs. According to the career website Chron, “many Combat Medics go on to careers as vocational or practical nurses, physician assistants and medical assistants.”
EMTs receive training to administer CPR, oxygen, and glucose (for diabetics). They may also assist with treatments for asthma attacks or allergic reactions. A simple rule is that EMTs are not allowed to break the skin. Auto-injectors like EpiPens constitute an exception.
Paramedics build on EMT job duties. They can administer medications and start IV lines, among other things EMTs cannot do. They can also perform endotracheal intubation, intravenous access and drug administration and manual defibrillation. Paramedics train in the use of 30-40 medications, depending on the state.
Both levels may provide care to patients being transferred among facilities in non-emergency situations.
EMT vs. Paramedic Earning Potential
Naturally, since paramedics undergo more training, they earn a higher salary. Still, both of these represent the lower end of earning potential for the medical field.
According to the website EMS1, “Paramedics generally make an average of about $40,000 annually, but can earn $70,000 or more. EMT pay averages $33,000 a year, with the top earners taking home $51,000 a year.”
Emergency Vehicle Operators
On television you might have seen either an EMT or paramedic racing through the streets in an ambulance with sirens blaring. Although, as we shared in a previous post, if you’re just interested in driving fast, this field may not be for you.
Any of the EMS personnel on an ambulance could drive depending on the situation. Some states require an ambulance driver’s certificate. It’s dangerous. Driving an ambulance brings great risk since you are legally permitted — depending on the situation — to exceed the speed limit and ignore posted signs. Proper training is essential. The Certified Emergency Vehicle Operators Course (CEVO) offers a four- to six-hour video course. From there, you will need to complete hands-on training with an experienced driver.
Many EMTs and paramedics take offense to being labeled “ambulance drivers,” as their training far exceeds that function. However, driving sometimes comes with the job.
Both EMTs and paramedics can be referred to as first responders — along with firefighters, law enforcement, and other professionals who fit that description. Both provide critical services and require valuable skills. If you consider a career in emergency medical services, review the different options available to you and make an informed choice.