What is the difference between an EMT and a Paramedic?

June 19, 2014 By: ironpuppet

Delivering patient care during an emergency situation requires a particular type of person with the skills, knowledge and confidence to perform in a variety of situations.  Many times you may hear the term EMT and Paramedic used almost interchangeably while listening to the news or watching a movie.  In reality there is a difference between the two levels of licensure.

Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers are required to obtain certification and licensure in Missouri to work on an ambulance and there are several different levels of education.  Some of the most common levels of licensure include Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT), and Paramedic.

An Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT, is able to provide basic emergency medical care and transportation for patients.  Some of the common skills an EMT is able to perform include CPR, mouth-to-mask oxygenation, splinting, and the use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED).  Becoming proficient in EMT skills will give students a strong foundation when advancing their career as a paramedic.

EMT’s must successfully complete an accredited course and successfully complete the psychomotor and cognitive exams following the course to obtain their license.

A paramedic’s scope of practice is much different than an EMT.  Paramedics are advanced level providers that are highly educated.  Some of the advanced skills that a paramedic is responsible for include medication administration, ECG interpretation and treatment, and advanced airway placement.

Paramedics must complete a complete an accredited course and successfully complete the psychomotor and cognitive exams following the course to obtain their license.


What are Important Qualities for an EMS Professional?

Compassion. EMTs and paramedics must be able to provide emotional support to patients in an emergency, especially patients who are in life-threatening situations or extreme mental distress.

Interpersonal skills. EMTs and paramedics usually work on teams and must be able to coordinate their activities closely with others in stressful situations.

Listening skills. EMTs and paramedics need to listen to patients to determine the extent of their injuries or illnesses.

Physical strength. EMTs and paramedics need to be physically fit. Their job requires a lot of bending, lifting, and kneeling.

Problem-solving skills. EMTs and paramedics need strong problem-solving skills. They must be able to evaluate patients’ symptoms and administer the appropriate treatments.

Speaking skills. EMTs and paramedics need to be able explain procedures to patients, give orders, and relay information to others.


How Do I Start My Career in EMS?

To begin your career you will need to find an accredited EMT school in your area.  Start by contacting your State EMS Office for a list of approved schools.  You will want to research each of the schools in your area.  Talk to local firefighters and paramedics and ask who they recommend.  Visit the school and ask to talk to someone there about their program and fees.  If you are uncomfortable with the answers you get then keep interviewing schools until you find a school that meets your needs.

Here are the steps to become a paramedic:

  1. Register for the EMT course.
  2. Complete the EMT course.
  3. Successfully pass the practical exam and NREMT written exam.
  4. Obtain your EMT license.
  5. Register for the Anatomy and Physiology class.
    1. This is a requirement/pre-requisite for the paramedic class
    2. Complete the Anatomy and Physiology class.
    3. Register for the Paramedic class.
    4. Complete the Paramedic class.
    5. Successfully pass the NREMT practical and NREMT written exam.
    6. Obtain your Paramedic license.


If you are interested in obtaining information about Respond Right EMS Academy’s EMT training courses, call or email today.  Respond Right EMS Academy has EMT training classes that run yearly.


Toni Milan, BS, Paramedic-Program Director