EMT vs Paramedic | What’s the difference?


Do you instinctively run to help if you see someone in trouble? Then perhaps a career as an EMT or Paramedic first responder could be your perfect calling. Working on the front line in any Emergency Medical Service (EMS) position, you too could be providing lifesaving assistance on a daily basis.

 However, if you’re looking into joining the EMS field, it’s essential to understand the differences between EMTs vs Paramedics. As a team, they work together, sharing many similar tasks and responsibilities. But training timescales, different skill-set requirements, and workplace environments between the two do vary.

 We’ve put together a guide to help you explore the different paths and qualifications needed to help you get started.


Speak to Dorsey College about our EMT and Paramedic training courses today!

What is an EMT? 

Also called Emergency Medical Technicians, EMTs are pivotal Emergency Medical Services team members and usually the first responders on medical callouts. Upon arrival, an EMT job description includes immediately assessing and stabilizing patients during a medical incident or situation.

 EMTs also provide primary emergency medical care to patients and often support Paramedics on-site. An EMT’s role also includes relaying information to doctors and emergency room staff before the patient arrives at the hospital.

What do EMTs do?

 While EMTs and Paramedics share many similarities, an EMT job description is not as wide-ranging as a Paramedic. This is one of the primary differences between EMTs and Paramedics; however, both are responsible for assessing situations and stabilizing any injuries or medical conditions.

 So, what do EMTs do?

 Although it’s an EMTs job to treat life-threatening situations as a priority, EMTs may be called out to less urgent emergencies or when on the scene, may not perform the wide range of duties that a Paramedic may perform. For example, an EMTs role can vary significantly to include;

  • Providing oxygen to patients 
  • Controlling bleeding and dressing wounds  
  • Performing CPR on cardiac arrest patients
  • Delivering newborn babies 
  • Administer certain life-saving medications such as epinephrine 

 Where do EMTs Work?

 With no two workdays ever being the same, it provides several exciting EMT job options. Once qualified with an EMT job license, there are many incredible workplaces where EMTs are found working, including;

  • Municipal and private ambulance emergency medical services
  • Fire and police departments
  • State, local, and private hospitals
  • Sports stadiums and events

Because of differences between EMTs and Paramedics’ skillsets, EMTs often provide the front-line medical cover at smaller venues and facilities. 

 What’s required to become a EMT?

 To become an EMT in Michigan, you must have a high school diploma or GED. State-certified EMT schools provide advanced training to sit the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam to qualify for an EMT job license, once they have successfully completed their training.

 As a certified EMT school, Dorsey College’s EMT program is designed to teach students these essential Emergency Medical Technician skills. In addition, Dorsey students benefit from classroom instruction, combined with practical, real-world experience in a clinical setting.

 These help you to master EMT skills in; 

  • Performing detailed patient assessment 
  • Implement triage in mass casualty situations 
  • Administering emergency medical care 
  • Provide immediate lifesaving interventions
  • Aid patient transportation to medical facilities 

Who Licenses EMTs?

 A Paramedic and EMT certification is achieved by passing the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam. Like Paramedic certifications, an EMT job license is certified by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

 However, with the differences between EMTs and Paramedics’ requirements, the exams differ as well;

  • EMT requirements include passing the NREMT EMT-B exam
  • Paramedic requirements include passing the NREMT EMT-P exam

 How long does it take to become an EMT?

 Due to the differences between EMTs and Paramedics’ duties and training, gaining an EMT certification offers a faster path into the profession. For example, an EMT program can usually be completed in 4-5 months, as compared to the Paramedic program completion time of 14-17 months, typically.  Therefore, the journey towards becoming an EMT may only take a few months, whereas, the time to become a Paramedic is a bit longer (and can take in upwards of a year or longer).

 What is a Paramedic?

 Like EMTs, Paramedics are qualified health professionals who are often first on the scene for an EMS callout. Of all the differences between EMTs and Paramedics, the most noticeable would be the greater responsibilities required in a Paramedic job description.

 That’s because Paramedics have more advanced medical qualifications than an EMT and can perform vital medical procedures which an EMT cannot. These emergency procedures are often required to ensure a patient can be stabilized and transported to the hospital safely. Essentially, EMS Paramedics provide on-site medical attention and care to patients, on par with some emergency room procedures.  

What does a paramedic do?

 While EMTs and Paramedics are both members of a medical first-response team, the differences between EMTs and Paramedics’ jobs on the scene do vary. Able to complete all the tasks of an EMT, a Paramedics job has a broader range of responsibilities.

 Because of the advanced training required, Paramedics can conduct critical medical procedures during an EMS incident, which can include;

  • Applying needle Cricothyrotomy to clear a patient’s airway if blocked or restricted 
  • Perform plueral decompressions
  • Maintain central lines on critical care ambulance
  • Assist in normal and abnormal birth processes
  • Manage amputation accidents

 Additionally, Paramedics are critical members of most Air Ambulance Emergency Services. Due to the serious nature of Air Ambulance callouts, Paramedics advanced skills and expertise are vital in this environment.

 Where do paramedics work?

 Another of the differences between EMTs and Paramedics’ roles is the exciting workplace environments available following your Paramedic training and qualification. This is because Paramedics provide the foundation for an EMS team to function in environments such as;

  • Air ambulances
  • Cruise ships and airports
  • Fire, Police, and S.W.A.T. teams
  • Hospital Emergency Room teams
  • Larger events and venues such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics

 What’s required to become a paramedic?

 To begin training as a Paramedic, you must have completed an approved EMT program (even better if you hold an EMT License), be CPR certified, and have a GED or high school diploma. In Michigan, applicants do not require a Paramedic degree; however, this may be necessary in some states.

 A core factor in the differences between EMTs and Paramedics certifications is the training is more advanced and will take longer. That’s because Paramedic requirements include additional training on topics including;

  • Physiology and anatomy
  • Cardiology
  • Advanced life support procedures 
  • Medications and application

 Who licenses paramedics?

 Like the EMT license examinations, the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) sets the Paramedic requirements needed to obtain a Paramedics License. Future Paramedics must sit the EMT-P exam, which covers a more significant number of topics in greater detail.

How long does it take to become a paramedic?

 Paramedic training courses can vary in length; however, they are usually completed within one to two years. Flexible learning is also available, with classroom-based course options coupled with hands-on training and clinical practice.

 To sit for the required examination for licensure in Michigan, students must complete a state approved  training program. At Dorsey College, training is broken down into the required classroom, laboratory, and practical clinical segments to help students prepare for the NREMT examination.

 Main differences between EMTs vs Paramedics

 While there may be many similarities between the roles, there are some very substantial differences between EMTs and Paramedics’ qualifications. At its core, EMTs require less training, so they can qualify and start sooner. However, EMTs can only deliver primary emergency care; therefore often attend incidents to provide support to paramedics.

 How can I get started towards a career as an EMT or Paramedic?

 Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between EMTs and Paramedics, it’s vital you find a state-approved EMT or Paramedic training program that suits you. Here at Dorsey College, our training provides the backbone for understanding the Paramedic and EMT requirements and the skills needed to take the NREMT exams.

 With two fantastic Michigan campus locations in Madison Heights and Woodhaven, you can study on-site or learn through our Emergency Medical Technician or Paramedic classes. Our objective here at Dorsey College is to successfully prepare you for an exciting new and rewarding career in Emergency Medical Services.


Ready to make a change? Take the first step!
Requesting information requires no obligation or commitments.