If you are considering a career in emergency services, then it is important to learn the levels of EMS careers, since they require different training. While people may use the terms paramedic and EMT interchangeably, these two roles are far from equivalent. Understand the differences between EMS career levels to make sure that you select the best training program for your end goal.
What Are The Different EMS Career Levels?
The basic career ladder for emergency services is:
- Emergency medical responder (EMR)
- Emergency medical technician (EMT)
- Advanced emergency medical technician (AEMT)
First Responder Training
EMRs possess more than basic first aid training but know less than EMTs. Rather than being a profession in its own right, the emergency medical responder training is something that other professionals seek to obtain to enhance their skills. If you work as a volunteer firefighter, lifeguard, or police officer, you may need first responder training. EMR training covers advanced first aid, CPR, and other life-saving skills.
If you would like to work in emergency services, then an EMT is the first level position. Typical EMT training courses last for 120-150 hours and cover topics such as CPR, allergic reactions, asthma attacks, diabetic episodes, and more. EMTs are not allowed to break the skin except in particular circumstances, like to administer an EpiPen in cases of allergic reactions. EMTs must successfully pass the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians) exam and obtain certification within two years of course completion to become a certified EMT.
The advanced EMT job introduces more complex life-saving skills, such as intravenous procedures and airway management. Training can take up to 350 hours, and builds upon the basic EMT skills. This position is in between the roles of EMT and paramedic.
Paramedic courses can last 10 times as long as EMT courses, for a 1,200 hour minimum. Training covers basics of anatomy, physiology, cardiology, and pharmacy. In addition to covering topics presented in EMT programs, paramedics learn to use needles, administer medications, care for patients suffering a heart attack, and put in IV lines. Like EMTs, paramedics must pass an exam and get certified.
Paramedics interested in making a different kind of impact may choose to become a firefighter. Volunteer firefighter programs are a good way to gain entry into the profession. To be hired as a firefighter, you will need to combine the emergency services skills you posses with dedicated fire science training. After obtaining a fire science education, you must take exams and pass a background investigation before you can apply for positions.
Your Future Starts Here
No matter which emergency services profession you choose, you can expect a steady demand for EMS professionals through 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. High demand for EMS workers means it will be relatively easy to find a rewarding position in your community, and to move up the career ladder if you so choose. Start classes at a school near you to begin your career!