The Difference Between EMT Certification Levels

Not all EMTs are created equal. To the outside world, it probably seems that anyone in the front of an ambulance is a paramedic. But that is not the case. There are actually three different types of emergency medical technicians, only the highest of which is a paramedic. These different certifications give their holders different rights to do different jobs, or, in EMS terms, “a different scope of practice”. There are three levels of EMT certification: EMT basic, EMT intermediate, and Paramedic. Below is a review of all three types of EMT certification: the requirements to obtain the certification, the job duties of each level, and the career opportunities at each level.

the difference between emt certification levels

EMT – Basic

EMT-Basic certification, also known as EMT-B certification, is the entry-level EMT certification. Basic certification courses train students in basic EMT skills. Most basic certification courses are two-part: a skills course and a lab course. The basic skills course teaches how to assess patient condition and provide basic care for common conditions. The basic lab portion of the course is where students practice these skills. At minimum, EMT-Bs have accumulated about 110 hours of training. The job duties of an EMT-B include providing basic life support functions and performing non-invasive procedures.

Beware: where you receive your EMT-Basic certification determines how many skills you have as an EMT-B, and your opportunities to move further in your career. For example, some programs make no mention of IVs in their EMT Basic training because it isn’t a requirement. But in the real world, EMT-Bs will be faced with patient transport involving IVs. Unitek Education’s EMT-B program teaches IV maintenance, enabling EMT-B grads to understand IV basics and take care of patients with IVs. EMT-B training that includes more advanced skills may be harder, but it is worth it. When you are out in the field, there is absolutely no worse feeling that being unprepared, or unable to do what needs to be done to save a patient. Put in the work at the beginning, and you (and your patients) will be glad you did.

EMT – Intermediate

EMT-Intermediate certification, also known as EMT-I certification is the next step in EMT certification. Intermediate certification courses train students in more complicated procedures. In most states, EMT-Basic certification must be obtained before enrolling in an EMT-Intermediate course, because it builds on skills learned in the EMT-basic course. EMT-Is have accumulated 200-400 hours of training, and are thus cleared to perform more advanced duties. EMT-Intermediate certificate holders can insert IVs, intubate patients, and in some states, administer drugs.

EMT – Paramedic

EMT-Paramedic certification is the highest level of EMT certification. To begin an EMT-Paramedic course, students usually have obtained both EMT-Basic and EMT-Intermediate certifications. Paramedics complete about two years of training. EMT-Paramedic certification courses focus on the more advanced practice of medicine, like pharmacology, cardiology, and anatomy. To graduate from paramedic school, students must complete an internship working in a hospital or ambulance. Paramedics have the largest range of job duties: including, but not limited to, all duties of lower-level EMTs, reading labs, EKGs, and X-rays, and manual defibrillation.

Continuing education

At every level of certification, EMTs must attend and complete additional training courses to keep their knowledge up-to-date and learn new technologies and methods. Keeping an EMT license requires that EMTs keep current with their Unitek EMT training. Depending on the state the EMT is certified in, licenses must be renewed every two to three years. Unitek Education offers a short yet intensive 3-Day EMT Refresher Program that provides the 24 hours of continuing education required for EMT state recertification by NREMT guidelines.

License renewal isn’t the only reason for continuing education. The best EMTs use continuing education as a means to further develop their skills in order to become a better and more effective at their jobs. Unitek Education offers an BLS to ALS course as a 1 day workshop, which prepares EMTs to assist paramedics and hospital staff in a variety of ways, including 12-lead electrocardiograms, nebulized medication, IV and IO administration and monitoring, CPCP, endotracheal tube insertion, and more. EMTs who go above and beyond their basic job duties are invaluable – to their coworkers and their patients.

Regulations Vary by state

It is best to obtain your EMT certification in the state in which you’d like to practice, or a state with stricter regulations that the state in which you’d like to practice. This is because regulations and requirements vary state-to-state. Some states require the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam to be passed for all three certification levels, while others only require it for EMT-P. California is one of the strictest states in terms of EMT certification requirements. In order to become a certified EMT-B in California, students must pass the NREMT and accumulate at least 120 hours of training.

About Unitek EMT

Unitek EMT is the premier EMT training provider in the United States. Our mission is simple: training the next wave of EMT professionals. We offer a variety of training options to fit your needs. Unitek EMT instructors are experienced leaders in their fields, and our ultra-real-world training scenarios are ideal for both new and seasoned students, with training the covers all major aspects of emergency medical services.