EMT vs. Paramedic: What’s the Difference?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

EMTs and paramedics both save lives, but what they’re qualified to do and their role during an emergency aren’t the same. Read on to find out how these important roles differ and how you can join them.

[Featured image] A paramedic, wearing a white uniform and a stethoscope around her neck, is standing next to an ambulance, in front of an emergency room entrance.

Watching them arrive on the scene of an emergency, EMTs and paramedics can appear to perform many of the same duties: provide life-saving care, transport patients in ambulances, and stay calm under difficult circumstances. Yet, there is a meaningful difference between EMTs and paramedics. 

If you’re considering a career in emergency medical services but aren’t sure what the difference is between an EMT and a paramedic, this is the article for you. Here, you’ll learn how EMTs and paramedics differ, their overall job outlook, and what you need to do to become each one.

EMTs and paramedics: the difference explained

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs), sometimes referred to as emergency medical responders (EMRs), provide life-saving care to patients at the scene of an emergency and during transportation in an ambulance en route to a hospital. EMTs or EMRs are qualified to assess critical illnesses and injuries, provide first-aid treatment, and perform basic life-saving health care. 

Paramedics are more highly trained EMTs or EMRs capable of more advanced medical procedures, such as administering oral and intravenous medication, monitoring electrocardiograms (EKG), and performing tracheotomies. They also provide care to patients as they enter hospitals and emergency rooms from ambulances. 

EMT vs. paramedic salary and job outlook

According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the outlook for both EMTs and paramedics is good for the next few years in most provinces. That means there will be a need for these types of emergency medical workers for the foreseeable future.  

Glassdoor reports that EMTs in Canada make an average annual base pay of $54,976, while paramedics earn an average annual base pay of $72,575 [1, 2].  The exact salary that you can expect as an EMT or paramedic will often depend on your work experience, education level, geographic location, and the local job market. Typically, paramedics can expect to earn more than EMTs due to their additional training and experience. 

Should you be an EMT or a paramedic? 

Whether you join EMS by becoming an EMT or a paramedic depends entirely on your aspirations and personal goals. Often, individuals working as EMTs or EMRs for an extended period will decide to advance their skill set by undergoing the additional training required to become paramedics. 

How to become an EMT or paramedic 

The requirements for becoming an EMT, EMR, or paramedic vary by province and territory in Canada. Always check with your local regulatory authority to find out what the requirements are in your location. 


Before you embark on any type of emergency medical services career in Canada, you'll need to meet a few requirements to be accepted into a program. They might include:

  • Diploma from a secondary school with a focus on English and science courses

  • Valid CPR and first aid certification 

  • Valid driver's license (usually class F)

  • Good physical fitness   

These prerequisites can vary by location or program, so check with your educational institution or local regulatory board to find out what you need to begin a career as an EMT or paramedic. 

Training and education 

To become an EMT or paramedic, you'll need to undergo some education and training. You can typically find one- to three-year programs in colleges, hospitals, and various other paramedical or emergency medical technology training options approved by the National Occupational Competency Profiles (NOCP) as defined by the Paramedic Association of Canada. 

For example, the Canadian Red Cross offers an approved EMR program that takes 80 to 120 hours, depending on what province you plan to work in. 

Throughout the program, you'll learn about the following topics:

  • Head and spinal injuries

  • How to reach, lift, and extract patients

  • Acute and chronic illnesses

  • Infection prevention and control

Upon completing the program, you'll need to pass an evaluation, demonstrate certain skills, and respond to mock trauma and mock medical incidents. 

Once you complete your chosen program, you'll need to become licensed by your local regulatory body. If you'll be driving an emergency medical vehicle, you will likely also need to seek a certain license class. 

Prepare for your career 

Whether you’re just starting on the EMS career path or looking to advance your skill set, Coursera has a flexible online program. 

The University of Colorado’s Become an EMT Specialization will introduce you to the fundamentals of emergency health care, such as caring for stable and unstable patients before they get to a hospital and identifying time-sensitive diseases and traumatic conditions.

The University of Michigan’s Anatomy Specialization introduces course takers to the fundamentals of human anatomy, including the major organ systems, their functions and relationships within the body.

Consider signing up for a course today to get your EMS career started or improve your existing skill set. 

Article sources


Glassdoor. “EMT Salaries in Canada, https://www.glassdoor.ca/Salaries/canada-emt-salary-SRCH_IL.0,6_IN3_KO7,10.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed April 24, 2024.

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