What’s The Difference Between EMS And EMT?

If you are thinking about becoming a medical professional, then you may be wondering what roles you can go into. There are so many different options for medically trained workers, that it can cause some confusion.

What’s The Difference Between EMS And EMT

For example, you will have heard of the EMS, and EMTs. So, what is the difference?

This guide aims to answer exactly that, and to explain what these abbreviations stand for, along with some information regarding the role of EMTs and the EMS.

So, what exactly is EMS and what is an EMT? Well, EMS stands for Emergency Medical Service, which is a broad spectrum of medicinal services.

On the other hand, EMT stands for Emergency Medical Technician, which is a certified healthcare provider, and a role within the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) itself. So, let’s take a look at what this means in depth.

What Is An EMS?

EMS is an abbreviation for Emergency Medical Services. This is the term used to describe the whole service system of emergency medical help.

Therefore, the Emergency Medical Services is the title for the system as a whole, including services provided by ambulance teams, paramedics and any treatments given outside of a hospital or a similar treatment facility. 

Within the Emergency Medical Services, professionals can provide both basic and advanced medical care, which includes first aid, life support, CPR and other treatments.

As such, in this service, you will find EMTs and Paramedics, who will respond first to emergency situations, and save or preserve life as best as they can before transporting patients to the hospital. 

Not only medical services come under the umbrella of the EMS, but fire service professionals can be included too, as they also deploy firefighters to deliver support and emergency medical help at the scene of a crime, incident or accident. 

An EMS worker can therefore be a range of different types of people, such as firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, and other emergency workers.

These EMS workers will respond to 911 calls for emergency medical help, and will assess the patient’s condition, determine a course of treatment and assist them until they are able to transport them into definitive care. 

As those who work for the EMS can be from different jobs, each person may provide a different level of care. This depends on their job title, skills, training and qualifications, as they may have different training depending on their location and background.

For example, a paramedic responding to an emergency will have a higher level of education and experience in dealing with patients than a firefighter who is trained as an EMT. 

What Is An EMT?

An EMT is an Emergency Medical Technician. These people will typically work out of an ambulance, and are trained to provide a basic level of emergency and medical care.

Most firefighters these days are also trained EMTs and are therefore able to respond to emergency 911 calls where medical help is required quickly. 

Emergency Medical Technicians can either have a basic knowledge of first aid and CPR, or complete additional certifications to provide greater and more in depth care.

For instance you will have EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, EMT-Advanced, EMT-Critical Care, and EMT-Paramedic. Most EMTs therefore have the option to expand their knowledge and training, and will often train up in order to become Paramedics. 

Depending on the location and the state, not all of these certifications will be recognized, and you may only have EMTs, and Paramedics, with no in-between. In order to be an EMT, you would have to undertake at least 150 hours of practice, pass examinations, training and qualify.

In addition, you must be certified to work in the state in which you are practicing, and complete local training programs in order to achieve this. Therefore, if you are a qualified EMT in one state, if you move states you may have to re-qualify and pass your tests again. 

However, if you are NREMT qualified, which means you are part of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, then it is far easier to transfer your skills between states.

As a qualified EMT, you will be able to provide emergency care for those in need, and keep patients supported and stable until you are able to transfer them to a nearby treatment facility or hospital. 

An EMT is usually the first on the scene of an incident or accident. EMTs are the first responders that go to and provide medical care to those in need.

They will often also be firefighters as well as EMTs. Along with EMTs, you will also have Paramedics responding quickly to the scene to help provide aid and care. 

As an EMT, you would be responsible for reacting quickly to an accident, providing urgent care to patients, including life support, CPR and wrapping wounds.

If there is a paramedic present, then the EMT may act as the support to the Paramedic instead, as they are more highly trained. In addition, an EMT would organize transport to a hospital, or do it themselves. 

Many people may choose to become EMTs as it may help them within their role. For instance, firefighters may become EMTs, and police officers may even choose to become EMT trained.

Those who are EMT trained may also then go on to become Paramedics, and work for the Emergency Medical Services in this way too. 

As they are often the ones who are the first responders in the event of an emergency, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) make up the majority of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

What Is The Difference Between EMS and EMT?

The main difference between an EMT and the EMS is that the EMT is the Emergency Medical Technician, that works for and falls into the category of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

The EMT is the role, and the person who carries out duties and responsibilities, and the EMS is the service as a whole. 

For instance, the term EMS is used to describe a whole network of emergency medical service personnel and workers who will respond to emergencies and accidents.

On the other hand, an Emergency Medical Technician is just one role that is part of the whole EMS system, and will be the first one to call for help. 

What EMS Workers Are There?

As established, an EMT is just one of the many EMS careers that you can have. You may be a firefighter, you may be a Paramedic, or you may be a first responder.

In addition to this, the Emergency Medical Service will have administrative personnel who will organize and coordinate emergency responses, you will have volunteers, critical care workers, managers, directors, and those who operate the emergency phone lines in order to direct EMTs and Paramedics to the incident. 

A survey from 2018 showed that in the US, there is an estimate of 240,800 EMTs and Paramedics in the EMS.

So, yes, the majority of EMS workers are EMTs and Paramedics, which is why so many people think that the phrases EMT and EMS are interchangeable and synonymous with each other, but there are so many other workers that make up the organization as a whole. 

What Is An EMR?

Now, just to add more chaos and confusion into the mix, let’s introduce EMRs. An EMR is an Emergency Medical Responder. This is rather similar to an EMT, as they are also medical first responders, and certified first responders. 

An EMR is intended to provide basic first aid to those who have become injured, hurt or unwell. These people are trained to provide this care at work or public spaces, and can look after those who are injured until the EMT or Paramedics arrive at the scene to take over. 

Therefore, an EMR gives a very basic level of care, and will not be the ones injecting patients, or transporting them to a nearby treatment facility, as that would fall under the responsibility of the EMT or the Paramedics at the scene. 

With this in mind, an EMR is not part of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) as they are not full time or highly qualified members of the team. An EMR is more of a person who provides first aid at a workplace, acting as a bridge between the EMS and the wider world.

For instance, if there is an accident at work, an EMR may be able to stabilize or support the person who is unwell, and keep them safe whilst they are waiting for the EMS team, or an emergency responder, such as a Paramedic.

Thus, an EMR is basically someone who has health and safety training in their workplace, who can provide support and care until  professionals arrive. 

What Is The Purpose Of An EMR

An EMR is not a step below an EMT, and you do not actually have to have EMR training before becoming an EMT. EMR training is simply just a very basic level of first aid training, that often only takes between 24 hours and 60 hours to complete.

Most of this training is focused around keeping hearts beating, patients breathing, and ensuring that they will survive the wait for an EMS team or ambulance.

Therefore, this training is often provided by an external provider or by the workplace, rather than at a college or university. This is why EMRs are not qualified to respond to emergencies or work for the EMS, as they are not highly trained enough. 


To summarize, the main difference between EMS and EMT is that an EMT is an emergency medical technician, who will provide emergency medical care at the scene of an incident.

An EMT is one of the roles and workers who are part of the Emergency Medical Services, or the EMS for short. 

The Emergency Medical Services cover a range of roles from managerial and  administrative roles to paramedics and EMTs. All of these roles make up the EMS, whereas the EMT role is just one who falls into this category.