What Is the Difference Between a First Responder and an EMT

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What Is the Difference Between a First Responder and an EMT

Almost everybody has needed to receive some kind of medical attention at some point. However, most people have no idea what the difference is between a first responder and an EMT. When people have emergencies, they typically just call 9-1-1 and let them work out the rest of the details. 

It is important to know exactly who you are receiving assistance from and what standard of help you should be expecting from them. Most emergency workers are assigned a specific set of tasks and cannot go beyond that jurisdiction. 

To begin, first responders is an umbrella term used to describe all workers trained to respond to emergency events. This category includes EMTs, paramedics, police officers, firefighters, and more. 

Often, people mistake EMTs for an entirely separate type of worker than first responders. In reality, though, EMTs are a type of first responder.


EMT stands for Emergency Medical Technician. EMTs provide emergency medical care for patients outside of the hospital. They respond immediately to events as they happen. For example, when a serious car accident occurs, EMTs are dispatched via an ambulance to the scene of the crash to tend to the victims. 

EMTs also provide transportation for critically hurt patients. They are equipped with basic knowledge and skills to stabilize patients and safely transport them to hospitals. Essentially, their job is to make sure that patients are okay before getting to receive actual medical attention. If a patient is seriously hurt and at the risk of death, it is the EMTs job to make sure they make it to the hospital alive and stable. 

EMTs can also respond to non-emergency situations and routine medical transports. They function as part of a complex EMS response system. They are usually limited to using only the basic equipment found in ambulances.  

EMTs must complete the Emergency Medical Technician educational program before working. This program tests a wide variety of emergency care skills in different scenarios. Your instructor must confirm that you are competent in patient assessment and management of a trauma patient, patient assessment and management of a medical patient, cardiac arrest management, and AED, BVM ventilation of an apneic patient. You’ll also need to know these skills: long bone fracture immobilization, joint dislocation immobilization, traction splinting, bleeding control and shock management, upper airway adjuncts and suction, mouth-to-mouth ventilation with supplemental oxygen, and supplemental oxygen administration to a breathing patient.

EMTs must also pass a state-approved psychomotor examination. The specific details of the exam vary from state to state, but it generally tests your knowledge of the human body and medical care protocol.

EMTs, in many ways, are the unsung heroes of the first responder line. EMTs save lives literally every day. If you’re looking for a way to support your local EMTs, check out our EMT Leather Patch Back Mesh Hat on the Printed Kicks online store. It fits all sizes and comes in over ten different color schemes. 


A paramedic is a medical professional specializing in emergency care. Paramedic is the highest level of EMT certification. Paramedics are required to undergo both basic and advanced EMT training, as well as additional studies. Many EMTs become paramedics. However, they are not the same job. 

EMTs have the ability to stabilize and transport patients to the hospital. However, they aren’t permitted to give treatments that break the skin, besides a few exceptions. They can’t even give patients injections or IVs. 

Paramedics have much more training than EMTs and thus, have a broader scope of responsibilities. Unlike EMTs, paramedics provide more advanced emergency medical care, including injections, IVs, heart resuscitations, and airway management. They can also administer medications to patients. In addition, paramedics have access to more advanced equipment on ambulances. 

A paramedic is not a doctor or a nurse. Actually, the word “paramedic” is a combination of two terms, “para,” which means “next to,” and “medic,” which means doctor. Just like the word suggests, paramedics work with doctors to help patients. They are not always next to the doctors physically, but their work is pivotal in the success of the doctors. 

Paramedics typically work in emergency rooms and ambulances. However, they also work in niche settings like on cruise ships, oil-drilling platforms, air rescue transports, ocean rescue teams, S.W.A.T. teams, firefighting teams, and at special events like music festivals and concerts, where they treat people with urgent problems.

Law Enforcement

Every state has a Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) or a similar program to test the competence of new law enforcement officers. These programs provide a minimum standard for which officers must achieve. Officers at individual agencies have to reach or exceed these standards.  

Requirements differ between states and agencies, but some basic requirements are universal. For one, most applicants must be U.S. citizens, or in some cases, permanent resident aliens who have applied for citizenship. Some agencies also require you to live in the state you work in. 

Next, most agencies require you to be at least 21 years old by the time you graduate from the academy. That said, some take cadets as young as 18 years old. Many agencies also set a maximum age limit, which varies greatly from place to place.

You may also need a high school diploma or GED, depending on where you apply. Some agencies even require a bachelor’s degree or a minimum number of college credits. Others offer supplemental pay based on your education. 

Though it is possible to become a police officer without a high school or college degree, having a solid education behind is a huge asset in law enforcement. When seeking a promotion or a specialized assignment, your education can play a factor. Criminal justice studies, sociology, psychology, and social work are typical fields of study for police officers.

Lastly, police officers must exhibit a certain standard of fitness. This standard also varies by agency and state, but officers should be in strong, physical shape, ready for any circumstance to arise while working. 


Firefighters are another type of first responder. Just like the first responders discussed already, firefighters are crucial parts of their communities. Not only do they fight fires, but they also respond to medical emergencies, help with search and rescue missions, and assist with traffic incidents. 

All firefighters must undergo a basic four-to-six-month training in a fire academy. During this time, they are unpaid. They must also complete some kind of post-secondary training, either in a vocational school, college, or another fire academy. Each state and fire department determines its own rules for applicants. 

Firefighters must also receive an associate’s degree in fire science, which can take anywhere from one month to an entire year, depending on the program they attend. Knowing exactly how fires start and extinguish is indispensable as a firefighter. 

It is worthwhile to mention that there are also many volunteer firefighters that offer their time to their communities for nothing in return. Fire departments have always had a strong volunteer presence and will probably continue to rely on that as time goes on. Out of all the different jobs you can have as a first responder, firefighting is the least applied for. 

Here at Printed Kicks, we make sure to honor all of our first responders, including firefighters! We have over 40 different items related to firefighters, including hats, shirts, decals, flags, masks, and more. We’ve got it all!


There are so many first responders out there that are putting their lives on the line every day to protect and serve their communities. For this reason, we choose to honor our first responders and show our gratitude for them whenever possible. 

Remember that when you call 9-1-1, there is an entire team of professionals behind you ready to help. Each person that helps you, from the phone operator to the first responder that comes to the scene, is there to assist you.


All first responders, including EMTs, paramedics, police officers, and firefighters, are heroes in their own rights. Just like you, they all have their own families and their own lives. They understand what it’s like to need help, and they’re committed to getting you whatever help you need as fast as possible. 

Next time you see a first responder, whether it is a friend, family member, or just someone you see on the street, be sure to thank them for their services. Without them, we wouldn’t feel as safe as we do. Just make sure they’re not working when you tell them! 



Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) | NREMT 

How to Become a Firefighter: 6 Steps to Success | Public Service Degrees 

Basic Requirements | Discover Policing 

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