Medical Assistant vs. EMT/Paramedic: What You Need to Know

Amazingly, Emergency Medical Technicians or EMTs have even a shorter training/education stint than MAs — anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months, depending on the type of program they get accepted into. For the most part, EMT training programs are mostly hands-on rather than academics so, not surprisingly, EMTs spend more time learning hands-on skills than sitting in a classroom listening to lectures, not that they don’t have some of that in their program. EMTs often start off working for Fire Departments — in fact, the push is right now to eventually require all Firemen and women to also be EMTs.

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EMTs can also work for ambulance services, transportation services for the disabled and the elderly and for other types of employers. Eventually, after being on the job for a while and having lots of training, EMTs can vie to become Paramedics. Paramedic, in spite of reaching their status through very humble means, are very knowledgeable people and can sometimes find employment in doctor’s offices, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.

In fact, some people say that Paramedics are often as knowledgeable as nurses, but, unfortunately, the profession still hasn’t been given the status and respect that nurses receive — probably because becoming a Paramedic isn’t as well-documented structured and documented as nurses. And the fact that too many Paramedics don’t even have a college degree has also hurt them. Fortunately, that is changing as more and more colleges and technical schools are now offering formal education programs that include associates and bachelors in Paramedics science.

As for the differences in medical expertise and responsibilieites, EMTs perform very basic procedures as they generally assist Paramedics in stabilizing patients so that they can get properly treated on their way to a hospital or at home (or at a place of business, school, etc.) before getting to a hospital. Paramedics (who usually become EMTs first), on the other hand, can perform more invasive and difficult procedures and are more capable, in general, at assessing patients. You have to assess patients before you can tend to them. The bottom line is that Paramedics are the equivalent of Sergeants in the military and Paramedics are Captains — both are low-level medical personnel, though, compared to nurses, PAs, NPs, and doctors.

Here are some of the major differences between EMT/Parmamedics and MAs:

In general, many EMTs and Paramedics (EMTs/Ps) often have only a high school diploma, though this is changing; there are now associates degrees in Paramedics studies/science. Interestingly, EMTs have less education and training than MAs but Paramedics have about the same (if not more) amount of school instruction.

  • Both EMTs and Paramedics see more action, in terms of emergencies, than MAs — in fact, it’s fair to say that the jobs that EMTs/Ps do are more intense, fast-paced, physically-demanding, and stressful than the jobs generally held by MAs; in general, EMTs/Ps have to be in physically good shape, which is why most EMTs are comparatively young, though Paramedics may often be older. Older MAs might take this age situation into consideration since not everyone is physically able to do an EMT’s job.
  • EMTs and Paramedics are usually out on the roads rushing to where people are in need of immediate medical attention — accordingly, work places for these professionals can be anywhere people get sick; MAs, in contrast, are generally restricted to one location — sometimes to the same set of rooms.
  • EMTs/Ps are mostly responsible for Emergency Room type medicine, whereas MAs, unless they work in an ER, have much more sedate and quiet responsibilities.
  • EMTs/Ps have a much higher burnout, employee turnover rate than MA; there are a number of different reasons for that.
  • EMTs/Ps are more likely than MAs to get hurt on the job. In fact, every year a high disproportionate number of these professionals have to apply for disability, sustain serious injuries or die in the performance of their duties. There are number of reasons why the EMTs/Ps profession is so dangerous: ambulances are involved in many accidents, there is often the need to deal with violent or psychotic patients, and the settings where these professionals operate are generally dangerous ones (crime locations, major disaster settings, burning houses or places of work, car accidents near dangerous streets, ec.)
  • The EMTs/Ps role is much more adventurous and exciting than being an MA; if you like peace, quiet and the security of a private doctor’s office or hospital ward, then maybe becoming an EMT or Paramedic wouldn’t be the thing for you.
  • Most MAs would have to take a serious pay-cut if they became an EMT; the salaries for Paramedics is better, but that depends on their level of experience, how many certifications they have, and where they are located. Some communities pay their EMTs/Paramedics much better than others.
  • You don’t have to become a Firefighter to become an EMT/Paramedic.
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Article Written by Rachel Dennis

Rachel Dennis works as both a professional writer and health care provider. She has been a licensed health care provider since 1998, with work experience as a medical assistant, certified nursing assistant and emergency medical technician. She has been writing since 1994 and has been published both on-line and in print.

One Response to “Medical Assistant vs. EMT/Paramedic: What You Need to Know”

    As someone that has been both an MA and EMT/P, you’re looked at for both knowledge and experience, You bring a lot to the table and are worth the investment from any Medical Office but remember that also have to learn from skilled MA’s don’t dismiss any knowledge that you will gain from them and vise versa. Remember that the Medical field changes rapidly and constantly never forget retrain your knowledge regularly.

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