ACLS vs. BLS – What’s the Difference?

ACLS vs. BLS – What’s the Difference?

If you’re new to the health care industry or are just starting out on your journey, figuring out the difference between the various medical certifications can be challenging.

For instance, Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) are both very similar in that they share the same objectives of learning the proper techniques for delivering life-saving care to someone suffering cardiac arrest.

Beyond this, however, the two feature some marked differences. Let’s take a look.



As the name implies, BLS training is all about the basics.

For some, BLS certification and its coverage of basic CPR and other life saving techniques can be sufficient for their chosen career path.

These individuals might include teachers, coaches, childcare professionals and anyone working with large groups of people.

For those pursuing careers in the health care industry, however, BLS typically serves as the foundation for additional knowledge upon which the ACLS course and more in-depth trainings require.



Possessing a background in health care isn’t necessary in order to take and successfully complete a BLS course. The same, however, cannot be said for ACLS.

Students taking the latter are typically required to already have completed their BLS and also possess a certain degree of medical knowledge.

For example, a significant portion of the ACLS exam will likely cover the topic of reading and understanding ECG results, which is covered on a basic level in the BLS.

Having this foundation prior to taking ACLS is strongly recommended.



Because of its basic nature, the BLS coursework does not contain any training or guidance in regards to administering medications and other pharmaceuticals in an emergency medical situation.

Conversely, ACLS training and certification does include this information. In your ACLS coursework, you will learn about a variety of drugs, what they are used for and how they work.

By the time you get your ACLS certification, you will know which medications are required in various scenarios, in what dosage and how to properly administer them.


While the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) is covered in the coursework of both BLS and ACLS, the latter also covers the use of additional tools and equipment, such as intravenous medications and intubation materials, just to name a few.

ACLS coursework also includes emergency situation algorithms that medical professionals must know in order to administer life-saving care to a critical patient.



These are just a few of the many differences that exist between the BLS and ACLS coursework material and exams.

If you’re not entirely sure about which option is the right choice for you, feel free to reach out and contact us with any questions you may have.

We’d be happy to point you in the right direction and make sure the online medical certification you end up with is the precise one you need to move forward in your career.

Click here to send us a message and someone from our team will be in touch shortly!