ACLS vs. BLS: Understanding the Differences

Many people suffer from different illnesses that cause life-threatening problems. Medical professionals try their best to save their patients till the last phase. Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) are both supportive treatments medical professionals give for cardiac arrest patients and victims of severe injuries. The objective of both ACLS and BLS are the same: learning the proper medical techniques to help save the life of someone in cardiac arrest. But what are the differences between these two? Let’s take a look at this article!

What is BLS?

BLS or Basic Life Support involves various life-saving skills like CPR, pulse checks, and rescue breaths without compressions. BLS also uses specialized equipment like AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillators) and bag valve masks, just to name a few. It is performed mainly by healthcare professionals, like doctors, physicians, nurses, Emergency Medical Technicians, paramedics, and first responders like police officers and firefighters.

Read more about: What is Basic Life Support and BLS Certification?

What is ACLS?

ACLS stands for Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support. In ACLS, healthcare professionals use algorithms to treat life-threatening conditions like cardiac arrest, heart attack, coronary syndrome, stroke, and other emergencies. ACLS also involves interpreting the heart rhythm of a patient using an electrocardiogram. Then, treatment options are decided based on the heart rhythm.

People that provide Advanced Cardiac Life Support must have the skills and knowledge to place advanced airways and insert an IV or IO line to administer fluids and medications. Also, they must have a thorough understanding of all the medications available to them that are used to treat the variety of heart rhythms and conditions they will encounter.

What are the Differences Between BLS and ACLS?

The main difference between Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support is the phase of the treatment. BLS is the supportive treatment that treats the injuries and illness in the first phase that helps the patients until providing the entire treatment. On the other hand, ACLS is a supportive medical treatment that doctors use to furnish treatment for severe cardiac problems, stroke, and other life-threatening emergencies.


Basic Life Support certification relates to the necessary training to perform basic life support functions. Of course, this is a requirement for healthcare providers and first responders in their jobs. Still, it’s also often a requirement for other professions like teachers, librarians, lifeguards, coaches, daycare workers, and nursing home employees. During basic cardiac life support certification training, you’ll learn the basic life-saving skills that can be applied when encountering a cardiac arrest or heart attack victim. Then, it’ll be your job to revive, resuscitate, or sustain the victim until more advanced help arrives.

Like BLS, Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certification is the process of learning the skills and techniques necessary to handle all advanced cardiovascular emergencies properly. Both BLS and ACLS certification teaches participants how to increase the patient outcome by sustaining life and making efforts to keep the neurological function intact during cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attack. Advanced Cardiac Life Support training will focus on the following:

  • Understanding of Basic Life Support
  • How to recognize and manage cardiac and respiratory arrest properly?
  • How to support or lead a resuscitation team?
  • Advanced airway management skills
  • ACLS pharmacology

Try Free Basic Life Support (BLS) Practice Test Quiz.  

Background of Medical Knowledge Needed

Medical knowledge is helpful going into both courses, but it’s not necessarily required for BLS. Conversely, ACLS demands at least a basic foundation of medical knowledge that will allow you to absorb the material and complete the course. It is common for ACLS trainees to have completed a BLS training before beginning their ACLS certification course. In addition, ACLS Certification courses often include a Basic Life Support course material review.

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Workers in the medical field, such as doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, CNAs, paramedics, and medical assistants, are all required to take CPR certification BLS certification. Police officers, firefighters, lifeguards, and even school bus drivers must also have BLS as part of their training because of the high level of risk within their job. Some professionals must have BLS as a part of their licensure, which varies from state to state. Other professions are required by their association, state regulation, or national regulation. However, most professionals must have a valid BLS certificate from their employer.

Employers may require their employees to hold BLS cards for various reasons. For example, they may ask that their employees be certified because of an agency requirement. They may also be required to maintain a level of readiness by OSHA.

If you are a medical professional or healthcare provider, ACLS certification applies to you because it may involve intubating a patient or administering intravenous drugs. Therefore, ACLS is recommended for healthcare professionals and medical professionals who may have to respond to a cardiac emergency, including Doctors, Registered nurses, and Paramedics. If you are a teacher, school staff, police officer, physiotherapist, or layperson who needs certification, you must take Basic Life Support instead of ACLS.

Also Read- What is BLS and CPR: Learn the Difference Between These Two

Where to get ACLS and BLS Certifications?

You can obtain ACLS and BLS certifications in various training centers and health organizations in the country. When choosing a certification provider, it is essential to consider if the training center follows the American Heart Association or American Red Cross guidelines. You may reach out to your employer before signing up for any certification course in BLS and ACLS to determine the best course of action.

Key Takeaways

Ultimately, whatever courses you decide to pursue, whether BLS Certification Course or Advanced Cardiac Life Support Classes, consider the time and expense of a wise investment into your career. Here are some key takeaways from this post to help you decide which certification is better for you.