• BLS vs. CPR: Which Certification Is Right For Me?

    What is Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)?

    You might be familiar with the abbreviation CPR, which stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This standard technique teaches life-saving actions like chest compressions and rescue breaths — and is crucial during instances of cardiac arrest, where the heart stops beating or functions inadequately, leading to insufficient blood circulation to the brain and vital organs.

    While you’ve probably heard of CPR, you may not be as familiar with BLS, which stands for Basic Life Support, and how it differs from CPR.

    Are BLS and CPR the same?

    CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It can help save a life during cardiac arrest, when the heart stops beating or beats too ineffectively to circulate blood to the brain and other vital organs.

    BLS stands for Basic Life Support. This certification course trains healthcare professionals including nurses, physicians, EMS professionals, and other healthcare and public safety personnel to respond to breathing and cardiac emergencies in adults, children and infants.

    What is the Difference Between BLS and CPR?

    CPR classes are for anyone who wants to learn the basic skills needed to help adults, children and/or infants during cardiac emergencies, whether they occur at home, at school, or in their communities. BLS, on the other hand, is more comprehensive since it’s designed primarily for healthcare workers and/or first responders, like police officers and firefighters. BLS certification covers everything that CPR classes cover — but includes additional life-saving techniques that can help those experiencing cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, or an obstructed airway.

    While a BLS course and a CPR course both cover resuscitation, there are differences between the two.

    • Red Cross CPR/AED courses are the foundation of safety training and satisfy OSHA-mandated job requirements and most workplace safety requirements.
    • A BLS two-year certification meets competency verification, education, credentialing and privileging requirements for healthcare professionals in pre-hospital, hospital and post-acute settings.

    Which Certification Should I Get?

    When deciding on which certification to pursue — CPR or BLS — it generally comes down to your career goals and/or your personal interests. If you’re in the healthcare field or work as a first responder, BLS certification is best. For individuals who simply want to learn how to perform basic, life-saving CPR until emergency responders arrive — whether you’re a parent, teacher, childcare provider, fitness trainer, etc. — CPR certification may be a good choice. The type of certification you need will often come down to your particular industry’s requirements.

    Who Needs BLS Training?

    BLS certification is generally geared toward healthcare workers and first responders, including doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, EMTs, paramedics, orderlies, home-health aides, anesthesiologists, dentists, dental hygienists, physical therapists, mental health professionals, nursing home/assisted living staff, etc.

    BLS vs. CPR Re-certification

    No matter which type of certification you choose, it’s important to keep those life-saving skills top-of-mind, which is why re-certification courses are required in both CPR and BLS training. CPR and BLS certifications last for two years before it’s time to recertify. Keep in mind that to be eligible to participate in a re-certification course, you must have a current certification or one that’s expired by no more than 30 days. Since you gained valuable skills during your initial certification, both the CPR and BLS renewal courses are abbreviated versions that you can complete quickly.

    Red Cross CPR/AED Course

    Red Cross CPR training classes give you the information and the skills you need to help adults, children and infants during cardiac emergencies. In addition to CPR, these classes will teach you how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) and how to handle a choking emergency.

    Red Cross BLS Course

    BLS courses train healthcare professionals to respond safely to a range of medical problems. This two-year certification meets competency verification, education, credentialing and privileging requirements. Our BLS classes include coursework in:

    • Rapid Assessment and Visual Survey
    • CPR/AED for Adults, Children and Infants
    • Obstructed Airways
    • Opioid Overdoses
    • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Communication and Teamwork
    • The Emergency Medical Services System
    • Legal Considerations
    • Precautions

    Types of Red Cross BLS and CPR Classes

    At the Red Cross, you can choose the type of class for your schedule – and the way you learn best.

    • In-person: Designed for those who learn best in a traditional classroom setting, our in-person courses combine lecture with hands-on skills sessions. If the course is completed with a passing grade, you'll receive a two-year certification.

    • Online: Perfect for those who want the freedom to take self-paced courses, our online classes can help you learn what CPR is and how to perform the different types of CPR. However, online safety training courses do not allow you to demonstrate your skill proficiency to a certified instructor, and therefore your certification may not meet the requirements for workplace safety.

    • Blended Learning: Our blended learning programs combine self-paced, interactive instruction and in-person skills sessions. That way, you can learn about resuscitation skills and how to perform them in theory and in practice. Additionally, because this option allows you to demonstrate your skills to a certified instructor, you can receive full certification with a passing score.
    CPR/AED Courses BLS Courses
    Blended Learning


    CPR training gives anyone the basic CPR skills they need to help someone experiencing cardiac arrest until advanced medical help arrives. BLS is a more comprehensive certification designed for healthcare workers and first responders that includes CPR plus additional life-saving techniques for cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, and obstructed airways. The choice between CPR vs. BLS certification depends on your career goals, personal interests, as well as your industry’s requirements. Both CPR and BLS require re-certification every two years, with quick and convenient classes available to register for, online.