CPR/AED Certification: The Differences Explained


You’ve probably heard of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AEDs), but do you know what distinguishes the two? If you don’t, you are not the only one. Many people are confused when it comes to telling the difference between an AED and a CPR certification.

If you’re considering acquiring an AED or CPR certificate, it’s best to know the critical differences between the two courses. In whichever case, by enrolling in a CPR or AED course, you’d be broadening your knowledge with life-saving techniques you could use with confidence.

Join us as we elaborate on the main distinctions between CPR/AED certification.

What Exactly Is CPR?

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is an emergency lifesaving technique performed on individuals experiencing cardiac arrest or a sudden loss of breathing. It is designed to maintain vital blood flow and, at the same time, provide oxygenation to the brain and other organs until medical professionals are able to take over.

The procedure involves a series of steps to restore oxygen supply and circulation. First, the responder assesses the victim’s responsiveness and calls for emergency assistance. Then, they position the victim on a flat surface and start chest compressions. With interlocked hands, the responder pushes down on the center of the victim’s chest, creating a rhythmic pumping motion. This particular action enables proper blood circulation to the victim’s vital organs.

Rescue breaths may also be administered. The responder tilts the victim’s head back and lifts the chin, then delivers two breaths into their mouth to provide oxygen. This process is repeated in a cycle by giving 30 chest compressions and following with two breaths until EMTs arrive on the scene or the victim becomes responsive.

CPR can significantly increase the survival chances during a cardiac arrest by maintaining minimal blood flow and providing oxygenation to vital organs. Luckily, anyone can learn how to properly do CPR and use an AED by enrolling in a CPR/AED certification course.

What Is an AED?

An AED, or automated external defibrillator, is a portable electronic device analyzing and treating life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias, particularly ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. It is intended for delivering electric shocks to the heart, restoring its normal rhythm. AEDs are commonly found in public places, like airports, schools, and shopping centers.

The user-friendly device typically consists of adhesive electrode pads, a control panel, and a built-in computer. When attached to a person in cardiac arrest, the AED starts the automatic analysis of the heart’s rhythm and determines if a shock is necessary.

AEDs are specifically designed to be easily used by non-medical professionals with practically no operational knowledge. AEDs deliver voice and visual prompts, guiding the rescuer through the steps of the process.

Timely use of an AED, paired with CPR, significantly increases the survival chances for individuals experiencing cardiac arrest. They are a critical component of the chain of survival in such emergencies.

Key Differences Between CPR/AED Certification

CPR certification and AED certification are two separate but complementary certifications related to life-saving techniques.

CPR certification focuses on cardiopulmonary resuscitation and involves learning the skills to perform high-quality chest compressions and rescue breaths in cases of cardiac arrest or respiratory emergencies. It covers techniques for assessing responsiveness, delivering proper chest compressions, providing rescue breaths, and managing choking incidents.

CPR certification courses typically teach individuals how to respond to a range of emergency situations and provide basic life support until professional medical help arrives.

On the other hand, AED certification specifically focuses on the operation and use of automated external defibrillators. It covers the skills required to correctly and safely operate an AED device, including electrode pad placement, understanding the device prompts, and delivering electric shocks when appropriate.

AED certification courses emphasize the importance of rapid defibrillation in treating cardiac arrest and training individuals to effectively use AEDs in emergency situations.

What Does an AED Do?

      • Analyzes the rhythm of the heart

      • It sends an electric shock

      • Kickstarts the normal rhythm of the heart

      • Provides voice and visual prompts, guiding the user through the steps of operation

    What Does CPR Do?

        • Is used as a form of artificial respirator and manual heartbeat

        • Provides oxygenated blood to the brain and heart

        • Prevents damage and increases the chances of survival

        • Buys time until medical professionals arrive and allow for defibrillation

      While CPR certification equips individuals with essential life-saving techniques, AED certification adds an additional layer of knowledge and proficiency in using AED devices. This can significantly improve survival rates in cases of sudden cardiac arrest. Both certifications complement each other and enhance the ability to effectively respond in emergencies.

      Factors to Consider Before Becoming Trained in CPR or AED

      Becoming trained in CPR or AED is an important step towards being prepared to respond to emergencies and potentially save lives. When deciding which course to choose, keep the following factors in mind.

      Level of Certification

      CPR/AED certification courses are offered at various levels, such as basic life support (BLS), healthcare provider (HCP), or layperson. The level of certification needed depends on your specific requirements and professional role. Healthcare professionals require higher-level certifications, while non-medical individuals are better off with basic CPR and AED training.

      Course Content

      Evaluate the content of the course to make sure it covers the necessary skills and knowledge. CPR courses should include instructions on proper chest compressions, rescue breaths, and choking management. AED courses should focus on AED operation, pad placement, and understanding device prompts. Look for courses that align with recognized guidelines, such as those provided by the American Heart Association (AHA) or the Red Cross.


      Choose courses offered by reputable organizations that provide accredited certifications. Accreditation ensures that the training program meets certain quality standards and is in line with current guidelines and best practices.

      Practical Training

      Hands-on practice is crucial for effective CPR and AED training. Look for courses offering comprehensive hands-on practice opportunities with practice dummies and AED trainers, allowing you to develop confidence and proficiency in performing the techniques.

      Ultimately, the choice between a CPR/AED certification course depends on the specific needs and the level of training required. Consider your professional requirements and the context in which you may need to use these skills.

      Key Takeaway: CPR/AED Certification, the Differences Explained

      CPR and AED certification courses are vital for equipping individuals with life-saving skills. These courses provide training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the operation of automated external defibrillators. By completing these certifications, individuals gain the confidence and knowledge to effectively respond in emergencies, potentially saving lives.

      Choosing accredited courses that cover the necessary skills, align with recognized guidelines, and offer practical hands-on training is essential. Regular renewal of certifications ensures that individuals stay updated with the latest techniques and guidelines.

      Investing in CPR and AED certification courses is a valuable step towards being prepared to respond to cardiac emergencies and making a positive difference in the community.


      How long will my CPR or AED certificate last?

      If you’ve successfully obtained your CPR/AED certificate, you can use it for two whole years. After said time has passed, you should extend your CPR/AED certification via specific renewal classes.

      Are AED and CPR certification classes the same?

      No. CPR and AED certification classes are not the same, though many think they are. CPR classes teach individuals how to respond during a cardiac arrest emergency. On the other hand, AED classes focus on practical instruction on how to use automated external defibrillators and when to use them.

      Can I use an AED and do CPR on the same person?

      You can. Often, if a person is in need of CPR, it is likely they will need to be shocked with an AED until help arrives. If you perform CPR on someone in cardiac arrest, and use an AED, you have actually doubled their survival odds.

      Are there any age restrictions for CPR/AED certification?

      There are currently no minimum age requirements to attend a CPR class. Even though there is no formal limit on how old a person should be to be enrolled in a CPR/AED class, different training centers impose their own age limits.

      How long does a CPR/AED certification course typically take?

      Generally, basic CPR and AED courses last anywhere from 2.5 to 3 hours. On the other hand, CPR/AED certification courses for professional rescuers and health care providers’ courses last approximately 5 hours.