What Is BLS Certification? (With How-to Guide and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Having a range of experience can help health care professionals prepare themselves for a variety of situations. Some may wish to gain further skills by becoming first aid safety certified. Understanding what a basic life support (BLS) certificate is can help you decide whether or not to pursue it. In this article, we provide an overview of the BLS certification and discuss the differences between similar programmes and the skills necessary to obtain one.

What is BLS certification?

The BLS certification is a training programme that prepares individuals for different medical scenarios. Many companies request that their new hires receive this certification before employment. Professionals can complete this certificate over the course of a few weeks to several months.

In other instances, a professional may wish to gain these skills later in their career. An individual who's worked in the medical field may find these skills necessary to get qualifications for a promotion or other position they wish to apply for.

Related: FAQ: What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Healthcare Assistant?

Which professionals get BLS-certified?

Many medical professionals find the BLS certification helpful in their careers. Professionals who work as first responders or emergency officials also participate in these programmes. Additionally, some employees who work in service positions that frequently interact with patrons, including restaurant wait staff or public transportation drivers, also choose to obtain this certification. The professionals most likely to receive BLS training include:

  • first responders, such as police officers and firefighters

  • emergency medical technicians

  • paramedics

  • nurses

  • doctors

  • public safety professionals

  • doctors

Related: How to Become a Firefighter: Educations, Skills and Salary

The difference between cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and BLS certificates

For professionals in the medical field, there are two primary types of certifications to choose from. The standard CPR relates to the procedure used to restart a person's heart. Professionals perform this by breathing air into their lungs and pressing their chest with a rhythm that mimics a heartbeat. This course can be important for professionals who want to learn this particular skill.

BLS certificates are ideal for professionals who wish to develop further skills and training. This course focuses on other emergency procedures that may involve checking an individual's vital signs or learning to use other necessary safety equipment. The BLS certificate does typically teach a more advanced CPR skill and may add value as an additional certificate beyond CPR training.

Related: Incident Responder Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

What does the BLS course teach?

The BLS course typically teaches CPR skills through hands-on experience using a lifelike human doll. This course also teaches other skills, including pulse checks, bag valve mask use, two-person CPR and rescue breathing without compressions. This skill is helpful for individuals who have trouble breathing while also maintaining their regular pulse.

Many professionals consider the BLS training an essential skills course. It typically prepares medical professionals to act in emergencies and perform life-saving duties. Because of this, some medical companies require the BLS certification as a standard expectation before starting work.

How to get BLS-certified

The BLS certification process varies by individual, school and type of programme. Depending on your previous experience, financial flexibility or available time, you may wish to find a programme that fits your expectations. You can start by researching the programme offerings online. When you have a list of potential courses, you can find additional information on each. Here are the six steps you can follow to complete your BLS certification:

1. Research programmes

The first step is to research course offerings in your preferred area. You may choose a programme based on proximity to your residence or workplace, though many courses also conduct online classes through different video conferencing services. This is usually a helpful option for those working full time or with other commitments.

You may also wish to find a programme that aligns with a specific timeline. For example, if you wish to begin work immediately or require the BLS training for an upcoming position, you may look into accelerated track programmes. These courses usually work full-time for a short period, ideal for professionals committing more time and completing the programme quickly.

Related: What Does an Emergency Nurse Do? (Duties and Requirements)

2. Consider finances

Varying courses come with different pricing, which may depend on the number of courses you take at a time, the duration of each programme and the type of institution. Many accredited universities may charge more per course than non-accredited ones. Additionally, you may want to factor in potential financial aid.

Many programmes offer support to students able to show their need for it. Other course offerings may allow you to work on campus while completing the certification. You may expect to fill out additional applications for financial aid, though it can help you successfully obtain grants or loans for the programme.

3. Speak to an advisor

University or programme advisors can help you understand which course might suit you. Many advisors have contact information on their website and offer office hours to speak with them directly. In many cases, they may offer to speak with you via email or video conference if it's more convenient. University advisors can help you fully understand the programme along with the timeline, financial aid options and pricing.

Before reaching out to an advisor, you may first look into the different departments each individual works in. In many cases, universities have different areas of study where each advisor specialises. When you find an individual who represents your BLS programme of interest, you can then start by reaching out via phone or email contact.

Related: How to Become a Paramedic (With Skills and Qualifications)

4. Look into course requirements

While many professionals look to the BLS certificate before starting full-time work, you may find yourself interested in the certification at any point during your career. Because the BLS certificate teaches a wide range of emergency support skills that extend from previous understanding of medical support, you may find that the programme has requirements before starting the course. Having previous experience in university courses or working within a company can be helpful.

You may also find that having a foundation of medical skills may also help during your coursework. You can start by reviewing the course requirements online and see if there are any vital skills you want to obtain before starting the certificate. If you have an enquiry or seek further clarification on prerequisites, speaking to a university advisor may help resolve those questions.

Related: 12 Surprising Nurse Duties and Types of Nurse Roles

5. Complete an application

Complete an application once you've decided on the course and university you'd like to attend. Programmes may have different application processes, so completing thorough research before applying is valuable. Many applicants start by reviewing the requirements and compiling a list. This may include previous transcripts, degrees, letters of recommendation, resumes or cover letters.

After putting these documents together, you may ask the university advisor to review your application to ensure its completion. At that time, you can also ask the representative if they have any additional feedback or suggestions for improvement. Once you have these items ready for submission, you can send them to the admissions advisor or through the university website portal.

6. Update your resume

As you near the completion of your BLS certification, you may want to begin a new draft of your resume. Developing additional skills in the medical field is a new opportunity for additional work or higher-ranking positions. You can share your knowledge with potential hiring managers by listing your recent experience, including the completion of this certificate.

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