BLS Certification vs BLS Recertification: What's the Difference?

Discover the difference between BLS Recertification vs Certification. Learn about costs, time to pass, content, continuing education + more. Read the guide.

Basic Life Support (BLS) is an important certification that many individuals within the medical field will be required to obtain. BLS, which is often paired with “follow-up” certifications such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), helps give essential workers the skills they need to save someone’s life in an emergency situation.

BLS Certification vs BLS Recertificat...

BLS certification will be required for most individuals working in the medical industry, including nurses, doctors, emergency room workers, dentists, and numerous others. Other professionals, such as firefighters, may also be required to complete a BLS certification course, though this can vary by employer.

While many people find BLS certification to be a bit of an annoyance, there is empirical evidence that these certifications make a real difference. BLS helps ensure that medical professionals know how to administer CPR, use an AED, clear airways, and perform other important functions. When administered effectively, the American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that CPR could save 200,000+ lives per year.

Maintaining your Basic Life Support certification will be important for anyone who hopes to pursue a career in medicine. However, as you will soon discover, there are actually quite a few differences between the initial BLS course and the BLS certification courses you will later be required to take. Below, we will discuss a few of these notable differences. We will also answer some of the most common questions that people have about BLS recertification.


One of the most noticeable differences between BLS certification and BLS recertification is the total cost of completing the course. If you are using an online BLS certification provider, such as eMedCert, you can expect to pay about $90 for obtaining your BLS certification for the very first time. However, if you are renewing your BLS certification, then you will be able to pay considerably less.

An online BLS renewal from a certified provider will be about $60. For both renewals and first-time certifications, you will be able to save money by getting certified as a group or by choosing to bundle BLS certification with others (ACLS, PALS, etc.).

Related Article: Learn about the difference between ACLS and BLS here.


How long does it take to get your BLS exam? As you might expect, BLS recertification courses also require considerably less time than you’d find with your initial certification. This is because the course is designed knowing you’ve already successfully passed a BLS exam in the past. If you’ve forgotten the content from your first time taking the course, it might be helpful to do a bit of reviewing with this BLS pretest here.

The course itself will contain a digital booklet that is neatly divided into different sections, making it much easier to study. In total, you can expect to spend about 4-5 hours the first time you are taking the course and exam and about 2-3 hours for renewals. Regardless, by choosing to work with an online provider, you will be able to complete the course at your convenience, in a time and place of your choosing. Therefore, individuals more familiar with the BLS material are typically able to complete their courses much quicker than the time mentioned above.


While the topics themselves will be the same for both initial and renewal BLS certification courses, the structure and depth of the content will be slightly different. Generally speaking, BLS recertification courses are designed—by medical professionals—to be completed by someone who has been exposed to the material in the past. BLS recertification courses, in essence, will be a slimmed-down version of their initial counterparts. This is precisely why the course requires less time and is also less expensive.

Related Article: Learn more about the BLS algorithms here.

Continuing Medical Education

In most medical settings, nurses, doctors, and other workers will be required to obtain continuing medical education (CME) credits on a somewhat regular basis. Usually, these credits will be required either annually or semi-annually and will be closely tracked by your employer.

Because you are likely already required to complete a BLS certification course, this will be an excellent opportunity to obtain these much-needed credits. Initial BLS certification provides 4 continuing medical education credits. BLS recertification, on the other hand, provides 2 continuing medical education credits.

How often do I need to renew my BLS certification?

In almost all circumstances, your BLS certification will need to be renewed every two years. This means that if you have a 40-year medical career, you can typically expect to complete this course about 20 times.

If you have just started a new position, you will typically be allowed an approximately 3-month window before the certification itself actually needs to be obtained. There are not very many viable ways out for individuals to obtain this required certification, but there are some options—such as online BLS certification—that certainly make it a bit easier.

BLS certification is valid for 2 years

Are online BLS certification courses legitimate?

One of the most common questions being asked online is whether online BLS certification options are actually legitimate. In most cases, the best online certification courses will be accepted by your employer. In the case of eMedCert, these courses have been accredited by the California Board of Registered Nurses (CA BRN), as well as the Postgraduate Institute for Medicine (PMI). The courses are also subject to 3rd party oversight. In the very rare event that an employer does not accept an online BLS certification course, eMedCert offers a full course refund.

What about online BLS recertification courses?

While most hospitals currently accept online BLS certification, an even greater portion is willing to accept online BLS recertification. This is largely due to the fact that your certification has already been earned and, additionally, the courses themselves are structured a bit differently.

Conclusion - Difference Between BLS Recertification vs Certification

Obtaining—and maintaining—Basic Life Support certification will be crucial for many medical professionals. While there are indeed a few noticeable differences between these courses, such as time, costs, content, and CME credits, both courses can play an important role and can better prepare you to save a life.

Related Article: Short on time? Read the BLS Cheat Sheet here.

To learn more about BLS certifications vs recertifications, or for questions about your upcoming exam, contact the experts at or send us a message.

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BLS Certification - $90

BLS Recertification - $60