How to Get a BLS Certification

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Basic life support, or BLS, is a medical certification similar to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). BLS certification is intended for people who work in the medical profession, such as nurses and emergency medical technicians. The certification may also be mandatory for some types of educational programs, such as paramedic and respiratory therapy school. Laypersons not working in the medical field can also take BLS classes for their own knowledge. Follow the steps below to get a BLS certification.

Locate a class. BLS classes are often taught at hospitals and community colleges. The American Heart Association also provides BLS classes (see Resources). Most organizations will charge a fee for class, which may vary by institution. Health care workers who are required to have a current BLS certification for their job may not have to pay if they take the class at their place of employment.

Get study materials. Most institutions will have a student study guide that you can obtain in advance when you register for the class. Read the manual in advance so you will be better prepared for class. Information covered will include how to perform CPR on an unconscious adult, child and infant. Additional information covered includes CPR on a drowning patient and treating a victim who is choking.

Learn the specifics of BLS. Learn how to asses an unconscious person by checking the airway, breathing and circulation. Look and listen for breath sounds and check for a pulse. Understand how to position the head to start rescue breathing and learn how to do chest compressions. Learn how to treat a choking victim by doing the Heimlich Maneuver. BLS classes may also cover the use of an automated external defibrillator.

Pass the written test. The format of a BLS test may vary, though many tests have multiple choice questions. Passing scores vary by institution. The written test will be administered immediately after the class.

Complete the practical exam. In addition to a written test, you will need to perform CPR on a mannequin so that your instructor can test your knowledge. You will need to demonstrate proper sequence and technique. The instructor may give you a scenario, such as dealing with a choking victim, and you will need to determine how to respond.


  • BLS certification is usually valid for two years. Renewal BLS certification classes are usually offered at the same locations that offered the initial certification classes.

About the Author

MaryAnn DePietro has been a professional journalist since 2000, specializing in health, fitness and medical articles. She is also a certified respiratory therapist. Her work has appeared on websites such as eHow and ModernMom and in publications including the “Sacramento Bee, “Press Tribune“ and “Succeed.” DePietro holds a Bachelor of Science in rehabilitation from Penn State University and a degree in respiratory therapy.

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