EKG Technicians, sometimes also known as EKG Technologists or Cardiovascular Technicians, are medical practitioners who perform tests on the patients’ cardiovascular and pulmonary systems to diagnose, treat, or research medical conditions.
In their day-to-day work, EKG technicians use special equipment to measure the heart rate and they work directly with patients.
What Does an EKG Technician Do?
EKG Technicians collaborate with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals to prevent, diagnose, treat, and research diseases.
An EKG Technician is responsible for using and maintaining the EKG equipment.
They also have to make sure that patients are comfortable and safe.
Depending on their level of expertise and certification, EKG technicians may conduct electrocardiograms, cardiac catheterizations, research pulmonary functions, and lung capacity, and perform similar tests.
Usually, cardiovascular technicians are responsible for:
- Preparing patients for procedures
- Preparing and maintaining the equipment before and after the procedures
- Operating the equipment
- Reviewing the results to make sure they have been measured accurately
- Recognize the difference between normal and abnormal results
- Analyzing the diagnostic information and summarizing it for physicians
- Recording findings and keeping track of patients’ records.
Depending on the place of employment, EKG technicians may also participate in administrative tasks, such as:
- Scheduling appointments
- Assisting physicians during procedures
After earning additional certifications EKG technicians may be able to perform more invasive tasks.
Depending on their field of expertise and certifications, there are several different types of cardiovascular technicians:
Cardiovascular invasive specialists– are the ones who monitor patients’ heart rates and help physicians diagnose and treat heart conditions and disease.
They also assist in cardiac catheterization- which is a procedure that involves threading a catheter through the artery to the patient’s heart.
Cardiovascular invasive specialists are the ones who monitor the patients’ blood pressure and heart rates during surgery and in during other procedures.
They are the ones who prepare patients for surgery by shaving and cleansing the area into which a catheter will be inserted and by administering topical anesthesia.
Cardiographic or electrocardiogram technicians (EKG technicians) specialize in EKG testing.
They perform these tests using non-invasive procedures that involve EKG machines.
This equipment monitors the heart’s performance using electrodes that are attached to the patients’ chest, arms, or legs.
EKG tests can be performed while the patient rests or while they are physically active.
They are also the ones who monitor the patients’ hearts during stress tests- which involve the patient walking on a treadmill.
The technician is the one responsible for gradually increasing the treadmill’s speed and observing the effect it has on the heart.
Pulmonary function technologists specialize in monitoring and testing patients’ lungs and breathing.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, cardiovascular technologists and technicians held about 58,200 jobs in the United States, most of them (78 percent) being employed by hospitals.
They also held jobs in offices of physicians, outpatient care centers, and medical and diagnostic laboratories.
They may be on their feet for long periods and may need to turn or lift patients during procedures.
EKG Technicians who work in facilities that are always open may work evenings, weekends, or overnight.
What Skills Do I Need for a Career in this Field?
Although there are no specific education requirements for EKG technicians, to be successful as an EKG technician, you will need to complete specialized post-secondary education in the form of an associate’s degree or certificate and have some personal skills.
- Attention to detail is very important in this line of work because you must follow specific instructions to make sure the images are correct
- As an EKG technician, you will work directly with patients who sometimes are in pain or mental stress so you have to know how to make patients feel comfortable and collaborate with you
- Empathy is very important for any person who interacts with patients and their families
- Physical stamina is another job requirement because EKG technicians may spend long hours standing and they may work long shifts- especially if they are employed by a medical facility that is always open
- Knowing how to operate complex equipment is also an important part of the job
- Being able to keep calm in stressful situations may also be a job requirement if you want to work in an emergency department or a similar setting.
EKG Technician Education
Before being allowed to work as an EKG technician, you must graduate from high school or get a GED because post-secondary training programs and employers require a high school diploma or GED.
Although this is not always a requirement, completing a post-secondary program and earning an Associate’s Degree or certificate in cardiovascular, vascular education, or sonography can improve your employment and earning prospects and can allow you to perform additional procedures and tests.
Depending on the path you choose, the program can be completed in one or two years.
Four-year bachelor’s degree programs are also available at some colleges or universities.
Employers usually prefer to hire candidates who have graduated from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
Before enrolling in a post-secondary training program, make sure it has the appropriate credentials.
Most programs combine classroom topics on anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, and applied sciences with a clinical component that allows students to earn credit while working under the supervision of experienced technicians in a hospital, physician’s office, or laboratory.
High school students who want to become EKG technicians can start preparing by taking courses in anatomy, physiology, physics, and math.
Costs and curriculum topics vary depending on the program and the duration.
Total costs range from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000.
Courses usually cover topics such as:
- The Anatomy and Physiology of the Cardiovascular System
- EKG waveform analysis
- How to obtain an accurate EKG reading
- P wave, PR interval, QRS complex, and T-wave
- How to place electrodes for ECG mechanics
- Calculate the heart rate using an ECG strip
- EKG interpretation
- Holter Monitoring
- Reading artificial pacemakers
- Infection control
- and more
Some programs also include BLS (basic life support) certification as part of their training.
Online or hybrid programs are also available with flexible schedules that allow you to keep a full-time job while preparing for a new career.
Enrollment requirements also vary depending on the state and the type of program, but usually include:
- Being at least 18 years of age
- Having a high school diploma or GED
Some programs also require candidates to take an entrance test or have previous healthcare experience.
Many employers offer on-the-job training for their entry-level EKG technicians.
The on-the-job training period usually lasts less than six months and is done under the supervision of a cardiologist or licensed EKG specialist.
Licensing Requirements for EKG Technicians
The EKG procedure is a non-invasive one, and for this reason, there are no federal regulations that govern this profession.
However, employers may prefer to hire EKG techs who have a formal certificate or degree in the field.
Moreover, most insurance providers will cover costs only if the technician is certified.
Usually, employers prefer to hire imaging workers who are licensed by a professional institution such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Cardiovascular Credentialing International, and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
The certification can be earned by graduating from an accredited program or by combining education with experience.
Most training programs include a hands-on training part that is very valuable because it will help you become comfortable with EKG equipment and more confident in your interaction with patients.
Employers may also prefer candidates who have basic life support (BLS) certification, which affirms that they are trained to provide CPR.
Having a certificate will also increase your chances of earning
a higher starting salary and will give you an advantage over your competitors in the job market.
After earning one year of experience, you may be eligible to sit for the Certified EKG Technician exam, a credential offered by the National Healthcare Association.
You can apply online for this certification, and you can select the location and date where you want to take the exam.
The Association also offers study guides and practice tests.
The exam is two hours long and takes place at a testing center.
Once you get your certification, you will have to complete continuing education classes to keep it.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage reported by cardiovascular technicians and technologists in the United States was $60,570 as of May 2021.
The median salary tells us that half of all workers in this profession earned less than this amount and half earned more.
Salaries vary depending on experience, education, region, employer, and a variety of other factors.
The lowest 10 percent of all cardiovascular technicians and technologists in the United States earned less than $29,910, while the top 10 percent made more than $98,070.
Most EKG techs also receive benefits, such as health insurance, sick leave, and paid vacation time.
Salaries by the State of Employment
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-paying states for cardiovascular technicians and technologists in 2021 were Rhode Island, Alaska, the District of Columbia, Oregon, and New Jersey- with mean annual wages above the $80,000 threshold- this is approximately 30 percent above the national median for this profession.
The top 10 percent of Massachusetts cardiovascular technicians made more than $119,000 per year, according to BLS.
Almost half of all cardiovascular technicians in Alaska made more than $100,000- with the median calculated at $98,990.
On the other hand, technicians in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and West Virginia earned less than $50,000 per year, on average.
Sometimes, relocating to a larger city may help you earn more.
However, before making such an important decision, you should also take into account the living expenses.
EKG techs who work in cities usually earn more than those who work in small towns, but the cost of living in a large city is also higher.
Salaries by Industry of Employment
As mentioned above, the top employer for cardiovascular technicians and technologists were general medical and surgical hospitals.
The average annual wage reported by cardiovascular technicians employed by hospitals was $61,150 in May 2021, according to BLS.
Those who worked in offices of physicians reportedly made $65,130 per year on average.
Higher wages were reported by cardiovascular technicians and technologists who worked for outpatient care centers.
Here the average annual wage reported by workers in this profession was $88,170.
Technicians who worked in the field of Other Ambulatory Health Care Services made $48,110 per year, on average.
Cardiovascular technicians also held jobs in the field of home health care services providers and were remunerated $87,440 per year, on average.
Those who worked for offices of other health practitioners made $76,840 per year, on average, while the mean annual wage reported by technicians in medical and diagnostic laboratories in 2021 was $72,420.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for cardiovascular technologists and technicians is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030.
As the baby-boom generation ages, the need to diagnose cardiovascular conditions, such as blood clots and heart disease, will increase.
Their services will be in-demand in hospitals and clinics as an alternative to imaging techniques that involve radiation.
Job prospects also vary depending on the region and the number of hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities available.
You can improve your employment prospects by earning certifications that allow you to perform additional procedures and tests.
If you are a compassionate person who is also passionate about medical science and technology, a career as an EKG technician can be the right path for you.
Before being ready to look for a job as an EKG technician, completing a post-secondary training program will help prepare you with the skills needed for this profession.
We invite you to find out more about this career path and the educational options that are available in your region by reading further.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take to Become an EKG Technician?
This profession can be learned through post-secondary training programs that last between a few weeks to more than two years, depending on the type of degree you need and the type of procedures and tests you want to perform.
Shorter online programs that prepare students for Certification exams can usually be completed at the students’ pace and equip them with the skills needed for this profession in only a few weeks.
If you want to pursue an Associate Degree, you will need to spend around two years in post-secondary training.
How Much Does an EKG Technician Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, EKG technicians in the United States earned approximately $60,570 per year as of May 2021, but salaries vary widely depending on experience level, education, region of employment, and a variety of other factors.
Most EKG technicians earn wages that range from $30,000-$100,000.
Will EKG Technicians Continue to Be Needed in the Future?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for cardiovascular technicians is expected to grow 8 percent from 2020-to 2030.
As the baby-boom generation ages, the need for qualified EKG technicians who can help physicians diagnose heart disease will grow.
Do I Need a License to Practice This Profession?
Although there are little to no federal regulations applicable to EKG technicians, health facilities may prefer to hire EKG technicians who have a certificate or degree in the field.
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