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How to Become an EKG Technician

Research the requirements to become an EKG technician. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in the medical field.

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Do I Want to Be an EKG Technician?

Electrocardiograph (EKG) technicians, also known as cardiographic or electrocardiogram technicians, perform diagnostic tests to aid doctors in identifying and treating cardiovascular problems in patients. These tests help detect irregularities that may result in a heart attack or heart disease. Common duties include explaining procedures to patients, monitoring patients' blood pressure and positioning patients. A great deal of these technicians' work time may be spent standing, and they sometimes need to lift or turn patients. Some technicians employed in medical facilities work overnight, evenings or weekends.

Job Requirements

Most EKG technicians hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and receive on-the-job training. Although certification isn't required, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that many employers prefer it. The following table presents an overview of what's needed to become an EKG technician:

Common Requirements
Degree Level A high school diploma or its equivalent is required**
Certification None required, although many employers prefer to hire candidates who are certified*
Experience None required, previous healthcare experience may be preferred**
Key Skills Attention to detail, dependability, compassion and ability to cooperate***
Technical Skills Knowledge of electrodiagnostic machine operation**
Additional Requirements Current basic cardiac life support (BCLS) healthcare provider certification, current CPR card, ability to lift 15-20 pounds**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** job postings (July 2012), ***ONet Online.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma or its Equivalent

Most employers require applicants to hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. Individuals wishing to further their education generally will need to possess a high school diploma or its equivalent to meet admissions requirements.

Success Tip:

  • Take math and science courses. High school students interested in pursuing careers as EKG technicians after graduation should take courses in mathematics, anatomy and physiology.

Step 2: Gain Experience in the Healthcare Field

While EKG technicians generally are given on-the-job training, employers may prefer that applicants have some previous healthcare experience. Becoming nurses, paramedics or EMTs can give individuals the knowledge base necessary to begin careers as EKG technicians.

Step 3: Complete On-the-Job Training or an EKG Technician Program

On-the-Job Training

According to the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals, on-the-job training is the primary path to becoming an EKG technician. Training usually takes about 4-6 weeks to complete and is performed under the supervision of a cardiologist or EKG supervisor.

EKG Technician Program

EKG technician certification programs are available at several colleges throughout the country. These programs train students on using the EKG machine and practicing correct 12-lead placement on patients. Programs may also cover medical terminology, anatomy and legal aspects of interacting with patients. Students will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with EKG equipment and gain hands-on experience during labs.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Cardiovascular Credentialing International offers a certification examination for EKG technicians who have the required experience or education. The Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) credentialing is not required, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that employers prefer applicants who have earned professional certification. Students who have completed an approved EKG training program or who have at least six months of experience will also be eligible to take the Electrocardiograph (EKG) Technician exam offered by the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT).

Success Tip:

  • Review for the exam. Individuals interested in taking the Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) exam should visit the Cardiovascular Credentialing International website to review sample questions and reference materials.

Step 5: Complete Further Training

Individuals who wish to advance their skills can learn how to perform more specialized EKG tests, Holter monitoring and stress tests. This additional on-the-job training typically takes 18-24 months to complete and usually requires intensive study of physiology and cardiovascular anatomy.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics