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How to Become an Electrocardiographer: Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become an electrocardiographer. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in electrocardiography. View article »

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Video Transcript

What is an Electrocardiographer?

Electrocardiographers, also known as EKG technicians, work in hospitals and medical offices performing electrocardiogram tests which record the electrical impulses of the heart. EKG tests are done as a routine measure before many surgeries and may be conducted as part of a physical examination or stress test for older patients or patients with a history of cardiovascular disease.

The role of these technicians is to place electrodes on the patient's chest, run the EKG machine, and print out the results, which are then read by a physician. Technicians are generally required to spend several hours per day standing, and they may need to lift or turn patients.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma, GED, or associate degree; employers often prefer postsecondary education or training
Degree Field EKG or cardiovascular technology
Certification Certification is not required to enter the field; however, it may be preferred by employers and can make candidates eligible for higher paying positions.
Experience Several months to one year of related work experience in a hospital or medical office
Key Skills Excellent written and oral communication skills, ability to interact and work well with patients, attention to detail, ability to stand for long periods of time, ability to operate complex diagnostic machinery
Salary (2015) $54,880 per year (Median salary for all registered cardiovascular technicians)

Sources: Job postings from employers (September 2012), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Steps for Electrocardiographers

What steps do I need to take to become an electrocardiographer?

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma or the Equivalent

Before a candidate can be hired for any medical facility or pursue higher education in this field, he/she must obtain a high school diploma or GED certificate. Students interested in this career often take high school courses in math, science, and physiology.

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Step 2: Complete Training

According to the BLS, most EKG technicians complete training that lasts four to six weeks and is offered on-the-job by their employers. Students can also pursue training through allied health programs, which require at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent for admission and can be completed in as little as seven weeks.

There are options for pursuing an associate's degree in this field; however, programs that focus solely on EKG technology are not common. Students wishing to advance their education beyond certification can find programs which provide training in other areas of cardiovascular technology, such as ultrasonography, cardiovascular pharmacology, and echocardiography.

Step 3: Consider Voluntary Certification

Voluntary EKG certification can demonstrate one's level of education and training to prospective employers and give candidates an advantage when applying for higher-paying positions. Several organizations provide certification, including the American Phlebotomy Association (APA) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The APA requires 60 hours of coursework in an approved EKG training program, and the NHA requires completion of a training program or one year of work experience in the field.

Be sure to keep your certification current. Organizations like the APA and NHA require candidates to pass a certification exam and to meet continuing education requirements every two years.

Step 4: Pursue Career Advancement

After gaining up to one year of experience working as an EKG technician, opportunities may be available to advance into technologist positions with further education and training. Options include becoming a cardiovascular technologist or cardiac sonographer. Key distinctions of advancing from a technician to technologist are a jump in salary and an increasing level of responsibility with pieces of advanced medical equipment. Some community, technical and vocational colleges offer 2-year associate's degree programs in the medical technologist field. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) must accredit any potential programs.

Electrocardiographers perform electrocardiogram tests in hospitals and medical offices. They have postsecondary education, excellent interpersonal skills, and the ability to handle complex machinery, and they earn a median annual salary of $54,880.

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