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Career Information for a Degree in Cardiopulmonary Technologies

Learn about the education and preparation needed to pursue a job in cardiopulmonary technologies. Get a quick view of the details about programs, job duties and licensing requirements to decide if this is a career path for you.

Cardiopulmonary technologists perform medical tests and procedures under a physician's direction to diagnose and treat diseases of the heart and lungs. For most jobs in this field, at least an associate's degree in cardiovascular technology, diagnostic sonography, or respiratory therapy is required.

Essential Information

A career in cardiopulmonary technologies involves medical procedures, monitoring patients, and assisting in the treatment of cardio and respiratory conditions. To work in the cardiopulmonary field, you'll need either an associate or bachelor's degree, and certification or a license depending on the job.

Careers Cardiology Technologist Echocardiographer/Cardiac Sonographer Respiratory Therapist
Required Education associate or bachelor's degree associate or bachelor's degree associate or bachelor's degree
Other Requirements certification, license varies by state certification optional certification optional, license varies by state
Projected Job Growth (2014 - 2024)* 22% for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians 26% for all diagnostic medical sonographers 12%
Average Annual Salary $56,100 $70,880 $59,640

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

If you have an interest in anatomy, chemistry, or microbiology, you should think about a career in cardiopulmonary technologies. Jobs in the field include cardiology technologist, cardiac sonographer or respiratory therapist.

Cardiology Technologist

A cardiology technologist (otherwise known as a cardiovascular technologist or technician) assists physicians in performing invasive medical tests and treatments and monitors patients during these procedures. These technologists often assist in cardiac catheterization, a procedure that can reveal blood vessel blockage and other heart issues. Other procedures conducted by technologists include balloon angioplasty and the insertion of pacemakers. Specific duties include preparing patients for procedures, including shaving surgery areas and administering anesthesia, as well as monitoring patients' conditions during procedures.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cardiology technologists typically enter the profession with an associate degree in cardiovascular technology from community colleges (www.bls.gov). Bachelor's degrees in this major, however, are becoming increasingly common. Technologists who qualify as allied health professionals may only be required to complete a year of specialized courses. The BLS also notes that, while professional certification is voluntary for cardiology technologists, many employers won't hire applicants who are not certified. The primary certification body for cardiology technologists is the Cardiovascular Credentialing International, which offers the Certified Cardiographic Technician credential.

The BLS anticipated a 22% increase in employment for cardiovascular technologists and technicians from 2014-2024. Technicians who hold credentials in several aspects of cardiovascular technology will have the best job prospects. As of May 2015, these professionals earned a mean wage of $56,100.

Echocardiographer

An echocardiographer, also known as a cardiac sonographer, performs noninvasive ultrasound examinations on the heart and surrounding vessels. Doctors use the images produced during ultrasound and echocardiograms to diagnose cardiac and blood vessel ailments. The echocardiographer may also assist physicians while performing other cardiovascular procedures.

According to the BLS, echocardiographers often prepare for this career by completing associate degrees in echocardiography or diagnostic medical sonography. Certification is not mandatory for this profession; however, employers tend to prefer applicants who are certified. Many of these professionals are certified by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, which awards four different certifications specific to echocardiography.

Echocardiography jobs were projected to increase by 26% from 2014-2024. Employment of echocardiographers, in particular, was projected to increase due to advancements in vascular technology that diminish the demand for more expensive, invasive procedures. The BLS lists echocardiographers as diagnostic medical sonographers and reports that they earned an average annual salary of $70,880 in May 2015.

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists provide care for patients who have difficulty breathing, or suffer from other cardiopulmonary conditions. A respiratory therapist may administer breathing treatments and oxygen to patients, hook patients up to ventilators, and perform chest physiotherapy on patients who suffer from congestion. While respiratory therapists work under the direction of physicians, they also assume primary responsibility for the respiratory care of patients, according to the BLS.

Respiratory therapists typically hold either an associate or bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy, and they must be licensed in all states except Hawaii and Alaska. State licensure often requires the therapist to hold the Certified Respiratory Therapist credential from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). Respiratory therapists can also earn the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential from the NBRC after completing an advanced program of study and passing two credentialing examinations (www.nbrc.org). The RRT credential is usually necessary for advancement into supervisory positions, according to the BLS.

The BLS reports that respiratory therapists earned a mean annual income of $59,640 as of May 2015. The BLS projected very good job prospects and a 12% increase in employment between 2014 and 2024. This projected growth is due in part to increased prevalence of respiratory ailments and the rising elderly population. Those who hold bachelor's degrees and certification will experience the best job prospects.

Cardiopulmonary technologists have a variety of options for high-demand careers in the healthcare field such as a cardiovascular technologist, echocardiographer, or a respiratory therapist. Although an associate's degree is the minimum requirement for many jobs, students with a bachelor's degree and additional certifications will have more opportunities.


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