EKG Assistant: Career Information & Requirements

Mar 21, 2019

Career Definition for an EKG Assistant

EKG assistants work in hospitals or clinics, where they perform EKG tests on patients. EKG tests measure electrical signals made by the heart, which can indicate heart abnormalities. EKG assistants' duties include operating and maintaining EKG machines and preparing patients for EKG procedures. EKG assistants with advanced training may perform stress tests, in which a patient runs on a treadmill while the EKG assistant monitors the heart, and Holter tests, in which a patient wears a portable EKG monitor for a day.

Education Certificate programs available
Job Skills Machine operation, patient comfort, electrode movement
Median Salary (2017)* $55,270 for cardiovascular technologists and technicians
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 10% for cardiovascular technologists and technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

EKG assistants usually enroll in a certificate program, which can last from a few months to a year. Typical courses include physiology, the cardiac cycle, medical terminology, and CPR. EKG assistants also can receive on-the-job training. Some states require licensing for EKG assistants, and several professional organizations offer certification in the field.

Required Skills

EKG assistants must be able to operate and manipulate an EKG machine to get accurate test results. This may mean moving electrodes or performing tests at specific times. EKG assistants also need to be able to put patients at ease.

Economic Outlook

Opportunities for cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including EKG assistants, are expected to expand by 10% from 2016-2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, more nurses are training to become EKG assistants as well, which could lead to increased competition for jobs. The BLS recommends that EKG assistants receive advanced training that will allow them to perform additional tests. The median salary for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $55,270 as of May 2017, according to the BLS.

Alternative Careers

Listed below are some other options for careers in medical imaging:

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

For those interested in utilizing ultrasonic technology to better diagnose illnesses and other health issues, becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer could be the right career move. Medical sonographers take videos and still pictures by rubbing a transducer across the skin's surface. They also calibrate and maintain the machines, enter data into electronic medical records and prepare reports for physician review.

To work in this field, an associate degree in sonography is generally necessary, and many states also require licensure through examination. Professional certification in areas of specialty like abdominal, fetal and breast imaging is also available, and sometimes employers give preference to those who have earned certifications. The BLS expects employment of medical sonographers will grow by 23% from 2016-2026, resulting in 15,600 new positions. According to the BLS, these imaging professionals earned a median income of $71,410 in 2017.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist

If performing imaging procedures with the assistance of magnetic resonance imaging machines sounds appealing, consider becoming an MRI technologist. These technologists program patient data into the machine, inject the patient with special contrast dyes, capture computerized images, compile data into physician reports and take care of maintenance issues. Aspiring MRI technologists usually need to earn an associate degree in MRI technology to qualify for employment, and previous work experience in a radiology tech position is a good way to gain some necessary skills. Many states may also require certification or licensing of technologists through the completion of an education program and passing an examination. Projections from the BLS show a 14% increase in job opportunities for MRI technologists between 2016 and 2026. The BLS also reported that the 2017 median annual salary for these technologists was $69,930.

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