Aspiring cardiovascular technologists and technicians may have opportunities to study ultrasound and vascular technologies as well as advanced sonography. These programs may provide hands-on training with ultrasound equipment. Certification is required of cardiovascular technologists. An associate's degree program in echocardiography prepares students to function as an entry-level cardiac sonographer or cardiac ultrasound technician. An advanced technical certificate in diagnostic medical sonography prepares students already working in the healthcare industry to become qualified as cardiac sonographers. A bachelor's degree in echocardiography may be earned by working professionals in diagnostic medical sonography who wish to further their careers in a specific sonography concentration or into an allied health administrative role.
Applicants to these programs may need to undergo a background check and be certified in CPR. Those applying for the advanced certificate programs may need an associate's degree in the field. Previous coursework in anatomy and physiology is beneficial.
Associate's Degree in Echocardiography
The role of a technician is to produce images of the heart's walls, valves, chambers, vessels and functions using ultrasound equipment so that a supervising physician may interpret the results found to diagnose the overall health of a patient's heart. An associate's degree program in echocardiography requires 65-98 credit-hours and usually takes five semesters to complete. Coursework includes:
- Cardiovascular theories
- Evaluating sonographic images
- Physics in ultrasound and doppler
- Human relations
- Vascular technology methods
- Heart pathology evaluation
Advanced Certificate in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
A certificate program may be in cardiovascular sonography specifically or may be more generalized to include abdominal and gynecological sonography. Advanced certificate programs amount to 44-54 credit-hours and take between four and five semesters to complete. The curriculum involved in an advanced certificate program for diagnostic medical sonography moves from introductory coursework to advanced coursework in two years. Subjects may include:
- Introduction to ultrasound technology
- Introduction to physics in sonography
- Cardiac and vascular sonography fundamentals
- Abdominal and gynecological sonography basics
- Advanced sonography physics
- Advanced echocardiography techniques
Bachelor's Degree in Echocardiography
In some cases, credit is given for credentials earned through ARDMS or CCI certification and is applied towards bachelor's degree completion. In other programs, up to 61 transfer credits from two-year degree coursework may be granted towards bachelor's degree completion. The core curriculum in a bachelor's degree completion program amounts to 48-54 credits and may focus on healthcare administration, pediatric echocardiography, invasive cardiology procedures and vascular testing methods.
The curriculum in a bachelor's degree program relating to echo cardio entails accelerated coursework in vascular sonography, cardiology specializations and medical pharmacology. Topics may include:
- Quality management in healthcare
- Abdominal testing procedures
- Team dynamics
- Social aspects in healthcare
- Business communication principles
- Healthcare leadership theories
Cardiovascular sonographers work in the field of diagnostic imaging in various positions. These may include:
- Sales representative
- Echo cardiographer contractor
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a cardiovascular technologist should be certified by a credentialing agency, such as Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) or the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) since it's considered a professional standard and is often required by employers (www.bls.gov).
According to the BLS, employment openings for cardiovascular technologists and technicians were expected to rise by 7% between the years 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the national average compared to all other occupations (www.bls.gov). The reason for the expected growth relates to an aging population where heart disease is more common and calls for less expensive and invasive procedures, like ultrasound imaging. The median yearly salary listed in May 2018 for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $56,850 (www.bls.gov).
Associate's and bachelor's degrees are available in echocardiography for interested students, as well as an advanced certificate in cardiovascular sonography. Graduates of these programs can expect positive job growth for various jobs in the field of diagnostic imaging, but may need professional certification for specific positions.