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How to Become an EKG Technician

Jul 28, 2018

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. View article »

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  • 0:02 Become an EKG Technician
  • 0:40 Career Requirements
  • 1:32 Career Steps

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Video Transcript

Become 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.

Career Requirements

Degree Level A high school diploma or its equivalent is required; postsecondary training can be helpful
Certification None required, although many employers prefer to hire candidates who are certified
Experience Previous healthcare experience may be preferred
Training On-the-job training is provided
Key Skills Attention to detail, dependability, compassion and ability to cooperate, knowledge of electrodiagnostic machine operation; a current basic cardiac life support (BCLS) healthcare provider certification and current CPR card, ability to lift 15-20 pounds
Median Annual Salary (2016)* $31,253 (for EKG technicians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, HealthcareSource.com job postings (July 2012), *Payscale.com, O*Net Online

Now, let's check out the career steps for EKG technicians.

Career Steps

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.

In high school, consider taking 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

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

However, 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).

It's important to 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. This training may increase job prospects and create opportunities for career advancement.

To recap, with a high school diploma, on-the-job training or possibly a training program, an EKG technician can earn about $31,000 a year to perform diagnostic tests to aid doctors in identifying and treating cardiovascular problems in patients.

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