Cardio techs, or cardiovascular technicians, assist physicians in treating, diagnosing and monitoring patients with heart-related ailments. Cardio science, or cardiopulmonary science, often refers to the field of respiratory therapy, although it can encompass cardiovascular technician training, as well. Respiratory therapists are allied health professionals who treat patients with a wide range of heart and lung ailments.
An associate degree in cardiovascular technology is usually the minimum requirement for cardio techs, but students frequently complete bachelor's degrees in the field. Associate degree programs consist of didactic and on-the-job clinical training preparing students for immediate employment in the field. Bachelor's programs prepare students for additional leadership and teaching responsibilities.
Graduates who want to work as fire protection engineers must also meet state licensing requirements. Admittance requires a high school diploma or GED. Many programs also request high school transcripts to demonstrate completion of basic math, science, chemistry and physics classes. Online courses and webcasts are becoming common methods for respiratory therapists to stay up-to-date on current trends in the field.
Associate of Science in Cardiovascular Technology
An associate degree cardio tech program incorporates lectures, labs and clinical experiences, which prepare students to perform cardiac procedures under the supervision of a physician. This program typically lasts two years and allows students to specialize in either invasive or non-invasive cardio procedures. An invasive cardiac specialty generally trains students in cardiac catheterization, while the non-invasive specialty focuses on imaging and tests, which are conducted using ultrasound and other non-invasive instruments.
Cardio Science Training Program
An associate degree is required to work as a cardio science professional; most states also have licensure requirements for practice. Students should look for educational programs that are accredited by the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) or CAAHEP and include courses in biology, physics, chemistry, health and math. Respiratory therapists must have advanced computer skills in order to operate the appropriate equipment.
Bachelor of Science in Cardiovascular Technology
A bachelor's program normally includes two years of general education courses in the humanities, math and science, prior to beginning professional studies in the junior and senior years. Specific course requirements include anatomy, human physiology, chemistry and physics. Students usually receive one year of cardiovascular technology training in the classroom prior to completing their final year in an internship setting.
Certified cardio science professionals may pursue additional professional development by obtaining specialized certifications in areas such as neonatal, pediatrics, sleep disorders, pulmonary function and therapeutic intervention. Additionally, a varying number of continuing education units must be completed each year in order to maintain certifying credentials.
Associate of Applied Science in Cardiopulmonary Science
An associate degree program in cardiopulmonary science has a heavy clinical component, including training in respiratory care for specific populations (such as pediatrics and geriatrics) diagnostic tests and specific procedures. Didactic training includes chemistry, physiology, pharmacology and anatomy. A minimum of two years is necessary to complete the degree.
Bachelor of Science in Cardiopulmonary Science
A bachelor's degree is expected to become the standard for entering cardio science professionals within the next decade. Programs incorporate the necessary clinical training offered through associate's programs, as well as training in advanced diagnostic and management skills. Degree completion programs are also available online for practicing respiratory therapists.
Popular Career Options
Entry-level respiratory therapists usually provide general care for patients with moderately serious conditions, often under the supervision of a more experienced cardio science professional. Over time, responsibilities may broaden to include more critically ill patients, such as those in the intensive care unit or those with a multitude of health problems. Several years of experience is usually required to progress to supervisory or management positions. Job titles may include:
- Cardiovascular technician
- Cardiovascular technologist
- Health laboratory technician
Continuing Education and Certifications
The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) maintains requirements for Certified Respiratory Therapists (CRT). In order to obtain certification, students must graduate from an accredited program and successfully complete a test. Additionally, a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) designation is available for graduates of advanced training programs; applicants must complete two examinations. Educational opportunities, such as workshops and seminars in cardio science, are offered by many employers and professional organizations.
Upon completion of cardio tech training, candidates may be required to obtain certification or licensure to begin work as a cardio technician, depending on their state. In these cases, two organizations, Cardiovascular Credentialing International and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, offer certification options. States with licensure requirements have varying guidelines, but generally require completion of an accredited degree program and related certifications.
Cardio techs are required to complete a varying number of continuing education hours in order to maintain certification. Continuing education can be obtained through the reading of professional publications or attendance at training or refresher courses. Additionally, cardiovascular technicians may pursue additional certifications in various specialties in order to expand their professional opportunities.
Certification for cardio techs is required by most employers and licensure is a requirement in some states. In addition to preparing students for this, associate and bachelor programs prepare technicians to use catheters, pacemakers and other medical devices to support cardiologists in invasive and noninvasive procedures.