An echocardiac technician, or echocardiographer, is a cardiovascular technician who specializes in ultrasound imaging of the heart. Physicians then use those images to diagnose cardiac illness and disease in patients. Technicians must complete an accredited program in diagnostic medical sonography, most commonly an associate's degree program with a specialization in echocardiography. Associate's degree programs require a high school diploma.
In addition, students who have completed a sonography degree program or a related healthcare degree program may choose to pursue a certificate in echocardiography. An associate's degree program takes about two years to complete, while certificates require around 18 months of study. Both the degree and certificate options include a clinical component.
Associate's Degree Programs in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Programs in diagnostic medical sonography (DMS) are typically 2-year programs leading to an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Some programs offer specialty tracks in echocardiography. Students are required to have a high school diploma or equivalent to be admitted into associate's degree programs. Some programs require previous coursework in math, anatomy and physiology and the physical sciences. The curriculum for diagnostic medical sonography programs combines classroom instruction with clinical experience. Students learn to provide diagnostic ultrasound services and operate the equipment. Coursework includes:
- Sectional anatomy
- Sonographic physics
- Cardiac imaging
Certificate Programs in Echocardiography
Certificate programs in echocardiography are designed for students with an associate's degree in diagnostic medical sonography who are interested in specializing in echocardiography. Programs generally take less than 18 months to complete. Certificate programs require an associate's degree in diagnostic medical sonography or another related allied health field. Previous coursework in math, anatomy, physiology, medical terminology and patient care might be required. The curriculum is focused on the echocardiography specialty area and includes both classroom study and clinical experience. Course topics include:
- Cardiovascular anatomy
- Cardiovascular pathology
- Diagnostic sonography
- Principles of echocardiography
Job Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicts a job growth of 24% for cardiovascular technologists and technicians from 2014 through 2024. Echocardiographers may experience increased demand due to the growing use of sonography to detect cardiac problems. The median annual salary for this field was reported at $54,880 in May 2015.
Certification and Continuing Education Information
With additional clinical experience, graduates of a diagnostic medical sonography program are eligible for certification offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Candidates may be certified in adult, fetal or pediatric echocardiography. Continuing education is required to maintain certification.
Echocardiographers may choose to study other areas of cardiovascular technology and to learn more advanced echocardiography techniques like stress tests and Holter monitoring. The ability to move between specialties may increase job opportunities and marketability.
Diagnostic medical sonography associate's degree programs include a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on experience that can prepare students for careers in echocardiac technology. Certificate programs are also available for those who already have a 2-year degree and wish to specialize in echocardiography.