What Does an EKG Technician Do?
EKG technicians, also known as cardiographic technicians, are allied health professionals who utilize electrocardiogram machines to gather data on a patient's heart, often testing how it behaves both at rest and when under stress, such as while running. In addition to operating the machine, they are responsible for interpreting the data output, ruling out artifacts and glitches while evaluating the patient's heart rate, blood flow, and more. EKG technicians then provide this information to doctors, who will use it to diagnose any potential problems with a patient's heart or cardiovascular system. EKGs are also sometimes used to ensure that patients are healthy enough for surgery, or may simply be administered as part of a regular physical.
EKG Technician Requirements
EKG technicians are typically required to hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. EKG schooling is usually done through non-degree programs, such as professional certificates, although some employers are willing to offer on-the-job training. Certificate programs for EKG technicians cover topics such as:
- Anatomy and physiology of the heart
- Medical terminology
- Interpreting EKG strips
- Common heart rhythms and deviations
EKG technician programs are likely to involve hands-on training with the use of EKG machines and may include formal internships or clinicals. Partially online EKG programs do exist, but will generally require the cooperation of local facilities to provide this hands-on training. For those who intend to seek certification, completion of a training program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is generally recommended.
EKG Technician Certification Requirements
Certification for EKG techs isn't a hard requirement but most employers prefer candidates who are certified. Certification for EKG technicians is primarily handled by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), through the Certified EKG Technician (CET) credential. To qualify for certification, it is necessary to have completed an EKG technician program in the last five years and hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. To qualify, the EKG technician program must include at least 10 EKG tests on live patients. Applicants must then pay a fee and pass the 100-question certification exam to become certified.
Certification must be renewed every two years. To renew certification, an individual must pay the renewal fee, as well as have completed 10 credits of continuing education. Certification may lead to greater responsibilities and higher pay. Other certifications, such as the Certified Cardiographic Technician credential, are also an option.
EKG Technician Job Outlook and Salary Info
According to the salary-tracking website Payscale.com, which uses self-reported data, EKG technicians have an average annual salary of around $31,715, which translates to $14.77 per hour. Income may vary by region, as well as with experience and certification. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the projected growth in employment of cardiovascular technologists and technicians, the larger category to which EKG technicians belong, is expected to be 7% over the 10-year period from 2018 to 2028, a bit faster than the national average. Those who hold national certifications are expected to have the best job prospects. Employment growth in medical fields is largely driven by the needs of the aging baby boomer population.