Certificate programs require a year or less of study and offer fundamental knowledge and clinical experience in performing noninvasive tests. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs offer more advanced courses, and students may be able to specialize in invasive or noninvasive procedures. All these programs call for a combination of classroom, lab and clinical training, and may require completing an internship while in the program. Associate's degrees, which take two years of study, and 4-year bachelor's degree programs require general education courses in addition to telemetry education. Some programs and courses are available online. In addition, voluntary certification is also available.
Program specialization is available in cardiovascular and pacemaker technology, EKG technology, Holter monitoring, and other areas.
Certificate in EKG Technician Training
Electrocardiogram (EKG) technicians assist physicians in diagnosing and treating irregularities of the heart and blood vessels by performing noninvasive tests including EKGs and Holter monitoring. The most basic programs for aspiring EKG technicians are offered on the certificate level and last between 1-2 semesters. Students learn to perform medical tests using telemetry procedures. Much of their time is spent in clinical or laboratory settings.
Most EKG technician programs are offered through community or technical colleges and therefore typically require that applicants complete at least a high school diploma or GED program. Some EKG technician programs also require students to achieve basic reading competency through a standardized test, such as the ACT or SAT, or a placement test.
Coursework in an EKG technician training program combines classroom lectures with laboratory experiences. Students also typically complete an EKG practicum. Classes might include:
- Medical terminology
- Safety in health care
- Basic EKG lab
- EKG theory
- EKG technologies
- Advanced cardiac monitoring
Associate's Degree in Cardiovascular Technology
Coursework, lab work and clinical requirements in an associate's degree program in cardiovascular technology are similar to that of an EKG technician certificate program; however, students pursuing a 2-year degree also must complete general education requirements in composition, mathematics and humanities. Additionally, associate's degree candidates often are able to specialize in invasive (cardiac catheterization) or noninvasive (echocardiography) cardiovascular technology. Like EKG technician certificate programs, associate's degree programs are offered by community colleges and have similar prerequisites for admission.
Students seeking associate's degrees in cardiovascular technology typically complete general education courses, in addition to basic occupational classes in medical terminology, medical physics and microcomputers. Advanced topics of study might include the following:
- Cardiovascular physiology
- Cardiac catheterization
- Cardiac pathologies
- Medical instrumentation
Bachelor's Degree in Cardiovascular Technology
In comparison to associate's degree programs in the field, bachelor's degree programs in cardiovascular technology typically provide more in-depth study of the processes and techniques used to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease. They also generally allow for more hands-on experience; in fact, many 4-year programs in cardiovascular technology begin with three years of coursework at a college or university, followed by a yearlong clinical internship at a hospital or other medical setting.
To enroll in a bachelor's degree program for cardiovascular technicians, students must first gain acceptance to a 4-year college or university. This typically requires completion of a high school diploma, as well as achievement of minimum scores or better on the ACT or SAT. Students interested in enrolling in a cardiovascular technician program should have high marks in math and science.
Coursework in a cardiovascular technician program focuses on the science of telemetry, as well as general health sciences. Some courses might include:
- Chemistry survey
- Hemodynamic data
- Applications in critical care
- Health care delivery systems
- Advanced concepts in cardiology
Popular Career Options
EKG technicians are employed by hospitals and other health care centers to operate the electrocardiograph machines that help physicians diagnose patients with heart conditions. Some career options available to graduates of an EKG technician certificate program are listed below:
- EKG technician
- Holter monitor technician
- Telemetry technician
- Pacemaker clinical technician
- Cardiovascular clinical technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Cardiovascular technicians and technologists held approximately 52,000 jobs in the United States in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Approximately 68% of cardiovascular technologist jobs existed in hospitals. Employment of cardiovascular technicians and technologists is expected to grow by 22% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the average job growth rate. In 2015, cardiovascular technologists and technicians earned a median wage of $54,880 per year.
Certification for EKG technicians is voluntary, but many employers require it. Credentialing is available through the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians. Applicants must pass an exam and provide proof of either graduation from an approved EKG program or a minimum of six months practical experience conducting EKGs.
Voluntary certification as a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer is available through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. Additionally, Cardiovascular Credentialing International offers several certifications, including Certified Cardiographic Technician and Registered Cardiac Sonographer.
Degrees in cardiovascular technology are available at certificate, associate's, and bachelor's levels, and may be taken online. Upon completion, students will be prepared as an EKG technician or technologist, for which certification is voluntary.