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EKG Technician Careers

EKG technicians use electrocardiogram equipment to assess the rhythm of a patient's heart by placing electrodes on the body to receive data and feedback. In addition to standard EKG machines, these professionals may operate a Holter machine, which monitors a patient's heart for 24 hours, or conduct treadmill stress tests. EKG tests can help physicians detect serious heart conditions at an early stage and help explain symptoms such as chest pain. During tests, EKG technicians monitor readings for any irregularities. They then forward readings to physicians for further review.

EKG technicians are often considered part of a larger group of healthcare professionals referred to as cardiovascular technologists and technicians, who help monitor heart health on a broader level. More than 75 percent of these professionals work in hospitals, according to May 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other common work environments include doctors' offices, medical and diagnostic labs, and outpatient care centers (bls.gov/oes, 2013).

According to the Stanford School of Medicine, EKG technicians may find themselves working in pressure-filled situations such as when a patient has had a stroke and the strength of his or her heart needs to be measured (stanford.edu, 2013). Of course, not all situations may be stressful, and an EKG technician's overall goal is to obtain useful information about the heart to produce successful diagnoses and treatments.

How to Become an EKG Technician

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many EKG technicians are trained on the job. However, there are non-degree certificate programs available that can offer similar EKG technician training (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). The following steps outline one possible route towards EKG technician careers, but do not guarantee employment.

  1. Complete a high school diploma or the equivalent and, if possible, take science or math classes relevant to the field.
  2. Enroll in a vocational school, community college or university and pursue an EKG certificate. Typically includes hands-on training with EKG equipment as well as classroom instruction.
  3. Pass exams or meet other certification requirements from organizations like the National Healthcareer Association and American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians.
  4. Apply for entry-level EKG technician jobs.
  5. Keep certification active by taking continuing education credits and meeting other criteria.

Post-Education Requirements: Certifications and/or State Licensure

Those interested in EKG technician jobs may want to pursue professional certification in the field. While certification might not be required under law, employers may choose not to hire those without it. EKG technician certifications can be earned from several national organizations, including:

  • National Healthcareer Association (NHA): The NHA awards the Certified EKG Technician (CET) title to those who successfully pass an exam.
  • Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI): EKG professionals can earn the Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) and/or Certified Rhythm Analysis Technician (CRAT) by getting a passing score on CCI's associated exam.
  • American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT): ASP awards the EKG Technician designation, which can be earned either by passing an exam or graduating from an approved EKG program.

These and other certifications typically need to be renewed every few years through continuing education credits and recertification fees.

EKG Technician Job Growth and Average Salary

Future demand for cardiovascular technicians, cardiovascular technologists and vascular technologists in the U.S. should be strong, according to the BLS, particularly given that diagnostic imaging tests are gaining popularity over costly invasive procedures. Employment of cardiovascular technologists/technicians and vascular technologists is expected to grow by 29 percent nationally between 2010 and 2020, a rate that's nearly double the national average. While hospitals are the most popular place of employment, the BLS expects faster job growth in doctors' offices and medical/diagnostic labs (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

As for earnings potential, the median national annual wage for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $52,070 in May 2012, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $80,790 and the lowest 10 percent earning less than $27,830 (bls.gov/oes, 2103). Of course, salary depends on many factors, including location, employer and education.

List of Related Careers

A variety of alternative occupations may be of interest to those thinking of pursuing EKG technician careers. Examples of similar careers include:

  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographers: Identify potential medical conditions through the use of sound waves via imaging devices.
  • Radiation Therapists: Use radiation treatment to help patients who may have cancer or other medical diagnoses that may benefit from radiation.
  • Radiologic Techs: Take X-rays or do other diagnostic imaging to help physicians assess conditions or diseases.

Additional training, education, certification and/or licensure are often required to enter these and other positions.

Links to Sources and Associations

The following websites can provide more information about EKG technician training and certification options:

American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians and Vascular Technologists, 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, 2013

Cardiovascular Credentialing International

Cleveland Clinic, Resources for Medical Professionals, EKG Technician

National Healthcareer Association

Stanford School of Medicine, Health Career: EKG Technician