Cardiac Echo Tech: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for cardiac echo techs. Get the facts about education, salary, certification and job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Cardiac Echo Tech?

A cardiac echo tech, also known as an echocardiographer or cardiac sonographer, is a specialized type of cardiovascular technologist. These professionals are experts in the operation of diagnostic imaging machines that produce echocardiograms, which can be used by doctors to diagnose heart conditions and determine the best treatment plan. Cardiac sonographers typically meet with the patient before the procedure to discuss medical history and answer questions. They also position the patient and the equipment to optimize image quality, and they present the results to doctors for further evaluation after the procedure is complete.

The following chart provides an overview about this career.

Degree Required Accredited associate's degree; bachelor's degree available
Education Field of StudyNon-invasive cardiovascular technology, echocardiography sonography
Key Skills Detail oriented, physical stamina, technical skills, manual dexterity
Certification Voluntary certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 22% (for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians)*
Median Salary (2015) $60,603**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Payscale.com

What Would My Job Entail as a Cardiac Echo Tech?

A cardiac echo tech is responsible for assisting with the diagnostic phase of health care. As a cardiac echo tech, you'll use ultrasound equipment to examine patients' circulatory systems, including heart chambers, valves and blood vessels. You'll create echocardiograms, which are images that can be viewed on a screen and recorded, to assist in diagnosing heart problems. This non-invasive test involves transmitting sound waves at high frequencies and processing the reflected echoes to create the image. As a cardiac echo tech, it's your job to get a good scan and decide which images best portray problems to a diagnosing physician.

Most cardiovascular technologists work in hospitals, but you might also find employment at a physician's office, outpatient clinic, medical laboratory or cardiac rehab facility. In some cases, this allied health profession can be somewhat physically taxing, because you may have to spend a lot of time on your feet and lift or reposition patients. You might sometimes be asked to work weekends, evenings or overnight shifts.

What Are the Employment and Salary Expectations?

Based on data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of cardiovascular technologists and technicians (including vascular technologists) is expected to increase 22% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). As technological advances reduce the need for more invasive procedures, non-invasive procedures, like the echocardiogram, will be increasingly in demand. Based on national salary data provided by PayScale.com, the majority of cardiac sonographers reported earning $46,156-$84,838 as of October 2016.

What Type of Training Do I Need?

Most programs that can train you to become a cardiac echo tech are offered at the associate's degree level. Associate's degree programs in non-invasive cardiovascular technology or echocardiography sonography have a classroom component as well as a clinical rotation requirement at a local hospital or cardiac center. If you're a high school student interested in this career, courses in math, anatomy and physiology are recommended.

In an associate's degree program, you'll learn how to use ultrasound equipment to record a variety of vascular information, including oxygen saturation and blood pressure and flow. You'll learn to create a basic echocardiogram, as well as perform a stress echo, pediatric echo and transesophageal echo. You might also learn how to work with a Holter monitor. Although you typically don't need a bachelor's degree to work in this field, 4-year programs for cardiovascular technologists are available from some colleges and universities.

Alternatively, some community colleges offer 1-year certificate programs. If you already have a degree or experience in a healthcare field, earning a certificate might be sufficient to get started as a cardiac echo tech. In some cases, you could find an employer that offers on-the-job training.

Do I Need to Get Certified?

You don't necessarily need to be certified to work as a cardiac echo tech, but the BLS stated that employers often prefer or require it. Certification not only demonstrates your competence, but many insurance providers only cover a procedure if the tech performing it is certified. Several different certifications are available for this field. For example, you can pursue a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) credential via the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). The RDCS credential allows you to become certified in a specialty area, such as fetal, pediatric or adult echocardiography. Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) offers the Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS) designation.

To qualify for certification, you typically need to complete an accredited training program or gain several years of relevant work experience. You'll also need to pass an exam, and you'll likely need to complete continuing education in order to keep your certification current.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in a different career in diagnostic imaging, you could think about specializing a non-cardiac area of sonography, such as musculoskeletal or obstetric/gynecological sonography. You could also consider a job as a radiologic technologist or MRI technologist. These professionals are trained to use radiation-based equipment to create diagnostic images that can be used to identify many different diseases, disorders and injuries. To get a technologist job, an associate's degree and sometimes a certification is required.

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