Cardiopulmonary Technologist: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a cardiopulmonary technologist. Read about the job duties, education requirements, certification and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Cardiopulmonary Technologist?

Cardiopulmonary technologists, more often called cardiovascular technologists, administer diagnostic tests to help physicians detect diseases and disorders of the heart and lungs, such as cardiac sonography exams and stress tests. They may also assist physicians with invasive procedures like cardiac catheterization, pacemaker insertion and even open heart surgery. They often meet with patients before testing and treatment procedures to discuss medical history and answer any questions. Afterward, they may analyze and summarize results for the ordering physician.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of what you should know about entering this profession.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Cardiovascular technology
Key Responsibilities Use specialized equipment to test patient heart and lung function; assist physician with cardiac procedures
Certification Certification required by Medicare, many insurance providers, most employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 22% (for cardiovascular technologists and technicians)*
Average Salary (2015) $56,100 (for cardiovascular technologists and technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Cardiopulmonary Technologist?

Cardiopulmonary technologists have the skills to perform tests that help doctors identify and treat illnesses related to the heart and lungs. In this career, you'll conduct diagnostic exams and procedures, such as oxygen and stress testing, sleep studies, cystic fibrosis screenings, bronchoscopies and artery analysis. You will describe procedures to patients beforehand and position them for examinations. You might also schedule appointments, review patient files, take blood samples and monitor heart rates during procedures.

Two areas of specialization that are available in this field are invasive and non-invasive cardiology. If you choose to specialize in invasive cardiology, you'll provide aid during cardiac catheterization procedures to search for blocked blood vessels or to identify other issues. In the area of non-invasive technology, you would execute tests such as the Doppler ultrasound that do not involve probing the patient's body.

What Training Do I Need?

You might consider entering an associate's degree program in cardiovascular technology to practice cardiac catheterization in a laboratory setting. These programs prepare you to work in cardiovascular catheterization laboratories, cardiac ultrasound laboratories and non-invasive laboratories. Courses may include cardiovascular intervention, anatomy, physiology and critical-care applications. You may also complete practicums, in which you'll participate in hands-on learning experiences in clinical settings.

What About Certification?

Although certification is optional, most employers look for job candidates with credentialing through Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). These organizations usually require that you complete an accredited cardiovascular technology program, pass an examination and maintain certification by earning continuing education credits. These programs also offer certification programs in a number of specialties. CCI, for example, offers the Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist and Registered Cardiac Sonographer designations.

How Much Might I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that cardiovascular technologists and technicians earned an average annual wage of $56,100 in May 2015. About 75% of these workers were employed in general medical and surgical hospitals; however, a significant number, about 29%, worked in physician offices. The BLS also notes that cardiovascular technologists and technicians can expect job growth of about 22% during 2014-2024. This rate is much faster than the average for all U.S. occupations.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Individuals who are interested in diagnostic imaging procedures might also want to look into jobs as radiographic or MRI technologists. These professionals use x-ray machines, CT scanners and/or MRI scanners to generate images that physicians can use to diagnose many different illnesses and injuries. For those who are more interested in invasive procedures, a job as a surgical technologist or operating room technician might be more fitting. In this job, technologists operate equipment, monitor patients and provide general assistance during surgical procedures on many different body parts, not just the heart. For these technologist positions, a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree is usually required.

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