Cardiopulmonary Technology Degree Programs

A career in cardiopulmonary technology involves using machines to measure the function of the heart and lungs. Find out about degree programs in this field, see what jobs are possible and learn how you might earn some credits with online classes. Schools offering Cardiovascular Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Degree Programs Are Available?

Typically, community colleges and universities teach cardiopulmonary technology through respiratory therapy and cardiovascular technology degree programs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the most common career-entry programs for respiratory therapists and cardiovascular technologists are 2-year associate's degree programs, though bachelor's degrees are becoming more prevalent in schools. Programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) offers standardized training that can prepare you for examinations to acquire national credentials, which the BLS states are typically required by employers.

Over 400 CoARC-accredited respiratory therapy care programs are available at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels that can lead to entry-level and advanced respiratory therapist jobs. You may need to have earned an associate's degree in respiratory therapy before being admitted into a bachelor's degree completion program. Master's degree programs in respiratory care are also available, which can enhance your professional skills and open up opportunities for advancement into managerial positions.

Degree Levels Associate's and bachelor's
Program Focus Assisting doctors in diagnosis and treatment of heart and/or lung conditions; hands-on training on a variety of sophisticated instruments
Common Courses Anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology
Program Format On campus, online courses available
Median Salary (2018) $56,850 (for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 10% growth (for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

What Are These Programs Like?

Cardiopulmonary technology defines how the heart works together with the lungs by pumping oxygen-rich blood rich to the rest of the body. In cardiopulmonary technology degree programs, you can learn methods to help diagnose and treat conditions that affect the heart, lungs and vascular system. These programs focus primarily on either the role of the lungs or the heart and blood vessels in the integrated system of oxygen circulation. Under the supervision of physicians, you can learn how to use a variety of sophisticated instruments to measure how well the body is performing this vital function.

What Courses Could I Take?

You'll usually take courses in anatomy, physiology, chemistry and biology, which provide a common foundation for studies in respiratory care and cardiovascular technology. Supervised clinical experience and internships are important components of both types of programs, as well. In cardiopulmonary technology programs, you'll study the lungs, heart and blood vessels; however, each type of program has a different focus and set of diagnostic and therapeutic methods.

In a cardiovascular technology program, you might be able to specialize in either noninvasive or invasive cardiovascular technology. Noninvasive technologies, such as echocardiography (the use of ultrasound to take images of the heart) don't require insertion of instruments into the body. Invasive technologies involve procedures often requiring incision, such as catheterization of patients' arteries to determine whether blockages exist. You'll receive training on how to assist a physician by preparing for procedures, monitoring patients and recording electrocardiogram and heart-pressure readings.

Respiratory therapy curricula focus on diagnostics and therapeutics for breathing problems. You could learn how to use diagnostic tools that include arterial blood gas puncture and analysis, cardiac output determination and pulmonary function testing. You might also gain practice administering oxygen and breathing treatments using pressurized breathing machines.

Can I Earn a Degree Online?

Though cardiopulmonary technology programs require significant hands-on practice to develop technical skills, the theoretical coursework can be completed online through some hybrid programs. However, cardiovascular technology programs that offer opportunities to take online courses are rare. Courses specific to the practice of cardiovascular technology typically require you to be engaged in clinical rotations or labs as part of the program.

More online opportunities are available in respiratory therapy. Some associate's degree programs are available that allow you to take all of the coursework online, though you'll still be required to fulfill clinical experience requirements in person. Several online options are available to respiratory therapists who wish to earn or complete a bachelor's degree or pursue a master's degree via distance learning.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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