Cath Lab Technician: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for cath lab technicians. Get the facts about salary, job duties, training requirements and career outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Cath Lab Technician?

Cath lab technicians, also known as cardiac catheterization technologists, are cardiovascular technologists who work in facilities that run tests on heart health. They assist with the insertion of catheters into the heart, and are responsible for measuring and administering special fluids. These small tubes and fluids are used for tests to determine how well the heart is working. Tests include x-rays, pressure checks, and pumping strength evaluations. The cath lab technician works under the supervision of a physician, and must monitor patients for life-threatening changes during a procedure. Some cath labs also support noninvasive heart health procedures. Learn about the equipment you'd operate as a cath lab technician, and review the training options for the job.

Training Requirements On-the-job training; postsecondary certificate or associate's degree programs are available
Key Responsibilities Monitor patients' vital signs during tests, assist in administration of catheterization, operate machines used for catheterization procedures
Certification Certification may be required by employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 22% (for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians)*
Mean Salary (2015) $56,100 (for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Cath Lab Technician Do?

As a cath lab technician, also known as a cardiology technician, you will use machines that help diagnose various conditions of the heart. Aside from invasive catheterization, you might also use other machines. One machine, the EKG, will allow you to get a reading by attaching electrodes to a patient's body and recording electrical variations of the heart. You can then supply a printout of that reading to a physician for diagnosis.

You may also assist with treadmill stress testing. With this procedure, you record the medical history of the patient, attach the EKG, complete a blood pressure assessment and monitor the performance of the heart while the patient walks on a treadmill. This procedure will observe the effect of increased exertion on the patient's heart while you monitor all of the activity.

Beyond working with various types of cardiac equipment, you may also schedule appointments, maintain files and care for equipment. It may be helpful in this field if you have a tendency to pay close attention to details, are precise about recording data and an organized person.

What Type of Education or Training Do I Need?

Most cath lab technicians who work specifically with EKGs receive on-the-job training that lasts between four and six weeks, but employers often prefer to train individuals who already work in the healthcare field. If you work with more complex equipment, training on-the-job may last between 18 and 24 months. In addition, there are a variety of one-year certificate programs available as well.

This is an entry-level position. While certification and licensing is not required, you can advance from this position with additional education, certification and licensing.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this field is expected to experience faster than average job growth of 22% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The average yearly income for a cath lab technician was $56,100, according to the BLS in 2015, but salaries in this field vary greatly since a cath lab technician can have such a wide variety of responsibilities.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in diagnostic medical procedures, you could also become a diagnostic medical sonographer. These professionals use ultrasound technology to create images that doctors can use to diagnose diseases and conditions. Some sonographers specialize in cardiovascular imaging, but other sonography jobs are also available. For one of these jobs, you usually need to complete a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program. Another diagnostic imaging job option is a career as a nuclear medicine technologist. In this job, you would prepare radiopharmaceuticals, administer them to patients and then generate diagnostic images that track the radiation within the body. These professionals typically need an associate's degree and they may need to be licensed.

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