EKG Assistant: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become an electrocardiography (EKG) assistant. Learn about job duties, education requirements, employment outlook and wages to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an EKG Assistant?

An electrocardiography (EKG) assistant is a cardiovascular technologist who specializes in running tests that generate electrocardiograms. These tests, which can be conducted while the patient is exercising or at rest, measure heart health, which provides data that helps physicians diagnose and develop treatment plans for heart diseases and conditions. The EKG assistant is responsible for attaching electrodes to the patient and operating the machinery that generates the results.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering the field.

Degree Required Associate's degree, post-secondary certificate
Education Field of Study Cardiovascular and vascular technology
Key Responsibilities Preparation of patients and equipment, operate specialized equipment, analyze findings, record keeping
Job Growth (2014-2024) 22% for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians*
Median Salary (2015) $54,880 for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an EKG Assistant Do?

As an electrocardiography (EKG) assistant, or EKG technician, you'll be responsible for performing EKGs, stress tests and Holter monitoring on patients. You'll take readings of a patient's heart activity during tests and provide physicians with data for analysis and diagnosis. These tests are sometimes performed during routine patient appointments and, more often, before most surgical procedures. Other responsibilities will depend on your employer. For example, you may schedule patient appointments and take notes on patient visits.

What Type of Education or Training Do I Need?

To be certified as an EKG assistant, you'll need a high school diploma and either complete a formal education program for EKG technicians or receive on-the-job training from your employer. The length of formal education programs may vary, and they are usually offered at vocational and community colleges, nonprofit healthcare organizations and continuing studies education programs. In these programs you'll learn about basic cardiology, automated external defibrillator (AED) procedures and EKG monitoring. Depending on the program, your training may include classroom lectures, workshops and laboratory work.

Some employers may provide on-the-job training for EKG assistants. Employers often seek individuals who already work within the health profession, including nursing aides or health care technicians.

Are There Any Additional Requirements?

Once you've completed the necessary training, you'll need to pass the EKG technician national certification exam. According to the National Healthcareer Association, you'll need a high school diploma and at least one year of field experience or have completed an approved EKG technician program (www.nhanow.com). To satisfy the experience requirement, you'll need to have performed at least 10 EKG tests during that time period.

The national exam includes testing on medical terminology, knowledge of heart rhythm patterns and general anatomy. Your state may require additional certification to work as an EKG assistant. You should check with your state's nursing or healthcare board for any specific requirements.

How Much Could I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2015, most cardiovascular technologists and technicians earned between $28,420 (10th percentile) and $87,170 (90th percentile) annually. Salaries varied based upon work environment. For instance, cardiovascular technologists and technicians working in general medical and surgical hospitals made an average of $55,350 annually in 2015, while those working in outpatient care centers made $62,130 annually (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a cardiovascular technologist or technician, you can choose to specialize in an area other than EKG testing. For instance, as a cardiovascular invasive specialist, your work would primarily involve assisting physicians with cardiovascular catheterization tests and procedures. Outside of the field of cardiology, you could consider becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer, a job that involves using ultrasound technology to produce images that doctors can use for diagnostic purposes. For this job, you would need to complete either a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program.

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