EKG Technician: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

An electrocardiogram (EKG) technician uses monitoring equipment to help physicians test patients' hearts. Learn more about the job duties, training requirements, certification process and outlook for EKG technicians. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an EKG Technician?

EKG technicians operate and monitor electrocardiogram (EKG) equipment for patients during diagnostic tests and surgical procedures. They report their findings to physicians who make diagnostic decisions based on the results. EKG technicians are also responsible of the maintenance of equipment and preparing patients for various cardiovascular tests. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Certificate or associate's degree; on-the job training is also an option
Education Field of Study Cardiovascular technology
Key Responsibilities Operate and monitor EKG equipment, conduct cardiovascular test, record patients health records and report to physicians.
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 Job Functions Will I Perform as an EKG Technician?

If you become an EKG technician, you will work under the direction of a physician while using EKG equipment to monitor the heart rates and blood pressures of patients. You will attach electrodes from an EKG machine to a patient and print out an EKG for review by a physician. This type of test may be used to diagnose heart problems or determine a patient's suitability for surgery. Your other job duties could include scheduling appointments, explaining test procedures to patients, taking medical histories and maintaining testing equipment.

If you undergo advanced training, you may also perform stress tests and Holter monitor procedures. If you do Holter monitor testing, you will attach electrodes that are connected to a portable EKG monitor to a patient. After 24 hours or more, you will review the recordings for quality and then make a printout for a physician. If you do stress testing, you will connect the patient to an EKG machine using electrodes and monitor the patient while he or she walks or runs on a treadmill. A physician will compare the results to a baseline reading.

What Is My Employment Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the decade 2014-2024 could see employment of all cardiovascular technicians and technologists increase by 22% (www.bls.gov). As the population ages, older people will require more EKGs, since heart disease and other cardiovascular problems become more prevalent with age. Since hospital aides often have replaced EKG technicians who are only proficient in EKGs, you should also be familiar with Holter monitoring and stress testing to increase your job prospects.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

EKG technicians can learn through on-the-job training, which lasts between four and six weeks. If you wish to be trained in Holter monitor procedures, your training may last 18-24 months. You may have an advantage if you gain experience in the healthcare field prior to beginning training, the BLS reported. However, many employers require entry-level applicants to have completed a formal training program, such as a 1-year certificate program or 2-year associate degree. A program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), which is preferred, will include classes such biology, medical terminology, electrocardiography theory and cardiac monitoring.

Some states require EKG technicians to earn licensure or certification, but certification will often improve a candidate's resume in any state. Certification for EKG technicians, which results in the title of Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT), is available from Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). To qualify for certification, you need to have completed certain work or education requirements (cci-online.org).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many careers in the medical field similar to EKG technicians. For example, a medical laboratory technologist uses medical equipment to analyze fluids and tissue samples from patients - rather than monitoring non-invasive equipment like EKG technicians. Nuclear medicine technologists use medical imaging equipment to make diagnostic images, which are used by physicians to make diagnostic decisions. Radiation therapists use radiologic equipment to administer radiation treatment for cancer.

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