Electrocardiogram Technician (EKG): Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for electrocardiogram technicians. Get the facts about job duties, education/training requirements, certification and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Electrocardiogram Technician Do?

An electrocardiogram technician performs tests that help doctors identify diseases of the heart. Before the test, they consult with the patient about their medical history and answer any questions they might have about the procedure. Then, the technician sets up and runs the test. Afterward, they may analyze and summarize the results to present to the physician, who interprets the data in order to come up with an official diagnosis.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Certificate, associate's degree
Education Field of Study Cardiovascular technology, electrocardiography
Training Required Cardiovascular technicians may receive 4-6 weeks on-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Use noninvasive equipment to test patient heart activity; guide patient through EKG procedures; maintain equipment
Certification Required Certification preferred by most employers; Medicare and many insurance providers require certification
Job Growth (2014-2024) 22% (all cardiovascular technicians)*
Average Salary (2015) $56,100 (all cardiovascular technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is an Electrocardiogram Technician?

Electrocardiograph technicians, also called EKG or ECG technicians, use noninvasive procedures to create graphic tracings of the heart's electrical impulses. In this position, you would attach electrodes to a patient's chest and use an EKG machine to follow the electrical impulses of his or her heart. You would perform EKG tests, treadmill stress tests and Holter monitoring procedures to help doctors to diagnose and plan treatments for cardiovascular problems.

Your duties would also include maintaining the equipment and supplies and working closely with the patients to be sure that they understand the procedures. You might take electrocardiogram readings over a period of time to track changes in the function of the heart. Positions may be found in a hospital, physician's office, clinic or another medical setting.

What Training Do I Need?

The majority of EKG technicians receive 4-6 weeks of on-the-job training from a cardiologist or supervisor. Learning the Holter monitor test and stress testing may take up to two years. If you have previous experience in the healthcare field, you may receive preference from employers.

You might also choose to enroll in an electrocardiogram technician course or certification program from a college or university. Possible coursework may include anatomy and physiology, legal and ethical aspects of the field, disease processes and medical terminology. You would learn how to prepare the patients, use the electrocardiograph and acquire electrocardiograms. You would learn to distinguish abnormal electrocardiograms from normal readings. Attaining a certificate from a training program can also make you eligible to sit for an examination offered by a certifying organization.

How Do I Become Certified?

Many positions will require you to have credentials from Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) or the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). Passing an accredited training program is usually a prerequisite to certification examinations. You may need to take continuing education credits to continue being certified.

What Might I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that cardiovascular technologists and technicians earned an average annual wage of $56,100 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Electrocardiogram technicians are included in this group.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want to get a job running heart-related diagnostic tests, another career possibility is work as a cardiac sonographer. These professionals use ultrasound equipment to take images of the heart and surrounding organs. You could also work as a vascular technologist, who create images of blood vessels to help doctors find artery blockages and identify diseases and disorders related to blood flow. If you are looking to expand beyond the field of heart health, you could look for a position in diagnostic medical sonography with a specialization in a different area, such as musculoskeletal sonography or breast sonography. These professionals need either an associate's degree or postsecondary certificate to practice.

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