How Can I Become a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist?

Research what it takes to become a registered polysomnographic technologist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, key skills for the position, and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist?

A polysomnographic technologist, also called a sleep technologist, assists licensed sleep specialists in the treatment and care of patients with sleep/arousal disorders. The term 'registered polysomnographic technologist' refers to someone who has earned a professional credential. Although registration is not mandated by the state, a professional designation can improve job prospects. As a polysomnographic technologist, you may work in a sleep center, a laboratory that focuses on sleep-related breathing disorders or even a home environment.

Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a registered polysomnographer technologist is right for you.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Required Computer science, physical and life sciences, and mathematics
Key Skills Interpersonal, must be able to work at night
Median Salary (2017) $52,947 for all polysomnographic technologists*

Source: *Salary.com

What Does a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist Do?

Some of the tools you might use include polysomnographs, capnographs, positive airway pressure devices and nocturnal oxygen. Part of your job involves making sure that this equipment is functioning properly throughout the polysomnography process. You also work with less sophisticated tools, like the questionnaires patients must fill out before a sleep study.

Although some sleep disorder treatment may take place during the day (daytime polysomnography), many sleep studies are performed at night (overnight polysomnography). Thus, you are likely to work a lot of night shifts, during which your primary task is observing patients while they sleep, collecting data and taking notes for a sleep study log. It's this type of careful reporting that helps the sleep specialist determine the diagnosis and treatment of one of about 100 different sleep disorders. Additionally, you might help patients adjust to and understand their new treatment. It's also your job to respond to any critical events, such as a seizure, breathing distress or potentially dangerous sleepwalking episode, should they occur during the sleep monitoring process.

What Type of Training Is Available?

To become a polysomnographic technologist, you typically need to complete an associate's degree program with a polysomnography emphasis or another American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAPT)-approved training program. A list of 40 accredited associate's degree and certificate programs in polysomnographic technology can be found on the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) website (www.caahep.org). Note that you may need an associate's degree in a related field in order to be eligible for a polysomnography certificate program. In addition to a variety of polysomnography or PSG courses, curriculum in a polysomnography technology program may include courses in anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, mathematical models and computers.

Alternatively, you can prepare for professional registry by completing a program of self-study modules from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). This program, called the Accredited Sleep Technologist Education Program (A-STEP), consists of 18 modules and is designed to standardize education for sleep technologists.

Do I Need Certification?

Certification isn't required for this field, but sleep lab employers often prefer it. The Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT) offers two credentials for this field. Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT) is a certificate-level exam for those who are new to the field. This certificate, which is valid for three years and requires continuing education, is considered the first step toward becoming a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT). To be eligible to take the RPSGT exam, you must meet clinical requirements and have current Basic Cardiac Life Support certification.

Though recommended, completion of an accredited training program wasn't an essential eligibility requirement for certification as of 2017, due to the small number of programs in existence. However, if you haven't completed an accredited program, you must have completed the A-STEP program, acquired on-the-job training in the field or met other requirements.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You might also want to think about getting another technologist job related to the diagnosis of diseases and disorders. For example, you could become a diagnostic medical sonographer. In this occupation, you would operate ultrasound equipment to generate images of internal body parts, which doctors can use to diagnose conditions and develop treatment strategies. Another option is to work as a radiologic technologist. These technologists use x-rays, CT scanners and other specialized equipment to generate diagnostic images. If you want to work as a diagnostic medical sonographer or radiologic technologist, you must complete an associate's degree or postsecondary certificate program.

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