Polysomnographer: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for polysomnographers. Get the facts about education, salary and job duties to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Polysomnographer?

A polysomnographer, often referred to as a polysomnographic technologist or sleep technologist, is an allied health professional who assists with diagnosing and treating sleep disorders. They use specialized equipment to run tests on patients during sleep, and they monitor and record key health indicators during sleep studies. Based on their recordings, they write reports for physicians that they can use to diagnose the patient's condition and develop a treatment strategy.

The following chart provides an overview about this career.

Degree Required Certificate or associate's degree
Field of Study Polysomnography; Respiratory Therapy with a PSG concentration; Electroneurodiagnostic Technologist Programs with PSG concentration
Certification Professional certification may be preferred by employers
Key Responsibilities Monitor patients during sleep study procedures, operate medical equipment monitoring physiology of sleeping and awake patients, analyze readings and prepare reports for physicians
Average Hourly Salary (2017) $23.86*

Sources: *Payscale.com

What Does a Polysomnographer Do?

As a polysomnographer, your main job duties are likely to revolve around sleep studies, which can be done during the day, but are more often performed at night. Your job includes observing sleep study patients, taking notes and compiling your observations in a sleep log to be reviewed by a sleep specialist, who uses your notes to help determine a diagnosis and treatment plan.

You're responsible for monitoring sophisticated polysomnography instrumentation and making sure all equipment is working properly throughout the observation process. Types of instrumentation you may work with on a daily basis include polysomnographs, oximeters, capnographs, positive airway pressure devices and actigraphs.

Additionally, you may play a role in patient care, comfort and education, making sure that patients understand their treatment plans and responding to critical events when necessary. For example, you may deal with patients who stop breathing during sleep or experience dangerous sleepwalking behaviors. You might also educate the public about sleep disorders.

Do I Need Certification?

Certification isn't required to become a polysomnographer, but many sleep lab employers prefer it. The Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT) offers a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT) credential, which may improve your employment options and slightly increase your earnings. If you're just getting started in this field, the BRPT also offers an entry-level Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT) designation. Both credentials require you to pass an exam and meet education and work experience requirements.

What Type of Degree Do I Need for This Field?

No one path for becoming a polysomnographer exists; however, if you want to become registered or certified, you'll need to complete some form of training. To earn the CPSGT credential, for example, you must have completed certain self-study components of the America Academy of Sleep Medicine's (AASM) Accredited Sleep Technologist Education Program (A-STEP). Designed to standardize sleep technologist training, the full A-STEP program requires that you complete both an 80-hour introductory course from an approved provider and 18 online self-study modules.

Completion of the entire A-STEP program is one way to meet the education requirements for RPSGT eligibility, but a combination of work experience and on-the-job training is also an option. Completing a formal polysomnography training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) or Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is another potential pathway to becoming registered. As of December 2011, the CAAHEP accredits 40 polysomnography technology programs, including certificate and associate's degree programs.

An associate's degree program in polysomnography technology is likely to include courses in math, science and computer science, which prepare you for the technical aspects of the field, whereas communication and speech courses can help prepare you for interacting with patients. You'll also learn about operating the various equipment that polysomnographers use daily, including administering electrocardiograms (ECGs). A certificate program may have a narrower focus and can include courses in normal and abnormal sleep, anatomy and physiology, and diagnostic and therapeutic techniques for sleep disorders. Most certificate programs take about one year to complete, whereas an associate's degree typically takes two.

How Much Might I Earn?

Based on national pay data posted on PayScale.com in January 2017, the salary range for registered polysomnographers was $40,161 to $62,819. As of August 2014, most polysomnographer technicians earned between $25,513 and $53,602, also according to PayScale.com data.

What Are Some Related Careers Alternatives?

Instead of working as a polysomnographer, you could consider another job that involves assisting doctors with diagnostic tests. For instance, as a diagnostic medical sonographer, you would use ultrasound equipment to capture images of the body, analyze results, and create reports. Another option is a job as a radiologic technologist, which involves using x-ray machines and other radiation-based scanners to produce images that doctors can use to diagnose injuries and illnesses. For either of these jobs, you would need to complete a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program.

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