How to Become a Cardiovascular Technician
Learn how to become a cardiovascular technician and kickstart a rewarding career in healthcare.
- Cardiovascular technicians use radiation to assess the performance of the heart.
- Technicians will usually earn certification from Cardiovascular Credentialing International.
- Many will prepare for the certification with an associate or bachelor's degree.
- Students in cardiovascular technology programs supplement coursework with clinical study.
An aging population necessitates more abundant specialized healthcare workers, including diagnostic imaging technicians. To meet the need for diagnostic care, trained medical personnel like cardiovascular technicians will likely see an increased demand for their work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for cardiovascular technicians is projected to grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030.
Cardiovascular technicians use radiation to examine the soft tissues of the heart. These professionals are responsible for gathering and recording patient information, setting up equipment such as EKG machines and heart monitors, ensuring that images are suitable for physician review, and working closely with physicians to analyze images.
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Cardiovascular Technician Requirements
To work as a cardiovascular technician, professionals must develop practical knowledge of human anatomy. They must also learn how to operate specialized medical equipment, conduct diagnostic tests, and analyze test results.
To prepare for the demands of this career, technicians must complete the necessary education, usually an associate or bachelor's degree in cardiovascular technology. Most degree programs also include hands-on training and might require students to complete a set number of clinical hours. Students will typically take the Certified Cardiographic Technician examination from Cardiovascular Credentialing International after completing their programs.
High School Diploma or GED
Certification and postsecondary programs in this field require students to have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Although students can pursue different educational paths and on-the-job training before entering their careers, nearly all employers require employees to have earned at least a secondary school diploma or GED.
Individuals hoping to study cardiovascular technology can pursue several different avenues, including an associate or bachelor's degree in cardiovascular technology. Students looking to enter cardiovascular tech careers right away may pursue one-year certificate programs. These accelerated programs often cater to individuals who have completed some college or have experience working in medical settings.
Most medical practices and hospitals require all cardiovascular technicians to earn the Certified Cardiographic Technician certification from Cardiovascular Credentialing International. To earn this credential, individuals must pass an exam that assesses the competencies that cardiovascular technicians will need on the job. Many hospitals and medical offices, particularly those specializing in cardiovascular health, also require professionals to hold a basic life support certification.
Prospective students should make sure that any cardiovascular technician programs they apply to are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs to ensure that their credentials will be accepted by employers.
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What Does Cardiovascular Technician Training Look Like?
Students pursuing an associate or bachelor's degree in a medical field will take courses in biology, chemistry, and mathematics. Students enrolled in these programs will also take courses in applied sciences, human anatomy, and medical terminology.
Postsecondary students pursuing cardiovascular technology may take specialized courses like cardiovascular hemodynamics, implantable cardiac device theory, and cardiac pharmacology to develop a comprehensive understanding of procedures, equipment, medications, and diagnoses.
Students typically supplement their coursework with clinical experience. They may shadow experienced technicians in laboratories, hospitals, or private practices.
Although many aspiring cardiovascular technicians earn associate or bachelor's degrees, these credentials are not technically required. Some institutions offer accelerated certificate programs for individuals with degrees in other areas, such as nursing or sonography. Early-career cardiovascular technicians, especially those without postsecondary degrees, may receive substantial on-the-job training.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Cardiovascular Technician?
Many cardiovascular technicians complete either an associate degree, which takes about two years, or a bachelor's degree, which takes about four years. Some students, especially those with work or family obligations, may prefer to earn their degree on a part-time basis, which usually extends program length.
Other students might pursue accelerated certificate programs, which can last as little as one year. Accelerated degree programs might have fast-paced course schedules, allow students to transfer existing credits, or exempt students from some general education requirements.
Cardiovascular Technician vs. Technologist
Cardiovascular technologists typically assist physicians during more invasive procedures, such as stent implant or cardiac pacemaker placement. They are also trained to operate a wider and more complex array of equipment, like ultrasound machines and catheters. These professionals must hold either an associate or bachelor's degree, but earning additional certifications can improve professionals' job prospects.
Cardiovascular technicians, on the other hand, tend to assist in less invasive procedures like electrocardiographs (EKG) or stress tests. Although many technicians hold associate or bachelor's degrees, these professionals only need to hold a high school diploma or GED and earn a professional certification to enter their field. Although becoming a cardiovascular technician requires less time and education, it is still a desirable profession.
Types of Cardiovascular Technicians
- Cardiac Sonographer: These professionals use ultrasound technology to create echocardiograms, images of the heart valves, blood vessels, chambers, and other internal structures. These images can be used to diagnose cardiac abnormalities, inform physicians during procedures or surgeries, and examine the condition of fetal hearts.
- Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist: These specialists assess patients' heart rates and blood pressure during cardiac catheterization, pacemaker insertion, and other procedures. They may also assist doctors by applying topical anesthetic or cleaning incision sites on the skin.
- Cardiographic (EKG) Technician: These technicians set up and operate EKG machines to test electrical activity in the heart. During a stress test, technicians monitor patients' cardiac activity during periods of cardiovascular exertion. Professionals will place electrodes on patients' limbs and chest and detect abnormalities using a visual representation of cardiac activity.
Cardiovascular Technician Salary
As of May 2020, the median annual salary for cardiovascular technicians and technologists was $59,100. Most professionals employed in these roles earned between $30,140 and $96,790 that year. In this field, education, experience, location, and additional certifications impact professionals' earning potential.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cardiovascular Technicians
How many years does it take to become a cardiovascular technician?
It usually takes anywhere from one to four years to become a cardiovascular tech. Individuals can prepare for certification through on-the-job training or accelerated programs, which typically take one year. Earning an associate degree usually takes two years and earning a bachelor's degree usually takes four years.
What degree do you need to become a cardiovascular technician?
There is no specific degree that professionals must hold before becoming cardiovascular technicians. However, nearly all employers will require technicians to hold a high school diploma or GED and pass the Certified Cardiographic Technician exam.
Although high school graduates can enter this field after completing appropriate certificate programs, earning a postsecondary degree can give professionals a competitive advantage. Some employers only hire technicians who have earned associate degrees, and technicians with bachelor's degrees can often expect greater earning potential and job prospects.
Is cardiovascular technician a good career?
Many professionals in this field enjoy helping others navigate their cardiovascular health and perform a stimulating variety of day-to-day tasks. In addition, rapid job growth in this area means that many qualified professionals will find work in their desired field.
Cardiovascular technicians also earn above-average salaries. As of May 2020, the median annual salary for cardiovascular technicians and technologists was $59,100, while the median annual salary across all occupations was only $41,950.
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