Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians Overview
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians should expect a much faster than average job growth. Those who earn multiple professional credentials and have been trained to perform a variety of procedures can expect to enjoy the best prospects. Usually, a 2-year associates degree at a junior or community college and a professional credential are required. Close to 77 percent of cardiovascular technologists and technicians are employed in hospitals.
Nature of the Work for Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians work under the supervision of physicians in diagnosing and treating hear and blood vessel ailments.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians perform administrative tasks such as schedule appointments and reviewing physicians’ interpretations and patient files, as well as operating test equipment and explaining test procedures.
Cardiovascular technologists may specialize in invasive cardiology, non-invasive, or vascular technology, while cardiovascular technicians specialize in stress testing and electrocardiograms.
Cardiology technologists are those who specialize in invasive procedures and assist physicians with cardiac catheterization procedures, which involves threading a catheter, or small tube, from a spot on the patient’s groin, through a patient’s artery to the heart. Catheterization procedures help figure out whether there is a blockage in blood vessels that supply the heart muscle. They prepare for the procedure by placing them on the examining table and then shaving, cleansing and administering anesthesia near their groin at the top of their leg. During cardiac catheterization, the technologist monitors the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure using the EKG equipment. It is their job to notify the physician if there are any problems. Sometimes, they prepare and monitor patients during the insertion of pacemakers and for open-heart surgery.
Non-invasive procedures are those that do not insert probes or other instruments into the patient’s body. Cardiovascular technologists specializing in vascular technology, administer noninvasive tests.
Echocardiographers work examine the heart chambers, vessels and valves using ultrasounds. Echocardiograms are the images created using ultrasound instrumentation. Technologists may assess a patients heart function by administering medication to them.
Vascular technologists assist physicians in diagnosing circulation disorders. They complete a patient’s medical history and evaluate blood flow in arteries and veins, as well as assure that the proper vascular test has been ordered. Usually right after surgery, they perform noninvasive procedures using ultrasound instruments that record vascular information. Vascular technologists then provide a summary of findings to the physician.
Those who perform electrocardiography, or EKG, stress testing and Holter monitor procedures are called cardiographic, or EKG, technicians. Generally, before most kinds of surgery or as part of a routine physical examination, technicians trace the electrical impulses transmitted by the heart with an EKG machine.
Holter monitoring and stress testing are procedures reserved for EKG technicians with advanced training. The technician puts electrodes on the person’s chest and fixes a portable EKG to their belt. After the technician prints out the tracking information from the tape, the physician will analyze the results. EKG technicians who perform stress tests connect the EKG monitor to the patient’s chest and monitor their heart performance while they walk on a treadmill.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians spend a significant amount of time standing, walking and sometimes heavy lifting in order to move equipment or transfer patients. Catheterization technologists may face stressful job conditions because they work closely with patients with serious heart conditions.
Radiation exposure is also a potential risk for cardiovascular technologists and technicians, although wearing protective aprons during procedures does reduce the risk. Others who work with sonography may have an increased risk for musculoskeletal disorders, though increased awareness on ergonomic equipment may reduce this risk.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians generally work a 40-hour week, sometimes including weekends. Catheterization technologists work longer hours and sometimes work in the evenings. In some cases, they are on call during weekends and the night.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
Most cardiovascular technologists and technicians have an associates degree from a 2-year junior college or community college program, however 4-year colleges are available. The first year, students take core courses and the next year they move on to specialized instruction in their chosen field. Cardiovascular technology programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Professionals (CAAHEP). Only those cardiovascular technologists who attend accredited programs are allowed to obtain professional certification.
Many EKG technicians have on-the-job training by a cardiologist or EKG supervisor. This usually lasts about 4 to 6 weeks, though technicians who perform Holter monitoring tests may have on-the-job training that lasts around 18 to 24 months. Some EKG technicians already have experience in health care, such as nursing aides. Others are students enrolled to become cardiovascular technologists, who want to gain experience and make contacts with employers. Individuals may also choose to take a one year certification program on EKG, Holter monitoring and stress testing.
Although credentialing is voluntary, it is the professional standard and most employers mandate employees have credentialing. Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) both offer credentialing for cardiovascular technologists. Some require that technologists have completed an accredited associates degree program, and continuing education is usually required to maintain certification.
The ability to follow detailed instructions and a mechanical aptitude are two qualities cardiovascular technologists and technicians must have. They must also be able to put patients at ease by having a relaxed and pleasant demeanor. Strong communication skills are preferable, as they have to explain procedures in a simple way to patients, in addition to communicating with physicians.
After supplemental formal education and credentialing, cardiovascular technicians may advance to the technologist level. Cardiovascular technologist jobs are usually structured with multiple levels. In order to advance to the next level, they must gain multiple credentialing in more than one cardiovascular specialty, or through work experience. They may also advance to management positions or work in an educational setting.
Top 10 Most Popular Cardiovascular Technology/Technologist Schools
1. Associated Technical College, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
2. Southeast Technical Institute (Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
3. Sanford-Brown Institute and College (Multiple Campus Locations)
4. Grossmont College, El Cajon (El Cajon, California)
5. West Coast Ultrasound Institute (Beverly Hills, California)
6. Santa Fe College, Gainesville (Gainesville, Florida)
7. City College of San Francisco, San Francisco (San Francisco, California)
8. Community College of the Air Force (Montgomery, Alabama)
9. EDIC College (Caguas, Puerto Rico)
10. City Colleges of Chicago - Wilbur Wright College (Chicago, Illinois)
Employment and Job Outlook for Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow much faster than average (increase 20% or more).
Job Opportunities & Competition
Good or favorable job opportunities. Job openings compared with job seekers may be in rough balance.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians hold about 49,500 jobs and about 77 percent of those jobs were in public and private hospitals. The rest of the jobs were located in offices of physicians or in medical diagnostic laboratories.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians are expected to see an increase of 24 percent through the next decade, which is much faster than average for all occupations. The prevalence of an aging population with a higher incidence of heart disease and other heart and vascular complications creates a demand for the position. More invasive and expensive procedures are being replaced by ultrasound imaging and radiology. Also, signs of vascular disease can not be detected earlier due to advances in medicine and increased public awareness.
Although employment with grow for vascular technologists and echocardiographers, fewer EKG technicians will be needed as hospitals are increasingly training nursing aids and other healthcare workers to perform basic EKG procedures. Those who are trained at monitoring stress tests and Holter tests are projected to have more favorable job prospects than those who are only trained on basic EKG.
As individuals transfer to other jobs or retire, more job openings for cardiovascular technologists and technicians will arise. Those with multiple professional credentials or who are willing to relocate should expect the best job prospects.
Usually, a cardiovascular technologist and technician is able to move between specialties by obtaining more than one specialty in a field.
Earnings and Salary for Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
The median annual wages of cardiovascular technologists and technicians is $48,300, and the middle 50 percent earn between $33,680 and $62,950. The highest 10 percent earn more than $76,220, while the lowest 10 percent earn less than $25,940.
Annual Salary for Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
On average, Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians earn $48,300 per year.
Hourly Wage for Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
On average, Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians earn $23.22 per hour.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook