Cardiovascular Technologist

According to the CDC, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death for women, men, and most ethnic groups. Cardiovascular technologists play a crucial role in helping to diagnose this disease by conducting various tests and procedures such as electrocardiograms (ECGs), echocardiograms, and stress tests to identify and monitor heart conditions.

They work closely with physicians and other healthcare professionals to develop individualized treatment plans that ensure optimal patient outcomes. 

Becoming a cardiovascular technologist requires both education and training. Most candidates need to complete a two-year associate’s degree in cardiovascular technology, but increasingly students are pursuing a four-year bachelor’s degree. After completing education, candidates can obtain certification from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) or the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). 

These certifications are voluntary but critical for securing employment opportunities and demonstrating the required knowledge and skills. Additionally, some states require licensing, so it is essential to research the specific requirements in the state where one intends to work as a cardiovascular technologist to ensure compliance with all necessary regulations.

The job outlook for this career is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) estimates that there will be a 10 percent increase in jobs for cardiovascular technologists between 2021 and 2031, which is twice the national average for all other jobs. On average, cardiovascular technologists earn $65,490 per year, making this an attractive career with a low educational barrier to entry. 

Keep reading to explore the responsibilities, educational requirements, certifications, salary expectations, and top education programs for those seeking professional careers as cardiovascular technologists.

Cardiovascular Technologist Specializations & Degree Types

Cardiovascular technology is a specialized field that offers various degree types and specializations for students. Specializations include invasive cardiovascular technologist, non-invasive cardiovascular technologist, cardiac sonographer, and vascular technologist. Invasive cardiovascular technologists assist physicians during invasive procedures, while non-invasive cardiovascular technologists perform diagnostic tests. 

Cardiac sonographers use ultrasound imaging equipment to create images of the heart and cardiovascular system, and vascular technologists specialize in diagnosing and treating vascular system diseases. Degree types for cardiovascular technology include certificate programs, associate’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees, which typically take one year or less, two years, and four years to complete, respectively.

Admissions Requirements for Cardiovascular Technologist Programs

Because of the strong job prospect and higher-than-average earnings, admission to cardiovascular technology programs are highly competitive. There may need to be more than meeting the minimum admission requirements to gain acceptance, and aspiring students should aim to exceed these requirements to the best of their ability. Typical prerequisites for associate’s degree programs include coursework, a high school diploma, observation hours in a professional setting, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.

Bachelor’s degree programs, including degree completion programs, have similar prerequisites but may require students to complete general education coursework before admission. Candidates who apply to certificate programs need a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, work experience, and prerequisite coursework.

Cardiovascular Technologist Program Accreditation

It’s crucial for students pursuing a cardiovascular technology program to ensure that the program is accredited. Accreditation guarantees that the program adheres to minimum quality standards in curriculum, faculty, and facilities. Attending an accredited program can also pave the way for certification through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI).

The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is the primary accrediting body for cardiac sonography programs, and they work with the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS) to evaluate programs and ensure they meet high standards for cardiac sonography education.

On-Campus Cardiovascular Technologist Degree Programs

University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina offers a unique bachelor of science (BS) in cardiovascular technology, combining natural sciences with excellent academic resources and research facilities. Students learn from distinguished faculty members and develop skills to assist physicians in patient evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. The curriculum includes a hands-on clinical internship at an accredited hospital where students receive specialized training in invasive, noninvasive, and vascular specialties within cardiovascular diagnostics. 

This program has affiliations with various clinical sites, including the Claude W. Smith, M.D., School of Cardiovascular Technology at MUSC Health in Columbia and the Harry T. Harper Jr., M.D., School of Cardiac and Vascular Technology at University Hospital in Augusta, Georgia, for internships. Required courses include cell and molecular biology, fundamental genetics, human anatomy and physiology, general physics, organic chemistry, and CVT training.

  • Location: Columbia, SC
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology
  • Tuition: $33,928 per academic year

Howard Community College

The cardiovascular technology–invasive technologist associate of applied science (AAS) at Howard Community College is a career-focused program that prepares students to find entry-level work as cardiovascular invasive technologists. Graduates of this program will have the skills and knowledge to provide quality care as competent and compassionate professionals in the cardiovascular environment. They can use theoretical knowledge and critical thinking skills as the basis for professional practice, allowing them to make informed decisions while performing cardiac and/or vascular diagnostic tests and procedures.

In total, students must complete 65 credits to earn this degree. Required courses include advanced intravascular Interventional procedures, interpersonal communication, cardiovascular pharmacology, and hemodynamics. Students must also complete an applied clinical practicum and a clinical internship to gain hands-on experience.

  • Location: Columbia, MD
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology
  • Tuition: $346 per credit

Harrisburg Area Community College 

Harrisburg Area Community College offers an invasive cardiovascular technology associate’s of applied science program. Graduates of this program will be equipped with the skills and knowledge required to work in cardiac catheterization laboratories, performing diagnostic and interventional procedures on patients with heart disease. The program includes a clinical component that provides students with hands-on experience. Students will learn about anatomy, pathology, physiology, and technical methods to excel in this patient-centric career. 

Critical skills taught in this program include problem-solving, critical thinking, analytical abilities, communication, and professional and ethical behavior. Admission requirements are selective, so students should ensure they have the necessary qualifications before applying. In addition to prerequisite coursework, applicants must be able to pass a criminal background check as well as drug and alcohol screenings. 

  • Location: Harrisburg, PA 
  • Duration: Two years 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $380 per credit

Medical University of South Carolina – Claude W. Smith M.D. School of Cardiovascular Technology

The 17-month-long cardiovascular technology program at the Medical University of South Carolina is part of the Claude W. Smith M.D School of Cardiovascular Technology. The program prepares students to assist cardiologists in performing interventional and diagnostic cardiac and peripheral catheterizations and interpreting a patient’s hemodynamic and physiological state through state-of-the-art monitoring and x-ray systems. Students work as a team to stop or prevent patients from having ischemic attacks caused by a heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease. 

This program provides challenging hands-on training in a demanding lab environment. Graduates are prepared to sit for national credentialing examinations offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography and Cardiovascular Credentialing International. Students will train in various modalities, including adult echocardiography, structural heart procedures, emergency applications of echocardiography, peripheral vascular arterial and venous sonography, physiologic arterial testing, and extracranial duplex vascular sonography.

  • Location: Charleston, SC 
  • Duration: Four semesters
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee for Education in Cardiovascular Technology
  • Tuition: $15,000 for the entire program

Central Piedmont Community College 

To complete the associate’s in applied science in cardiovascular technology at Central Piedmont Community College, students must complete 76 credit hours over two years. The curriculum includes both general studies and program-specific courses, with the flexibility to complete general studies anytime. 

Students will observe surrounding hospitals or clinics’ echocardiography and cardiac catheterization departments during the first year. In the second year, students will engage in hands-on skill development at a clinical site for two full days during the fall term and four full days a week during the spring term, focusing on their chosen track. These clinical rotations help students gain the necessary skills to obtain employment after graduation.

Like many cardiovascular technology programs, admission to this program is selective. Students must submit an application to Central Piedmont Community College and an application to the program directly. Once accepted into this program, students must complete all classes in a specified sequence to remain enrolled.

  • Location: Charlotte, NC 
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $268 per credit

Online or Hybrid Cardiovascular Technologist Degree Programs

Northwestern State University

Northwestern State University offers an undergraduate certificate in invasive cardiovascular technology that prepares students for national certification examinations. The program is 100 percent online and flexible, allowing students to enroll at any point in the curriculum and complete it in as little as three semesters. For those who need competency requirements, an optional clinical course is available. 

By completing this program, students will meet their educational requirements and be well-prepared for national certification examinations in invasive cardiovascular technology. Required courses in this program include cardiovascular Imaging equipment, cardiovascular patient care, hemodynamics, and invasive cardiovascular procedures. 

  • Location: Natchitoches, LA
  • Duration: Three semesters
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $375 per credit 

Carnegie Institute

Carnegie Institute offers an 18-month cardiovascular technologist program that combines online and practical application classes to provide comprehensive education and hands-on training in non-invasive diagnostic cardiac ultrasound. The program emphasizes training in cardiovascular diagnostics, including basic and advanced electrocardiology, echocardiography, and cardiac doppler. Ample color flow and harmonics ultrasound equipment is provided on campus for extensive hands-on practice. 

The class size is limited to ensure close supervision during classroom training and the practical application of various procedures. The core curriculum includes anatomy and physiology/pathophysiology, therapeutic communications/HIPAA, cardiovascular pharmacology, vital signs, CPR, IV administration, ultrasound physics, and medical electronics and instrumentation principles. The required clinical and externship rotations ensure students have the hands-on experience to excel in this field.

  • Location: Troy, MI
  • Duration: Four quarters
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $25,910 for the entire program

Southern Maine Community College

Students can complete an associate degree in cardiovascular technology at Southern Community College. This degree, offered on campus or online, equips graduates with the skills to work alongside medical professionals in various fields, such as cardiac catheterization laboratories, cardiac surgery, electrocardiography/stress laboratories, or echocardiography departments. The program combines general education and core courses in cardiovascular physiology and pathophysiology, medical electronics, instrumentation, and applied cardiovascular techniques. 

Students can choose between invasive cardiology or echocardiography tracks. Required courses include vascular imaging, cardiovascular physiology, clinical hemodynamics, and echocardiography. Students will also complete clinical practicums to gain hands-on experience. Upon completing the program, students will be well-prepared for a career as a cardiovascular technologist and can expect to find employment working with medical professionals in various settings.

  • Location: South Portland or Brunswick, ME
  • Duration: Six and a half semesters
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $5,760 per year

Washburn University

Washburn University’s diagnostic medical sonography program requires candidates to have an associate degree or higher in a healthcare program to be eligible. The program offers three specialization options: general sonography, cardiac sonography, or vascular sonography, each providing a one-year advanced certificate. All didactic coursework is completed online, followed by clinicals in a facility near the student’s home, offering flexibility and convenience. 

This program provides students with a wide range of clinical experiences through affiliations with large medical centers, private doctor’s offices, clinics, and community hospitals. Employers can also host their employees in the DMS program. Students can sit for the ARDMS or CCI exams before or after graduation.

  • Location: Topeka, KS
  • Duration: Four semesters
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $418 to $715 per credit

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences

Students can complete their associate’s degree in cardiovascular technology at the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences. Graduates of this program will work alongside cardiologists to perform diagnostic and therapeutic heart procedures, including diagnostic catheterizations, stent placements, and temporary pacemakers. The program offers hands-on experience from the outset, access to advanced simulation learning, and small class sizes alongside experienced healthcare professionals. 

Required studies in this program include general education courses and cardiovascular technology-specific classes. In total, students must earn 69 credits to be awarded their degree. This school also offers a certificate program available to those with an associate degree or higher or have completed a two-year, post-secondary allied health program. 

  • Location: Lancaster, PA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Tuition: $670 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Cardiovascular Technologist?

The time it takes to become a cardiac sonographer varies depending on the educational path chosen. An associate’s degree takes two years, a bachelor’s degree takes four or more years, and certificate programs typically take around a year.

How To Become a Cardiovascular Technologist – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

Most cardiovascular technologist programs require that applicants have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, so this is the first step to getting started in this career. Completing high school demonstrates a basic level of education and a commitment to finishing an educational program. To prepare for a career in cardiovascular technology, it is recommended that individuals take classes in math, science, anatomy, and social sciences. This gives them the foundational skills to succeed in a cardiovascular technology program.

Step 2: Complete Cardiovascular Technologist Education (Two to Five Years) 

Cardiovascular technology education programs are available as associate’s, bachelor’s, and certificate programs. An associate’s degree in cardiovascular technology typically takes two years to complete, while a bachelor’s degree usually takes four years. Certificates can be completed in as little as one year but often require applicants to have completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, taken extensive prerequisite coursework, or have work experience in this field. 

Step 3: Obtain Entry Level Cardiovascular Technology Work Experience (Optional, One to Two Years)

Completing a cardiovascular technology program prepares individuals for entry-level work in the field, which is often required to obtain certification. It is important to carefully document all hours and procedures performed during clinical rotations and internships to provide during the certification eligibility determination. Not only can gaining experience through entry-level work help improve skills and confidence, but it can also lead to better career prospects.

Step 4: Earn a Cardiovascular Technologist Certification (Optional, Timeline Varies)

Certification as a cardiovascular technologist is not mandatory but is often expected by many employers and is considered an industry standard. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) are two primary certification agencies for cardiovascular technologists. More details can be found in the certification and licensing section below.

Step 5: Obtain a Cardiovascular Technologist State Licensure (Timeline Varies)

Only four states,  New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oregon, mandate licensure for cardiovascular technologists. Licensing requirements differ by state, so prospective candidates should contact their local board to ensure they have the necessary qualifications. More details can be found in the certification and licensing section below.

What Do Cardiovascular Technologists Do?

Cardiovascular technologists work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private cardiovascular practices. They may also work in diagnostic laboratories, imaging centers, and mobile imaging services. Typical job duties will vary based on the place of employment but will typically include:

  • Performing non-invasive cardiovascular tests such as electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and stress tests
  • Assisting physicians with invasive cardiovascular procedures such as cardiac catheterization and angioplasty
  • Monitoring patients’ vital signs and performing patient assessments before and after procedures
  • Operating and maintaining specialized cardiovascular equipment, including ultrasound machines and cardiac monitors
  • Reviewing and analyzing test results and preparing reports for physicians
  • Educating patients about cardiovascular disease prevention, lifestyle changes, and treatment options
  • Communicating with patients and their families to explain procedures and answer questions
  • Ensuring that patient information is accurately recorded and maintained in electronic medical records
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to develop and implement personalized patient care plans

Cardiovascular Technologist Certifications & Licensure 

Licensing for cardiovascular is only mandatory in a few states, so aspiring technicians need to contact their local board to determine whether they need to meet any qualifications to perform their job duties. New Mexico requires cardiovascular technologists to be licensed by:

  • Submitting a completed application
  • Paying a $110 application fee
  • Holding a CCI or ARDMS cardiac sonography certificate
  • Providing proof of official state or federal identification 

Although not required, certification is strongly encouraged for cardiovascular technicians as it is an industry norm and often a requirement for employment. Cardiovascular technicians have two main options for certification: the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). While ARDMS offers certification in a range of sonography specialties, CCI focuses solely on certifications related to the cardiovascular field.

The CCI offers nine certifications. They encompass both invasive and noninvasive procedures. The credentials include the following:  

  • Registered Congenital Cardiac Sonographer (RCCS)- For professionals specializing in ultrasound imaging of the heart and valves in pediatric or adult patients with congenital heart conditions.
  • Registered Cardiac Electrophysiology Specialist (RCES) – For individuals who perform electrophysiology tests using catheters and electrodes to detect abnormal heart activity.
  • Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS) – For cardiovascular technicians who work in cardiac catheterization and assist physicians in performing invasive procedures on the heart.
  • Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS) – For technologists who operate ultrasound equipment to evaluate heart and valve function in patients.
  • Registered Phlebology Sonographer (RPhS) – For individuals trained and experienced in conducting ultrasound exams on veins.
  • Registered Vascular Specialist (RVS) – For professionals who utilize ultrasound to produce images of veins and blood vessels, which can help diagnose blood clot-related conditions.
  • Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) – For professionals who administer cardiac diagnostic tests, such as EKG, Holter monitoring, and stress testing.
  • Certified Rhythm Analysis Technician (CRAT) – For those who use specialized monitoring equipment to analyze cardiac rhythms and identify any irregularities.
  • Advanced Cardiac Sonographer (ACS) – For advanced-level cardiovascular technicians who have acquired extensive knowledge and experience in the field.

The requirements for each CCI certification vary. All certifications require that candidates have graduated from high school. Additional requirements may include:

Possessing one to two years of professional experience, as well as fulfilling specific education requirements for the certification

  • Complete a CHEA-accredited program that is tailored to the certification, in addition to meeting other eligibility criteria
  • Hold an associate or bachelor’s degree in health science, along with a minimum of one to two years of relevant work experience required by the certification
  • Graduate from an unaccredited program in a specific field and complete 800 clinical hours 
  • Maintain a valid credential related to the certification and have at least six months of practical experience within the field

The three ARDMS certifications cardiovascular technologists might earn include:

  • Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS)- For professionals who utilize ultrasound to diagnose a wide range of medical conditions, including fetal-related abnormalities and other diagnostic imaging needs
  • Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS)- For individuals who specialize in performing cardiac sonograms, which are used to detect heart-related issues in adult, pediatric, and fetal patients
  • Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT)- For professionals who use ultrasound technology to diagnose and evaluate blood vessels throughout the body, including veins and arteries

Each ARDMS certification has its requirements, so candidates should look at the website to see if they have the required education and clinical training to be eligible.

How Much Do Cardiovascular Technologists Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022), cardiovascular technologists’ average wages are $65,490 annually. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $33,950
  • 25th percentile: $39,430
  • 50th  percentile (median): $63,020
  • 75th percentile: $81,740
  • 90th percentile: $102,000

Cardiovascular Technologist Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a cardiovascular technologist: 

Become an EKG Technician 

EKG (electrocardiogram) technicians specialize in evaluating a patient’s heart function by performing diagnostic tests such as electrocardiograms. They prepare patients for the EKG procedure, operate the equipment, monitor the patient’s condition, and ensure the accuracy of the readings for physician interpretation. They may perform other related duties and play an essential role in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular health issues.

  • Typical Education: Certificate or associate’s 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography(ARDMS), Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI), National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), National Healthcareer Association (NHA), and National Association for Health Professionals (NAHP)

Become a Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist helps maintain and improve patients’ oral hygiene. Their primary responsibilities include cleaning teeth, examining oral health, educating patients about proper oral hygiene techniques, applying preventive treatments such as fluoride treatments and sealants, monitoring patient progress, and assisting dentists with dental procedures. They play a crucial role in helping patients maintain good oral health and preventing dental problems through regular cleanings, examinations, and education.

  • Typical Education: Associate’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Board Dental Hygiene Examination

Become a Dosimetrist 

A dosimetrist works with radiation oncologists and medical physicists to develop and implement radiation treatment plans for cancer patients. They use advanced computer software to calculate radiation doses, create treatment plans, collaborate with physicians, perform quality assurance checks on equipment, and educate patients about radiation therapy. They help ensure that cancer patients receive safe, effective, and precise radiation treatment as part of a multidisciplinary team.

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Medical Dosimetry Certification Board
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

At HealthcareDegree.com, Kimmy Gustafson has delivered in-depth and insightful articles since 2019, aiding prospective students to navigate the complexities of choosing the right healthcare degree. Her recent work includes topics such as the ethics of gene editing and physician assistant’s fight for autonomy.

Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.

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