EKG or Cardiographic Technician

While EKG tests are not always the definitive test for diagnosing heart problems, they are often one of the first step to assessing cardiac health.

If abnormalities are detected in an EKG test, further imaging tests may be recommended for more comprehensive diagnosis and treatment planning. In this way, EKG tests play an important role in identifying, managing, and treating cardiac disease.

An EKG or cardiographic technician is a healthcare professional who specializes in performing these tests. These professionals are integral to the field of healthcare, as they capture and analyze heart patterns to aid in diagnosing heart conditions. The technician works under the direction of a physician to take recordings of patients’ heart activity, interpret results, and provide a clinical report to the doctor. 

Duties for  EKG and cardiographic technicians vary but often start with preparing patients for testing by explaining the procedure and answering any questions they may have. They then attach electrodes to the patient’s body to measure their electrical activity and record it on a monitor. After performing the test, they must analyze the data obtained from the procedure and compare it with normal readings to detect any abnormalities that could indicate heart disease or other medical conditions. The technician must then prepare a comprehensive report of their findings which will be reviewed by a medical professional. 

To become an EKG or cardiographic technician, one must possess a high school diploma or GED certificate. However, many employers prefer prospective employees who have undergone post-secondary education, such as courses at technical schools or community colleges. There are also multiple certifications available for those interested in pursuing a career as an EKG and cardiographic technician that demonstrate a candidate has achieved a certain level of knowledge necessary for this profession. 

Currently, there is a high demand for professionals in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022), there will be a 10 percent increase in jobs for diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians between 2021 and 2031. This translates into 14,700 new jobs in the next decade. On average, professionals in this career earn $62,020 per year. 

Use the guide below to learn more about how to get started in this patient-centric, growing healthcare profession.

EKG or Cardiographic Technician Specializations & Degree Types

While it is possible to enter this profession with on-the-job training, EKG or cardiographic technicians typically complete an educational program at an accredited school that covers anatomy and physiology, medical ethics, electrocardiograph operations, and basic rhythms. Depending on the scope of practice in their region, some technicians may need to acquire additional certifications for more invasive testing procedures.

A certification program can be completed in just a few months for those seeking entry-level positions. However, many employers prefer applicants who hold an associate’s degree. Bachelor’s degrees in fields such as cardiovascular or cardiovascular perfusion technology are also available for advanced positions like head tech or supervisor. Students can also choose to specialize their education and certification in pediatrics, neonatology, or adult echocardiography. 

Admissions Requirements for EKG or Cardiographic Technician Programs

The admissions requirements for EKG or cardiographic technician programs can vary depending on the institution. In general, interested applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Some programs may also prefer prior medical training or experience in a medical field, though this is only sometimes necessary. Other common requirements for gaining admittance include vaccinations, drug tests, physicals and background checks to ensure patient health and safety within the program.

EKG or Cardiographic Technician Program Accreditation

Prospective EKG or cardiographic technician students should check if the program or institution is accredited. Accreditation is critical, as it guarantees that the school meets one of the highest standards of academic excellence. Additionally, it assures employers and students that an individual has received a quality education. 

The two primary programmatic accrediting organizations for EKG or cardiographic technician programs are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Some national certification entities may require that candidates complete an accredited program to be eligible for their exam.

On-Campus EKG or Cardiographic Technician Degree Programs

Durham Technical Community College

This EKG technician and monitoring course at  Durham Technical Community College prepares students to become certified EKG Technicians. Throughout this program, students will cover medical terminology, anatomy and physiology of the heart, principles of EKG, dysrhythmia recognition, heart blocks and bundle branches, and ventricular ectopy rhythms.

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be eligible to sit for the National Healthcare Association examination to become certified EKG technicians. Students must also have 10 successful EKGs with no artifacts to receive their certificate upon completing the class. Admission requirements include a high school diploma, proof of immunizations, and health insurance. 

  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Duration: 112 hours
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $341.25 total

San Antonio College

At San Antonio College, students can complete either a certificate or associate of applied science in medical assisting. This program will teach students to perform analysis, injections, phlebotomy, and EKGs. They will also learn the administrative side of healthcare, such as records maintenance, insurance claims, bookkeeping, and scheduling. Most graduates of this program work in physicians’ offices, although it is not uncommon to work in many other healthcare settings, including hospitals and labs. 

While this isn’t an EKG-specific program, students who complete this program will be eligible to sit for national EKG technician certification exams. By completing a medical assisting program instead of just an EKG one, students will be more well-rounded and have skills required by many employers. 

  • Location: San Antonio, TX
  • Duration: One to two years year 
  • Accreditation: CAAHEP
  • Tuition: $466 per credit 

Berkeley College

Berkeley College offers students the opportunity to launch meaningful careers in healthcare with its medical assistant certificate and associate in applied science degree programs. The robust curriculum of these programs equips graduates with the knowledge, skill set, and credentials needed for success at any number of professional healthcare facilities, from physicians’ offices to hospitals. The school also provides a strong foundation for making an impact in the rapidly changing healthcare landscape. 

Students in this program will learn how to take vital signs, perform EKGs and other diagnostic tests, draw blood, collect specimens for laboratory testing, and administer medications. Graduates are eligible to sit for a number of certification exams, including national EKG and cardiographic technician certifications. 

  • Location: Newark, Woodbridge, and Woodland Park, NJ
  • Duration: One to two years 
  • Accreditation: CAAHEP
  • Tuition: $890 per credit

South Suburban College 

At South Suburban College, students can become skilled technicians in echocardiography by earning a certificate or associate’s of applied science in this field. The program will teach students how to perform echocardiograms, understand ultrasound physics, and more. Graduates will be able to find work as entry-level cardiac technicians and communicate effectively with patients and other medical staff.

To be considered for this program, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and complete expensive prerequisite coursework in English, biology, physics, medical terminology, and anatomy and physiology. This program is competitive, so candidates should ensure they have the highest GPA they can to be considered. 

  • Location: South Holland, IL
  • Duration: One to two year 
  • Accreditation: CAAHEP
  • Tuition: $405 per credit

Orange Coast College

The cardiovascular technology program at Orange Coast College trains students to perform tests that will allow doctors to diagnose heart and blood vessel disease in patients. Students will learn how to use three diagnostic tools, including invasive cardiovascular technology,  non-invasive cardiovascular technology, and non-invasive peripheral vascular technology. Through this program, students are given knowledge and skills to tackle a variety of roles in the medical field, from electrodiagnostic technologists up to invasive cardiologists. 

Options to complete this program include a one-year certificate or a two-year associate of applied science. To be considered for admission, students must have completed prerequisite coursework in health occupations, medical terminology, and anatomy and physiology. 

  • Location: Costa Mesa, CA
  • Duration: Two semesters to four semesters
  • Accreditation: CAAHEP
  • Tuition: $331 per credit

Online or Hybrid EKG or Cardiographic Technician Degree Programs

Purdue Global 

The comprehensive medical assistant program at Purdue Global prepares students for a career in this rewarding field. Their program combines online coursework with hands-on experience through onsite clinics and externship opportunities. Students will learn how to administer injections, take vital signs, record EKGs, assist in minor surgical procedures, obtain specimens and laboratory testing, and perform phlebotomy. In addition to the clinical skills, they will also gain knowledge in basic accounting procedures, reception duties, medical billing and coding tasks, and patient referral coordination. 

Upon completion of the program, graduates will have the necessary skills to pursue entry-level positions in a physician’s office or health care and various national certifications, including those to become an EKG or cardiographic technician. All students must complete a 160-hour medical externship to gain hands-on skills. 

  • Location: West Lafayette, IN
  • Duration: One year 
  • Accreditation: CAAHEP
  • Tuition: $371 per credit  

Arkansas Tech University 

The cardiac sonography associate of science at Arkansas Tech University is offered in a blended format. The first two semesters are in person, but in the last semester of the program, all classes are online, with clinical rotations in person. This clinical rotation can be done anywhere you want if there is a contract with a clinic or hospital that does cardiac sonography. After completing this program, graduates can find entry-level work as adult cardiac sonographers.

Students in this program will learn about the heart and how it works, diseases that can affect the heart, and what it takes to be a cardiac sonographer. To help students find work, they will also be taught skills such as resume writing, job interviewing, and cover letter composition. 

  • Location: Ozark, AR
  • Duration: Three semesters
  • Accreditation: CAAHEP
  • Tuition: $5,820 per 12-credit-hour semester 

Western Technical College

The medical/clinical assistant certificate program at Western Technical College is meant to help students learn the skills they need to work in the medical field. The instructors in this program are experienced with up-to-date certifications, so students can be sure they are learning from the best. This is a highly flexible program with daytime, nighttime, and hybrid online schedules to fit anyone’s schedule. 

By completing this program, students can sit for several certifications, including certified phlebotomy technician, certified EKG technician, certified clinical medical assistant, and certified medical administrative assistant. 

  • Location: La Crosse, WI
  • Duration: Eight months to one year 
  • Accreditation: CAAHEP
  • Tuition: $17,863.07 for the entire program

Kellogg Community College

Kellogg Community College’s medical assistant certificate program equips students for a rewarding career that blends office and clinical skills through online coursework and in-person labs. This rigorous training provides deep knowledge of all aspects of the medical field, from classes to hands-on experience in actual hospital environments. With this comprehensive education, graduates are fully prepared to confidently take their national certification exam and become certified multi-skilled professionals.

This program provides a valuable opportunity to achieve certifications and expand essential healthcare knowledge. With high CAAHEP standards, the curriculum offers an accredited certificate course with specialized fields such as phlebotomy and EKG. Upon graduating from this intensive program, students are qualified to take multiple national certification exams. 

  • Location: Battle Creek, MI
  • Duration: One year 
  • Accreditation: CAAHEP
  • Tuition: $321.25 per credit

Tyler Junior College

The online EKG technician program offered by Tyler Junior College gives participants an in-depth understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the heart and medical disease processes and terminology. 

Participants also learn about ethical and legal issues related to patient contact, electrocardiography, and echocardiography. Through this program, learners gain an introduction to the components, use, and proper functioning of an EKG machine. 

By completing this program, students learn how to correctly place 12-lead electrodes and practice other important techniques for conducting a successful EKG. Upon completion of this program, participants will be prepared to sit for a national certification exam and function as EKG technicians in medical facilities. 

  • Location: Tyler, TX
  • Duration: Six months or less
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $1,199 for the entire program 

How Long Does it Take to Become an EKG or Cardiographic Technician? 

The time it takes to enter this field varies widely. It is possible to become an EKG or cardiographic technician with a high school diploma or GED and one to two years of on-the-job training. Those pursuing education to enter this field can choose certificates that can take as little as three months or associate degrees that can take up to two years. 

How To Become an EKG or Cardiographic Technician – Step-by-Step Guide

Step One: Graduate from High School or Earn a GED (Four Years)

Completing high school or earning a GED is required to become an EKG or cardiographic technician. This base level of education is required for on-the-job training or additional education. Students should focus on math and science classes, particularly physics, in order to help prepare for this career. 

Step Two: Complete an EKG or Cardiographic Technician Program (Three Months to a Year or More)

While not required, completing an EKG or cardiographic technician program is highly recommended to start this career. These programs can be completed in person or in an online or hybrid format and can take as little as three months. Longer programs can result in a more advanced degree, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s which can be advantageous when applying for jobs. 

Step Three: Pass a Certification Examination (Timeline Varies)

Certification is a voluntary step for EKG or cardiographic technicians, but it is highly recommended as it demonstrates to employers and patients that the technician has a high level of competency in this field. Details about the national certifications can be found in the licensing and certification section below. 

What Do EKG or Cardiographic Technicians Do?

EKG and cardiographic technicians work in various locations, from hospitals to outpatient clinics and laboratory settings. Day-to-day duties can include:

  • Positioning patients for EKG monitoring and explaining the procedure to them
  • Connecting electrocardiogram leads (electrodes) to the patient’s chest, arms. and legs 
  • Administering a stress test to measure the heart’s response under an increased workload
  • Preparing patients for Holter monitor (a type of ambulatory EKG device), if required
  • Recording baseline heart functions of the patient and comparing with future tests results 
  • Reporting results to nurse practitioners, physicians, or other medical professionals 
  • Monitoring patient’s vital signs during testing procedures, such as respiration rate and blood pressure 
  • Updating patient records with vital statistics and any other relevant information in accordance with HIPAA standards 
  • Providing safety instructions for patients during testing procedures, as some may involve strenuous activities such as running or brisk walking 
  • Maintaining the cleanliness of equipment used in testing procedures before and after use

EKG or Cardiographic Technicians Certifications & Licensure

In general, there are no requirements for EKG or cardiographic technicians to be licensed to practice in their state. However, some procedures performed by EKG or cardiographic technicians may require a license, so aspiring EKG technicians should contact their local state licensing boards to learn what qualifications and licenses may be necessary to perform this job. 

EKG or cardiographic technicians who want to demonstrate a high level of competency in this field can choose to pursue voluntary certification. Numerous agencies offer national certification for professionals in this field, including the 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). 

The certification available from ARDMS is as a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) with a specialization in Adult Echocardiography (AE), Fetal Echocardiography (FE), or Pediatric Echocardiography (PE). 

To be eligible, candidates must have successfully completed a graded general, medical, or sonographic college, post-secondary or higher education physics class, or have a certificate denoting successful completion of a general, medical, or sonographic physics seminar, physics review course, or physics correspondence course, denoting a minimum award of 12 ARDMS-accepted continuing medical education credits. 

Candidates must also meet one of the following requirements: 

  • Complete a two-year allied health education program or a bachelor’s degree and have 12 months of full-time clinical ultrasound/vascular experience
  • Graduate from an accredited diagnostic medical sonography/diagnostic cardiac sonography/vascular technology program or a bachelor’s degree program in sonography or vascular technology
  • Have an MD or DO degree and either 12 months of full-time clinical ultrasound/vascular experience or documented  clinical experience with a minimum of 800 studies in the area for which he/she is applying
  • Hold an RCS, RCCS, or RVS through Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI), or Sonography, Vascular Sonography, or Breast Sonography through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)

Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) offers the Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) certification. Candidates for this certification must have a high school diploma and meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • Currently enrolled as a student or a graduate of a cardiovascular or allied health training program
  • Currently employed or previously employed in the field of Cardiovascular Technology or in a recognized allied health field
  • Completed requirements for a graduate or undergraduate degree from a recognized institution in a field related to science or physical health.

Candidates for the ECG Technician (NCET) certification from the NCCT include must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Current student in an ECG Technician program from an NCCT-authorized school
  • Graduate from an ECG Technician program from an NCCT-authorized school, within the past five years.
  • One year of verifiable full-time experience as an ECG Technician practitioner within the past five years
  • Completed ECG Technician training or its equivalent during U.S. Military service within the past five years

To become a certified EKG technician (CET) from the NHA, candidates must have a high school diploma or GED and have either completed an EKG technician training or education program within the last 5 years or have one year of supervised work experience in an EKG technician field within the last three years.

Lastly, applicants for the Nationally Registered Certified EKG Technician (NRCEKG) designation from the NAHP must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Successfully complete a credential-relevant approved program of study from an educational institute accredited by the Allied Health Education and Accreditation of the American Medical Association (CAHEA), Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or any accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Successfully complete two years of medical training in the United States Armed Force
  • Have a minimum of two years of full-time professional experience in a credential-relevant field

How Much Do EKG or Cardiographic Technicians Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021) designates EKG or cardiographic technicians as cardiovascular technologists and technicians. The 55,760 professionals in this field earn $62,020 per year. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $29,910
  • 25th percentile: $37,990
  • 50th  percentile (median): $60,570
  • 75th percentile: $77,600
  • 90th percentile: $98,070

EKG or Cardiographic Technician Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as an EKG or cardiographic technician: 

Become a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants perform many duties related to both clinical management and front office duties. These can include organizing and maintaining medical records, helping physicians during examinations or procedures, collecting and preparing laboratory specimens, explaining treatments to patients, preparing them for exams, administering medications and injections, scheduling follow-up visits, taking phone calls from patients or insurance companies, coding patient information for billing purposes and entering it into appropriate databases. 

  • Typical Education: Certificate or associate’s
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Commission for Certifying Agencies

Become a Phlebotomist

A phlebotomist is a healthcare professional who specializes in drawing blood from patients. This process, called venipuncture, requires training and experience. Before collecting a sample, a phlebotomist will discuss the procedure with the patient and answer any questions. Once all necessary preparations have been completed, the correct supplies are assembled, and the appropriate technique for obtaining blood is cautiously executed for sampling. 

Phlebotomists also work closely with medical laboratory technicians and hospital staff to provide vital information about patients that help guide physicians in determining diagnoses and treatments.

  • Typical Education: Certificate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Medical Technologists (AMT), National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), or American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification (ASCP-BOC)

Become a Radiologic & MRI Technologist

Radiologic and MRI technologists capture high-quality images to aid doctors diagnosing and treating their patients. This profession requires technical knowledge of medical imaging techniques, equipment operation and quality control procedures, and clinical expertise related to specific patient needs. Performing a variety of diagnostic imaging exams such as X-rays and ultrasounds, radiologic technologists must accurately position patients for scanning and assess the image quality before providers see. 

Additionally, they ensure radiation safety by guarding against overexposure to radiation during any procedure and helping physicians safely administer contrast agents or medications as needed. 

  • Typical Education: Associate’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
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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