Cardiovascular Ultrasound Technologist: Job Description & Requirements

Learn the job duties of cardiovascular ultrasound technologists. Find out the education and skills required to work in this field, as well as some alternative career options.

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Career Information

Cardiovascular ultrasound technologists, also referred to as cardiovascular technologists, use ultrasound equipment to view and take pictures of patients' hearts and circulatory system. They also schedule and perform exams, take patient histories and report results to physicians for interpretation and diagnosis. These technologists look for abnormalities in blood flow sounds or heart rhythm, oxygen saturation and the appearance of heart defects or irregularities. With additional training, cardiovascular ultrasound technologists can perform electrocardiograms (EKGs) and invasive procedures, like cardiac catheterization.

How to Become a Cardiovascular Ultrasound Technician

Required Education

Though some cardiovascular ultrasound technologists are trained on the job, that route is becoming increasingly rare. An associate's degree is the most common education level for this field, although bachelor's degrees are becoming increasingly popular. Some states have licensing requirements, but there is currently not a mandatory nationwide exam. Exam-based certifications are available through Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI), and although it is not required, inclusion in the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) is increasingly preferred by employers.

Skills Required

Cardiovascular ultrasound technologists must be able to accurately translate technical jargon to explain exam procedures and results to patients. Techs must also stay abreast of new processes and technology to be as effective as possible in their careers. Extensive standing, walking, and heavy lifting (of patients and equipment) increase the risk of neck and back strain, which causes some technologists to leave the field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career and Economic Outlook

The BLS projects employment of cardiovascular technicians and technologists, including cardiac ultrasound technologists, will grow at a much-faster-than-average rate of 30% from 2012 to 2022. The median yearly salary for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was reported as $52,070 by the BLS in May 2012, and the highest average salaries were earned by techs in Alaska, New Jersey, and Washington. Career advancement is possible by training for other procedures - including invasive testing - or by moving into an administrative or educational role.

Alternative Career Options

Radiologic Technologist

Like cardiovascular technologists, radiologic technologists produce images, but radiologic technologists use x-ray machines to produce these images of any part of a patient, rather than just the heart. These technologists typically complete an associate's degree program, but some may complete bachelor's degrees. Some states require radiologic technologists to have a license, and licensing regulations vary by state.

In 2012, the median salary for radiologic technologists was $54,620, according to the BLS. The BLS projects that this field will grow at a faster-than-average rate of 21% from 2012 to 2022.

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist

For those who want to work in the medical field but prefer not to work directly with patients, a career in medical laboratory technology might be the right fit. These technologists work in labs and test tissue and fluid samples to detect the presence of illness and disease. Medical laboratory technologists need a bachelor's degree in medical laboratory technology or science. Technologists may be required to obtain a license, depending on the state, and professional certification is sometimes a condition for licensure.

In May 2012, the BLS reported that medical and clinical laboratory technologists had a median annual salary of $57,580. Additionally, the BLS projects that jobs for these technologists will increase by 14% from 2012 to 2022, which is an about-average rate of growth.

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