Become a Cardiac Technician: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a cardiac technician. Research the education and career requirements, certification and experience required for starting a career as a cardiac technician.
Do I Want to Be a Cardiac Technician?
Cardiac technicians, also referred as cardiovascular technicians, prepare patients for cardiac procedures, including electrocardiogram (EKG) and stress tests. In addition to preparing patients for these procedures, technicians also ensure that the equipment is ready for use and cardiologists are familiar with a patient's medical history. Careers are available in hospitals, medical clinics, cardiologists' offices, and other healthcare environments.
Almost all cardiovascular technologists and technicians work full-time. Those that are employed by 24-hour care centers like hospitals and urgent clinics may work evenings, nights, and weekends. Cardiovascular technicians work with patients and may be exposed to infectious diseases. They spend many hours on their feet and may need to physically move or maneuver patients' bodies.
Prospective cardiac technicians typically train on the job or pursue a certificate program. A high school diploma or GED equivalent is often the prerequisite for cardiovascular technology programs at vocational schools or community colleges. High school courses that can help students prepare for this career include biology, physics, chemistry, math and computer science.
While there are no licensing requirements to become a cardiac technician, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that employers may prefer to hire applicants who are certified in the field. The table below includes the requirements to become a cardiac technician.
|Degree Level||Postsecondary certificate*; associate's degree may be required by employers**|
|Degree Name||Cardiovascular technology or related field*|
|Certification||Voluntary professional certification is available and preferred by many employers*|
|Experience||At least one year of experience may be required by employers**|
|Key Skills||Cardiac technicians must be very detail-oriented and have strong interpersonal skills to work with patients*|
|Computer Skills||Ability to use medical, data base user interface and inventory management software***|
|Technical Skills||Cardiac technicians will need to operate complicated cardiac equipment, such as cardiac output monitoring units and defibrillators***|
|Additional Requirements||Basic life support certification may be required by employers**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); **Monster.com job listings (September 2012); ***O*Net Online.
Step 1: Pursue Postsecondary Education
Certificate programs for cardiac technicians typically last one year and include courses in topics like laboratory assisting and health care systems. Students can also train through a cardiovascular technology associate's degree program, which may offer the option to specialize in either invasive or non-invasive tracks. Both tracks will require that students complete coursework and clinical training. Before taking specific invasive or non-invasive cardiovascular technology courses, students will need to complete prerequisite courses in cardiovascular anatomy, pharmacology and electrocardiography.
Courses covered in certificate or degree programs may include ultrasound principles, foundations of cardiac ultrasound, physical principals of cardiovascular technology, foundations of invasive cardiovascular technology and lab work. Programs may also require that students work in a clinical setting under an experienced cardiac technician.
- Complete EKG training. EKGs are one of the most commonly used diagnostic tools in cardiology, and many technicians specialize solely in this procedure. While EKG training can be found in certificate programs, learning how to perform electrocardiograms can also be part of employee training programs.
- Gain related experience. Many employers look for applicants with experience in a related environment, such as an emergency room at a hospital. This can help applicants stand out, as well as meet any experience requirements for certification.
Step 2: Obtain Certification
Before obtaining employment, employers may require that applicants earn basic life support certification through an organization such as the American Health Association. Prospective technicians may also pursue the Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) designation from the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). Obtaining the CCT credential can demonstrate that the professional is proficient in EKG, Holter monitoring and stress testing. In order to become certified, individuals will need to pass an exam that covers topics in cardiovascular anatomy and physiology, stress test techniques, ambulatory monitoring and cardiac medications.
- Consider advanced certification. CCI offer the CCT designation at four different levels. As professionals gain additional experience in the field, they can earn a higher designation.
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