Becoming a Registered Vascular Technologist: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a registered vascular technologist's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a vascular technology career.
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A Registered Vascular Technologist Career: Pros and Cons

Vascular technologists, also known as vascular sonographers, use ultrasound equipment to determine blood flow and pressure in the veins. For more information about the pros and cons of this field, check out the tables below.

Pros of a Registered Vascular Technologist Career
Occupation with fast job growth (30% for all cardiovascular technologists/technicians from 2012-2022)*
Higher than average salary as of May 2014 ($55,210 mean annual wage for all cardiovascular technologists/technicians)*
Relatively short education/training period (2-year associate degree program typical)*
Opportunity to help others on a daily basis*

Cons of a Registered Vascular Technologist Career
May require working irregular hours (nights, weekends and overnight)*
Continuing education required to maintain registered status*
Job requires physical strength and stamina*
Can be challenging working with difficult patients who are stressed or in pain*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Vascular techs can examine the anatomical structure and function of the body's vessels, using ultrasound and non-invasive equipment. They observe the flow of blood within vessels and record images of normal and abnormal blood vessel anatomy. Other types of medical equipment may be used to take additional measurements, but all equipment used is non-invasive. Technologists' time with patients involves collecting information about their medical history and explaining the procedures. They complete vascular procedures and collect data that will be used by a physician to make a diagnosis. Additionally, you may be required to perform emergency procedures, as well as procedures during and after surgery.

Helping people with health conditions can be rewarding, but it can also be a challenge to work with those who are suffering or distressed. In addition, you'll need physical stamina to move or position disabled or ill individuals. Expect to spend most of your time standing. According to the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, vascular technologists spend 80% of their workday on their feet. Hospitals are the top employers of techs, so evening, overnight and weekend schedules are common. You may also have on-call hours.

Salary and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts vascular technologists in with the more inclusive occupation of cardiovascular technologists/technicians. Those employed in this category earned a mean annual wage of about $55,000 in 2014. Looking at some salary figures specific to vascular technologists, PayScale.com data reveals wages ranged from $40,000-$86,000 in July 2015.

The career outlook for cardiovascular technologists, according to the BLS, is strong considering a 2012-2022 projected job growth of 30%. A substantial senior population and the push towards using more non-invasive diagnostic methods play into the demand. An increasing number of physicians' offices will also employ techs, although hospitals will remain the main employer. Though not required by law, becoming certified or registered is considered a necessity by most employers, and it will be important on the job hunt. In fact, some insurance companies won't cover services provided by an uncertified tech. According to the most recent information available from the Society for Vascular Ultrasound, about 1/3 of medical labs hire only registered vascular technologists, or RVTs.

What are the Requirements?

Education and Training

Associate degree programs are the most common type of formal training for vascular techs, although bachelor's degrees are available. Some schools and medical facilities offer certificate programs, but these are designated for those who already have training or experience in another healthcare occupation. Programs cover human anatomy, ultrasound technology and the methods specific to vascular imaging. Clinical experiences in a real medical setting are also important components to formal training.

Certification

To become a RVT, you must complete two examinations offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Inc. (ARDMS). One exam covers sonography principles, while the second focuses specifically on vascular technology. Although there are multiple pathways to ARDMS registration (even for medical doctors or those trained outside the U.S.), you must, in general, complete a formal training program and have at least a year of full-time work experience. However, accredited programs in the field require significant clinical components that count towards the experience requirement. To remain a RVT, you must complete 30 CMEs (continuing medical education) every 3 years.

Additional Qualities and Skills

While having the RVT credential is important to employers, it's also essential to have other attributes and abilities to be successful in this occupation. They include:

  • Patience and compassion
  • Solid math and technical skills (for obtaining measurements, working with scientific data and operating complex equipment)
  • Strong communication skills (for educating patients, writing reports and interacting with other healthcare professionals)
  • Ability to follow detailed instructions and methods (vital for performing imaging studies, following physicians' orders and adhering to strict protocols)

What Real Employers Look For

Employers prefer to hire registered vascular technologists, or at least those with experience and eligibility for registration. The ability to perform a variety of tests and interpersonal and communication skills are important. To get an idea of what RVT jobs entail, below are some real job postings from April 2012:

  • A Texas-based independent medical lab needs a full-time registered vascular technologist. The position requires performing venous, arterial, carotid and visceral examinations. The employer is seeking a tech with experience and the ability to work independently.
  • A state of Washington imaging center is seeking a vascular technologist to work full-time and handle on-call assignments. In addition to performing imaging and Doppler exams, the position requires obtaining patient histories, ordering supplies and assisting physicians with invasive procedures. The employer prefers a technologist with a bachelor's degree and at least a year of relevant work experience. Registration, or eligibility for registration, is required.
  • A North Carolina private practice is hiring a vascular technologist to work in its vascular laboratory. The employer prefers a tech with at least 2 years of experience in vascular testing, as well as experience in performing general ultrasound exams. Candidates should be registered or eligible for registration.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Get Additional Credentials

Becoming registered is already a big step in landing a job since most employers prefer that vascular techs have that credential. You can expand your prospects even more by obtaining additional credentials, according to the BLS. This allows you to apply for multiple jobs within the cardiovascular technology and/or sonography field. ARDMS offers multiple credentials, such as registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer. Because of the organization's many paths to eligibility, you can sit for these exams by gaining a year of full-time experience in your examination area - provided that you have either an allied health associate degree or a bachelor's degree in any field.

Get Involved

You may want to consider joining an established organization in the field, such as the Society for Vascular Ultrasound (SVU). Getting involved in this organization or similar groups gives you access to networking opportunities and ways to stay updated on advancements in vascular technology. Additionally, the SVU has a mentoring program for members and an online job center allowing employers to search profiles of vascular tech students - all of which could come in handy as you're finishing your training program. Continuing medical education opportunities at a discounted rate are part of the membership benefits, which can help you meet your required CMEs for registration.

Other Careers to Consider

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

If you like the prospect of going into other imaging specialties outside of cardiology, look into the diagnostic medical sonographer occupation. In addition to having a very fast 2010-2020 projected job growth of 44%, sonographers earned a mean annual wage of about $66,000, according to 2011 BLS data. Using medical imaging equipment, these healthcare professionals perform ultrasounds on various parts of the body depending on their specialty. For instance, some may focus solely on the female reproductive system, while others may specialize in the nervous system, muscles, abdomen or breasts. Training typically entails completing an associate or bachelor's degree program. A few states require licensure, and employers typically require certification. Hospitals and medical offices are the top employers for sonographers.

Radiologic Technologist

Another allied health career option is becoming a radiologic technologist. These techs also use imaging equipment, but of a different nature. In this field, x-ray, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment is used for diagnostic purposes. You may specialize in performing certain examinations, such as mammograms. Most radiologic technologists work in hospitals followed by physicians' offices. Licensure or certification is required in the majority of states, so you'll need to complete a formal training program. Associate degrees are the most common in this field, although certificates and bachelor's degrees are available. You may see a 2010-2020 employment growth of 28%, which is faster than average compared to other occupations. BLS data reveals radiologic techs earned a mean annual wage of about $57,000 in 2011.

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