Becoming a Telemetry Technician: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a telemetry technician career? Read on to see real job descriptions, salary info and career prospects to find out if becoming a telemetry technician is the career choice for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Telemetry Technician

Telemetry technicians are a specific type of cardiovascular technician. They work to monitor heart rhythms in patients with cardiology concerns. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a telemetry technician is right for you:

Pros of Becoming a Telemetry Technician
High growth field (22% increase from 2014-2024)*
Minimum training requirements (4-6 weeks)*
Can work in hospitals, clinics, diagnostic labs and private practices*
Opportunities to make life-saving diagnoses*

Cons of Becoming a Telemetry Technician
Physically demanding job (have to stand for many hours and move patients)*
Possible night and weekend hours*
Employers may require certification*
Potential exposure to biological hazards*

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

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Telemetry is the science of gathering information remotely. In the medical field, this translates into an electrocardiogram device attached to a patient that transmits information about the patient's heart rhythm. This technology is used mostly in cardiology and intensive care departments. Some hospitals may have their own cardiac telemetry unit. As a telemetry technician, your job is to place the device on the patient, monitor the information gathered and maintain the machines. You alert other cardiac unit staff to changes or abnormalities in the patient's heart rhythm and help make diagnoses or change treatment plans.

Telemetry is also used in other scientific fields, though the personnel using the technology usually have other job titles. For instance, scientists studying wildlife often tag animals and then remotely gather information about their habits in the wild. Biological technicians and wildlife biologists use telemetry to learn about how animals act in their natural habitats. Telemetry is also used in communications from spacecraft, delivering information about extraterrestrial locations to scientists on earth.

Salary Info and Career Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2014 that cardiovascular technologists and technicians, a group that includes telemetry technicians, made a median annual wage of about $54,000 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected a 22% employment increase for this group in the decade from 2014-2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. As the population ages, more people will require the diagnostic procedures performed by cardiovascular technicians. Faster growth may be seen in doctors' offices and outpatient facilities as the healthcare industry shifts toward less hospital-based care. Cardiovascular technicians with the ability to perform multiple types of procedures, not just telemetry monitoring, may find the best employment opportunities.

Education and Training Requirements

There are various levels of education and training from which you can choose to begin work as a telemetry technician. Electrocardiogram (EKG) technicians, who work with the technology used in telemetry, are sometimes trained on the job for 4-6 weeks. There are also certificate programs in EKG and telemetry available which can take about a year to complete. Cardiovascular technicians typically have completed an associate's degree program that includes multiple cardiovascular technology techniques. Cardiovascular technologists usually have bachelor's degrees in the field. Whichever path you choose, you should look for a program that provides hands-on practice with real patients in order to gain experience performing telemetry monitoring and EKG tests to recognize cardiac arrhythmia.

If you're interested in working with telemetry technology outside of the medical profession, you may want to begin a career as a biological or wildlife technician. Most biological technicians have a bachelor's degree in biology or a related life science. You should take classes that provide you with laboratory experience in order to be well-equipped to start working in the field. If you're more interested in telemetry in space communications, you could study physics, astronomy or engineering for your undergraduate degree.

What Employers Are Looking for

While some employers may want you to have completed a training program before you begin work, others may offer to train you if you have a high school diploma. Check out these summaries of job postings open in May 2012 to get an idea of what some employers may be looking for:

  • A hospital in New Jersey was looking to hire a telemetry monitor technician who had a high school diploma or equivalent, CPR certification, completed a dysrhythmia recognition course and received a perfect score on the dysrhythmia exam.
  • A university healthcare system in Utah was searching for a telemetry monitor technician with one year of experience and basic life support certification. The employer preferred a candidate with certification.
  • A hospital in New York was looking for a telemetry technician with a high school diploma, one year of experience and completion of EKG interpretation training. This position was for the night shift.

How to Stand Out in the Field

One way to demonstrate your ability and knowledge of EKG tests and telemetry is to obtain a professional certification, which is sometimes preferred or required by employers. The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) offers the Certified EKG Technician designation for which you're eligible to test after completing a training program or after gaining one year of experience in the field. Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) offers the Certified Rhythm Analysis Technician (CRAT) and Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) certifications which you can qualify for by meeting a combination of experience, education and exam requirements. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) designation in adult, fetal or pediatric echocardiography.

In addition to certification in EKG technology, you may want to learn how to perform other cardiovascular diagnostic techniques, such as sonography, or invasive techniques like cardiac catheterization. If you choose an associate's or bachelor's degree in cardiovascular technology, you may learn these procedures during your studies. Or you may learn these skills on the job while working in a cardiac unit.

Alternative Careers

If you're interested in a diagnostic healthcare career but would like to work in more than just cardiology, you could become a radiologic technologist. Working with x-ray technology, radiologic technologists create images that help doctors make diagnoses and devise treatment plans. Radiologic technologists attend training programs that last 1-4 years. Some states require you to be licensed to work with x-rays. The BLS reported in May 2011 that radiologic technologists and technicians made a median annual wage of about $55,000, and that employment for this group is projected to increase by 28% from 2010-2020.

If you think you'd like to work in healthcare but want a more comprehensive role, consider a career as a nurse. Nurses attend diploma, associate's or bachelor's programs and, after gaining licensure, can work in almost any area of healthcare. They provide patient care while working closely with doctors and other healthcare staff. The BLS reported in May 2011 that registered nurses made a median annual salary of about $66,000. Employment for registered nurses is projected to increase by 26% in the decade from 2010-2020.

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Capella University

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Southern New Hampshire University

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Ashford University

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Saint Joseph's University

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Northcentral University

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