Cardiac Diagnostic Technician Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a cardiac diagnostic technician? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a cardiac diagnostic technician is right for you.
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A Cardiac Diagnostic Technician Career: Pros and Cons

Cardiac technicians work with cardiologists to diagnose and treat heart and blood vessel conditions. Read the pros and cons to decide if you want to become a cardiac technician.

Pros of a Cardiac Diagnostic Technician Career
Two years of advanced education can be enough for many jobs*
Field with high job growth (30% increase from 2012-2022)*
Salaries are good for a job without a baccalaureate degree (up to $55,000, on average, in 2014)*
Job variety increases with specializations*

Cons of a Cardiac Diagnostic Technician Career
Most employers require certifications beyond formal education*
Long hours, usually spent walking and standing*
Night, weekend and on-call hours may be required*
Radiation exposure possible*

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

Job Description and Salary Info

Cardiac technicians are responsible for supporting cardiologists during cardiac testing and procedures, as well as for documenting patient data. You could work in a lab, hospital or for a private practice cardiologist. Cardiac technicians perform EKG testing, which is used to observe a patient's heart rhythms through electrical impulses; the results are then interpreted by a cardiologist.

Beyond knowing how to do EKG tests, you can specialize in cardiac stress testing. During a stress test, the patient's history is recorded, as well as baseline blood pressure and heart rate. The procedure is explained and the patient is placed on a treadmill, while you monitor the patient's cardiac rhythms. You can also become trained to use a Holter monitor, which is an ambulatory monitor that continually traces a patient's cardiac rhythms throughout the day.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for cardiovascular technicians, as well as technologists, were expected to increase 30% from 2012-2022. The demand for cardiac technicians with expertise in diagnostic imaging, especially those who are certified, should continue to be high as the population ages. The BLS reported that as of May 2014, 75% of cardiac technicians and technologists worked in hospitals; in May 2014, cardiovascular technicians and technologists earned an average salary of $55,210 per year.

Career Skills and Education Requirements

Prospective cardiac technicians will often need to earn a 2-year associate's degree in cardiovascular technology. However, EKG, Holter monitoring and stress testing certificate programs are widely available at community colleges and technical schools. Many employers will train current employees, such as nursing assistants, to become cardiac technicians.

Useful Skills

You must be able to interpret and discuss medical terminology with doctors and other staff and communicate testing procedures to patients. Below are some other skills needed for the job.

  • Friendly demeanor and a knack for comforting anxious patients
  • Team-player, since you generally work closely with other medical professionals
  • Physically able to stand and walk for many hours a day, as well as lift heavy equipment and patients
  • Able to handle the stress of critically ill patients and possible life-or-death situations

Jobs Posted by Real Employers

According to current job postings, cardiac technicians should generally have some education through a cardiac technician program, as well as experience in noninvasive cardiac procedures. Employers might require that you have Basic Life Support certification, which includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training. Here are some examples of cardiac technician jobs posted during February 2012:

  • A hospital in New Jersey is seeking a cardiac technician to perform stress testing, ECG and Holter monitoring. Applicants should have knowledge about heart disease and arrhythmias.
  • A medical center in suburban Chicago, IL is looking for an ECG technician with experience in Holter monitors, event monitors and CPR. The applicant should have a 2-year degree in sonography, Basic Life Support certification, and three or more years of experience, with some of it being in neonatal or pediatric care. The employer prefers to hire someone with American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) certification.
  • An ECG technician is needed at a hospital in North Carolina to perform ECG, EKG and stress tests. The employer is looking for applicants with Basic Life Support certification who have received training in ultrasound, EKG and test interpretation through a college-level cardiac rotation. Hires are expected to pursue further education during employment.

Standing Out from the Crowd

While some employers provide on-the-job training for cardiac technicians, you may need Basic Life Support certification to get hired. You might also want to earn certification in various cardiac specialties. Cardiac Credentialing International (CCI) offers Certified Cardiographic Technician and Certified Rhythm Analysis Technician certifications. ARDMS provides certification for the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer.

Other Careers to Consider

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Nuclear medicine technologists can specialize in nuclear cardiology, which uses myocardial perfusion imaging to view the heart. Certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available. Many employers want you to become certified in radiology or nuclear medicine. Some states require licensure to work as a nuclear medicine technologist. In May 2011, the BLS reported that nuclear medicine technologists earned an average annual salary of $70,000.

Cardiovascular Nurse

If you want to work with cardiac patients, you might consider becoming a cardiovascular nurse. Cardiovascular nurses often work for intensive care units and cardiac catheterization labs. You must complete an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing exam to become a registered nurse (RN); you may also need state licensure. Cardiovascular nurses often begin as floor nurses, and move into the cardiac specialty through employer training. The BLS indicated in May 2011 that the mean salary for an RN was $69,000 per year.

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