Cardiac Rehabilitation Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about careers in cardiac rehabilitation. Get job descriptions, salary information and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career in cardiac rehabilitation.
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Pros and Cons of Working in Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation refers to a medical process focused on the restoration of the physical, social and psychological functioning of a patient who suffered from a cardiac illness. Compare the professions in this field with the chart below.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Dietician Healthcare Social Worker
Career Overview Occupational therapy assistants help patients recover the skills needed for day-to-day living. Dieticians help people develop or maintain a healthy lifestyle by way of proper nutrition. Healthcare social workers address psychosocial problems and issues that inhibit rehabilitation.
Education Requirements Associate's degree Bachelor's degree Master's degree
Program Length Two years full-time Four years full-time Two years full-time (after earning bachelor's degree)
Additional Training Clinical fieldwork training required in program Internship required during program or following graduation 3,000 hours of supervised training required following graduation
Certification and Licensing Most states require licensure; voluntary certification is available Most states require licensure; voluntary certification is available Licensure required
Job Outlook for 2014-2024 Much faster than average (43%) compared to all occupations* Much faster than average (16%) compared to all occupations* Much faster than average (19%) compared to all occupations*
Mean Annual Salary (2014) $29,040* $57,440* $53,590*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Working under the supervision of occupational therapists as part of a cardiac rehabilitation team, occupational therapy assistants administer hands-on therapeutic measures. The purpose of these treatments is to help patients develop or recover the physical skills needed in everyday living and working situations in the efforts to recover from cardiac illnesses or procedures.

Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupational therapy assistants must hold an associate's degree, and most states require OTAs to be licensed. In order to become licensed, the degree program you select must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Licensure candidates must also pass an exam, and some states require license maintenance via continuing education.

Below are some examples of employment ads for occupational therapy assistants that ran in January 2013:

  • A healthcare staffing company in Oklahoma was looking for individuals to apply for a number of occupational therapy assistant positions. Candidates were to be certified and have accumulated at least one year of qualifying work experience. The position involved travel assignments of 4-16 weeks in duration.
  • A Tennessee therapy company wanted to hire a full-time occupational therapy assistant. Candidates were to be certified and state licensed as well as able to pass all required physical assessments, including the Mantoux tuberculin screening test.
  • A veteran affairs department in Alabama sought a full-time occupational therapy assistant who was a U.S. citizen and held the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) designation. Candidates were to have accumulated at least one year of work experience in occupational therapy assistance.

Standing Out

While certification is voluntary, you can distinguish yourself from the competition by obtaining professional credentials. The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy awards the COTA designation to candidates with occupational therapy associate's degrees who have completed all required field work and passed a certification exam. You may also separate yourself from others in your line of work by continuing your education toward a bachelor's or master's degree. According to the BLS and the AOTA, there are a number of schools that offer bridge education programs for OTAs who wish to become occupational therapists.

Dietician

Dieticians are also referred to as nutritionists. They assess patients' needs, then provide advice and develop dietary plans based on their assessments in order to help incorporate a balanced food regimen. This holistic approach to treatment can aid in the progress of cardiac rehabilitation in areas such as vitamin, mineral, protein and fat intake, cholesterol control, blood pressure control and weight reduction. It also provides ongoing therapeutic benefits that can increase recovery speed and help maintain wellness and a healthy lifestyle.

Requirements

The BLS maintains that most dieticians or nutritionists hold a bachelor's degree and have served an internship upon completion of their program or received a period of supervised training as part of their program. The BLS also states that many dieticians go on to earn a graduate degree. Most states require dieticians to be licensed. You can take your first step toward licensure by making certain that your degree program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. You must then sit for the certification examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Those who pass the exam are awarded the Registered Dietician (RD) credential, which can qualify you for licensure in many states. Note that other states require that you sit for a similar, but independent, state-administered examination.

Here is what some employers were looking for in January 2013:

  • An Oregon senior care provider was looking for a dietician to act as a part-time consultant. Candidates were to hold at least a bachelor's degree in dietetics, nutrition or a related area and were to be RDs with at least two years of experience in a hospital, clinic or geriatric rehab setting.
  • A recovery care firm in Mississippi was seeking a director of dining and nutrition services. Candidates were to be RDs with at least one year of qualifying work experience in long term care as well as eligible to be state-certified as a dietary manager.
  • An Arizona community health center wanted to hire a full-time dietician. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree in human nutrition and have at least two years of work experience in public health nutrition or clinical nutrition. Candidates were to be certified RDs and preferably bilingual in English and Spanish.

Standing Out

In states that don't require licensure, dieticians can gain an edge over the competition by obtaining RD certification voluntarily in order to demonstrate commitment to the profession. Since a bachelor's degree is generally accepted as the minimum education requirement, you might further distinguish yourself by earning a master's degree. Additionally, you may find that becoming CDR-certified in one or more additional specialties, as they apply to the area of cardiac rehabilitation, may work to your advantage. For example, the CDR offers certification in pediatric, gerontological and other nutrition specialties.

Social Worker

Healthcare social workers help patients deal with and adjust to physical, psychological and social problems. They may also contribute to the diagnosis and treatment of issues stemming from cardiac illnesses and rehabilitation. These workers provide psychosocial support, education, referrals, advice and counseling to patients and patients' families in order to help them adapt to the realities of rehabilitation.

Requirements

Though a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for some direct-service social work positions, you'll need a graduate degree in order to become a clinical social worker, which falls into the realm of cardiac rehabilitation social work. All states require clinical social workers to be licensed, though some exemptions may be allowed for those employed by government agencies.

To be eligible for licensure as a clinical social worker, you must have a master's degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). You must also accumulate two years or 3,000 hours of supervised, postgraduate clinical experience before sitting for a certification examination. Examinations are administered by the Association of Social Work Boards.

Here are some examples of what employers were seeking in January 2013:

  • A senior care facility in Michigan was looking for a medical social worker. Candidates were to hold a master's degree in social work through a CSWE-accredited program. Candidates were to be board certified or licensed in Michigan and have accumulated at least one year of social work experience, preferably in the area of home care.
  • A Nevada home healthcare firm was seeking a part-time medical social worker. Candidates were to hold a master's degree in social work and be licensed to practice as a clinical social worker in Nevada. It was preferred that candidates have at least one year of qualifying work experience in a home healthcare setting. The position also required passage of a physical within the previous six months and a tuberculosis screening within the previous year as well as current CPR certification.
  • A firm providing medical specialty services to government departments wanted to hire a full-time social worker to operate out of a military installation in Florida. Candidates were to hold a master's degree in social work through a CSWE-accredited program and an unrestricted license as a clinical social worker issued by any state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Candidates were to have accumulated two years of clinical, independent social work experience out of the last five years.

Standing Out

Social workers interested in the healthcare field can prepare for this profession by learning about the technology commonly used in the career. For example, these workers often use medical software, like automated clinical information systems and healthcare databases. Healthcare social workers might also benefit from joining a professional organization. The CSWE offers individual memberships that provide access to publication subscriptions, annual meetings and networking opportunities.

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George Mason University

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American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

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The George Washington University

  • Graduate Certificate in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management

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Kaplan University

  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Master: Nursing/Nurse Administrator
  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin

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Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • MBA: Health Systems Management
  • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care

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Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

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Steiner Education Group

  • Massage Therapy

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Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management

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