The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Cardiologist Technician
Cardiologist technicians, more commonly known as cardiovascular technicians, aid physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disorders. Read on for pros and cons to help you decide if this career is for you.
|Pros of Becoming a Cardiologist Technician|
|Jobs projected to increase much faster than average, at a rate of 30% from 2012-2022*|
|An associate's degree program is usually the only education needed*|
|Good salary ($55,000 average in 2014)*|
|Opportunity to help people with cardiovascular conditions*|
|Cons of Becoming a Cardiologist Technician|
|May need to lift or turn patients*|
|Working nights and weekends may be required*|
|Professional certification is preferred by most employers, which requires continuing education to maintain*|
|May need to be on your feet for long periods of time*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Cardiologist technicians prepare patients for heart tests, such as stress tests and electrocardiogram (EKG) tests, and monitor patients' heart rates during these procedures. They also maintain and operate test equipment, adjust controls during tests, take patients' medical histories and analyzing diagnostic images. Other duties include recording findings and discussing imaging results with physicians. Most cardiologist technicians work in hospitals, but work can also be found in medical laboratories, outpatient care centers and doctors' offices.
As a cardiologist technicians, you could help physicians perform invasive or non-invasive procedures. Cardiologist technicians who work in invasive cardiology assist during procedures that involve inserting catheters and probes into a patient's body. One such procedure is known as balloon angioplasty, which is a nonsurgical way of removing blockages in blood vessels using a catheter. Non-invasive cardiology means that no catheters or other devices are inserted into the body, and it includes procedures such as EKG and ultrasound testing.
Salary and Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the mean annual wage of cardiovascular technicians was $55,000 in 2014. Employment in this field was projected to increase by around 30% between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than average for all occupations. You may experience better job prospects if you are certified in more than one specialty.
What Are the Requirements?
Most cardiologist technicians enter the field with an associate's degree, but 4-year degree programs are also available. If you already have experience working in a related healthcare profession, you may consider a 1-year certificate program in cardiovascular technology. The curriculum for an associate's degree program may include classes in pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, EKG interpretation and medical terminology. Most programs also include a clinical training component in which you gain practical skills in a clinical setting.
Actual Job Postings from Employers
When seeking employment, you may find that some jobs require experience with specific procedures, professional certification and CPR certification. Employers may also look for computer skills. The following are examples of real job postings found in March 2012.
- A hospital in New Jersey is seeking a full-time cardiologist technician to perform different types of stress tests. Duties include setting up, maintaining and monitoring equipment; ensuring that adequate inventory is maintained; and following proper infection control procedures. A high school diploma and a technical school certificate in medical assisting or ECHO cardiography are required, as is experience with stress test equipment and computer systems.
- A medical center in Georgia has a full-time job opening for a cardiovascular technologist to manage patient care during procedures. The technologist will be responsible for educating patients, organizing equipment and collaborating with other health professionals. Requirements for this position include basic and advanced cardiovascular life support certifications, as well as Certified Cardiovascular Technician, Registered Respiratory Therapist or Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist credentials. At least two years of experience in percutaneous coronary intervention is also required.
- A healthcare services agency in Florida has full- and part-time positions for EKG technicians and cardiac monitoring technicians to work in a cardiac monitoring call center. Proficiency in computer operation, data entry and typing are required, along with good customer service skills and the ability to interpret EKG data.
How to Stand Out
Join a Professional Organization
After completing education requirements, you can improve your chances of obtaining a well-paying job by taking steps to make yourself stand out. One way to do this is to join one or more professional organizations, such as the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals, the American Society of Echocardiography or the Heart Rhythm Society. Membership in such an organization demonstrates dedication to your profession that can impress a prospective employer. In addition, professional organizations offer a number of benefits to their members, including:
- Newsletters and other publications
- Job postings
- Member discounts on products and courses
- Networking opportunities
- Continuing education opportunities
Obtaining professional credentials can make you stand out in the job market and increase your value to an employer. The BLS states that employers may prefer to hire technicians who are certified and that insurance providers may only pay for procedures performed by certified technicians. It also mentions that technicians who have earned multiple certifications and are trained in multiple procedures may experience the best job prospects. One organization that offers professional certification is Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). Some of the credentials you can obtain from CCI are the Certified Rhythm Analysis Technician, Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist and Registered Cardiac Electrophysiology Specialist designations. Continuing education is usually required to maintain certification.
Other Career Paths
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
If you're interested in the medical field but running cardiovascular tests doesn't appeal to you, a career in diagnostic medical sonography might be a better fit. Diagnostic medical sonographers operate ultrasound equipment that transmits sound waves into targeted parts of a patient's body to create a diagnostic image. You could specialize in creating images of specific areas of the body, such as the breasts, abdomen or musculoskeletal system. You could enter this career after earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography. Professional certification is not required, but the BLS mentions that most employers prefer to hire certified sonographers. According to the BLS, diagnostic medical sonographers earned a mean annual wage of $66,000 in 2011, and jobs were projected to increase by 44% between 2010 and 2020.
If treating cancer patients is what appeals to you, consider becoming a radiation therapist. Radiation therapists operate x-ray machines to determine the locations of cancerous tumors and use radiation to shrink cancer cells. An associate's or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy is usually required to obtain employment. Licensure is also required in most states. Although exposure to radiation is a possibility if proper protocol isn't followed, radiation therapists earn substantially more than cardiologist technicians. The BLS reported that the mean annual wage was $79,000 in 2011, and employment in the field was expected to increase by 20% between 2010 and 2020.