Cardiopulmonary Rehab Technician Careers: Salary & Job Description

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Get the truth about a cardiopulmonary rehab technician's salary, training and licensure requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and duties and see the pros and cons of becoming a cardiopulmonary rehab technician.
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Pros and Cons of a Cardiopulmonary Rehab Technician Career

Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation technician, also known as a cardiovascular technician or respiratory therapist, is a highly specialized medical job. Check out the charts below for more details on the pros and cons of a cardiopulmonary rehab technician career.

Pros of a Cardiopulmonary Rehab Technician Career
Employment of cardiovascular technicians is expected to increase by 30% and that of respiratory therapists by 19%, both faster-than-average rates, between 2012 and 2022*
An associate's degree is the standard level of education for an entry-level job*
Prospective cardiopulmonary rehab technicians may take a few different educational paths, including cardiovascular technology and respiratory therapy*
Jobs are available in various settings, including hospitals, specialty rehabilitation centers and diagnostic labs*

Cons of a Cardiopulmonary Rehab Technician Career
Licensure may be required by states, and certification may be required by employers*
Cardiopulmonary technicians may have to work on nights and weekends*
Technicians may have to be on-call to respond to emergencies*
Continuing education may be necessary to maintain licensure and/or certification*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As a cardiopulmonary rehab technician, you'll help treat medical conditions including angina, heart attack, bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis and coronary bypass. Cardiopulmonary rehab technicians conduct diagnostic tests, including electrocardiograms, lung capacity exams, arterial blood gas analysis, cardiac cauterizations and more. Many technicians specialize in multiple types of tests. They may assist physicians in designing medical care plans and helping patients understand their diagnoses and treatments. You may administer positive pressure breathing, spirometer and nebulizer treatments, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and cardiopulmonary drugs to patients in regular check-ups and life-threatening emergencies.

Cardiopulmonary rehab professionals typically work on a team that may include nurses, doctors and exercise physiologists. They often work in hospitals, although positions are also available in doctor's offices, medical laboratories and specialized cardiopulmonary rehabilitation centers.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that promising career growth was expected in this field. A 30% employment increase, adding about 16,000 jobs nationwide, was predicted for cardiovascular technicians and technologists during the 2012-2022 decade. A faster-than-average growth rate of 19% was also projected for respiratory therapists during the same time frame, which equates to approximately 23,000 new jobs.

In 2014, the BLS reported the mean annual wages for these professionals. The yearly salary for cardiovascular technicians and technologists was about $55,000, while that for respiratory therapists was slightly more, at about $58,000. The figures are a bit higher than the national average salary.

Career Skills and Requirements

Education and Training

An associate's degree is the common level of study to enter this field, though bachelor's degree programs also exist. You might consider a cardiovascular technology or respiratory therapy program. Both of these medical fields focus on helping patients with breathing and heart problems. Topics of study in a program may include patient care, cardiology, pulmonary functions, cardiopulmonary pharmacology, diagnostic tests and rehabilitation procedures. Clinical experiences that involve various laboratory rotations are also part of the training. Classes specifically in cardiopulmonary technology may cover anatomy and physiology of the cardiopulmonary systems and medical practices related to these systems.

Skills

Cardiopulmonary rehab technicians must acquire a set of both hard and soft skills. The list below provides some more details on important characteristics of these health care workers:

  • Technical know-how: Cardiovascular rehab technicians carry out various diagnostic tests and operate sophisticated medical equipment.
  • Attention to detail: Medical tests are intricate and require strong focus; many symptoms must be monitored and taken into account when treating patients.
  • Personal communication: Technicians need to explain medical procedures to patients and keep them calm in stressful situations.
  • Endurance: Technicians may be on-call and work long hours to serve in emergencies.
  • Cooperation: Cardiovascular rehab technicians often work on a team of health care professionals and must collaborate to determine best methods for treating patients.

Professional Credentials

Respiratory therapists must be licensed in all states except Alaska. Completing an approved educational program and passing a certification test are common steps in gaining licensure. Since states have varying sets of criteria to meet, you should check with your state's health care licensing department for the official list of requirements. On the other hand, cardiovascular technician isn't a legally regulated profession, though professionals in this field commonly earn certification since many employers mandate it.

What Employers Are Seeking

An online search for job postings in April 2013 revealed that many employers preferred to hire cardiopulmonary rehab technicians with a background in respiratory therapy. Certifications in Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) were also commonly requested. The following list provides summaries of real job openings that can help you know what to expect in the job market.

  • A medical campus in Oregon advertised for a full-time cardiopulmonary technician to work in the respiratory care department performing electrocardiograms, stress tests and other screenings. Applicants needed college training in pulmonary and cardiology diagnostic testing or a year of experience in the field.
  • A Texas medical facility was looking for a certified respiratory therapist to work as a cardiopulmonary technician. The position required independent decision-making skills for best treating and rehabilitating patients, including stroke victims. Applicants needed to be comfortable working with all age groups, from babies to the elderly.
  • A health care center in South Carolina wanted to hire a cardiopulmonary registered respiratory therapist. An associate's degree, state license and 1-2 years of experience were required. The job involved providing oxygen therapy, teaching patients how to live with and treat respiratory problems and educating fellow health care team members about cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.

How to Stand Out in the Field

According to the BLS, individuals with a variety of skills and specialty certifications are best positioned for getting a job. Respiratory therapists who aren't required to become certified on the route to becoming licensed may consider earning two levels of certification offered through the National Board for Respiratory Care, which includes the Certified Respiratory Therapist designation and the more advanced Registered Respiratory Therapist designation. Some examples of certifications available through Cardiovascular Credentialing International include Certified Cardiographic Technician and Certified Rhythm Analysis Technician.

Completing professional development courses or a bachelor's degree program can also tip the employment scales in your favor. Unrelated to proving your capabilities through credentials, applicants who have an open schedule may also be looked upon more favorably since the nature of the job can involve odd and long hours.

Alternative Careers

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

If you'd like to carry out tests to help patients reach a diagnosis, but a more promising career outlook is important to you, becoming a sonographer is a career choice you might consider. Diagnostic medical sonographers manipulate sound waves to produce images of the internal body. Just an associate's degree is necessary to get started in this career, though certification is often necessary. Perks of this field are that a much-faster-than-average 44% increase in employment was predicted over the 2010-2020 decade, adding 23,400 jobs, and that the mean annual wage was $66,360, higher than the national average, as reported by the BLS in May 2012.

Radiation Therapist

If other life commitments make attaining a job with regular work hours and a high salary necessary, but you'd like to be in a position to provide therapy to restore health, radiation therapist is another option. This career doesn't involve so much diagnostic testing and focuses more on operating linear accelerator equipment to give radiation therapy treatments to patients stricken with cancer. You can get a job with an associate's degree, and most states require a license as well. Per the BLS, the 2010-2020 job outlook was 20%, lower than that for cardiopulmonary rehab technicians and diagnostic medical sonographers, but still considered to be a faster-than-average rate compared to all careers nationwide. The reported $80,410 mean salary in 2012 is another strong pro of this career.

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