PROS and CONS of a Certified Cardiographic Technician Career
Certified cardiographic technicians - one of several in the group of professionals known as cardiovascular technologists and technicians - specialize in electrocardiography (EKG). Reading the pros and cons of becoming a certified cardiographic technician may help you decide if this is the career you want.
|PROS of Being a Certified Cardiographic Technician|
|Faster-than-average job growth (expected job growth of 30% between 2012 and 2022)*|
|Technical training or on-the-job training sufficient for entry-level positions*|
|Can work in various medical settings*|
|Opportunity to work all over the country*|
|CONS of Being a Certified Cardiographic Technician|
|Low salary (median annual salary of near $41,000)*|
|May be required to stand for extended periods*|
|Heavy lifting may be required*|
|Hours may include evenings, weekends or holidays*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description and Duties
Cardiographic technicians, also called electrocardiograph or EKG technicians, are professionals who specialize in performing electrocardiograph procedures. EKGs are usually done prior to a surgical procedure to determine if there are any cardiac issues and often as part of a routine physical examination. EKG technicians attach electrodes to different parts of a patient's body and adjust settings on an EKG machine to get an accurate reading, which is printed out for the physician to see. Cardiographic technicians who have obtained additional training can perform Holter monitor and stress testing.
To perform Holter monitor testing, the technician attaches a portable EKG monitor around the patient's belt and attaches electrodes to the patient's chest; this stays in place for 24 hours. After 24 hours, the technician looks at the recorded impulses on a monitor and prints them out for the physician to interpret. When performing the treadmill stress test, the technician connects the patient to an EKG monitor and gradually increases the speed, while monitoring the patient's heart performance. In addition to performing these non-invasive procedures, EKG technicians explain the procedures to the patients and document their medical records.
Job Growth and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did not have the specific employment outlook for certified cardiographic technicians; however, the organization did report that the employment of cardiovascular technologists and technicians was projected to increase 30% between 2012 and 2022. The best employment opportunities would be for technicians and technologists trained in several procedures and holding multiple certifications. PayScale.com reported that EKG monitor technicians earned a median annual salary of about $41,000 as of September 2015.
Education and Training Requirements
What Employers Are Looking for
Candidates who prefer academic training as opposed to on-the-job training can often find certificate or associate's degree programs offered at technical schools and community colleges. The curriculum includes coursework and clinical education, which may be in the form of internships and externships at local hospitals or medical facilities. Students may take courses in medical terminology, diagnostics, stress testing, ECG surveillance, monitoring telemetry units and electrocardiography procedures. Upon completing the trainings, EKG techs may sit for certification exams.
Job Postings from Real Employers
- A medical health provider is seeking an experienced cardiac technician to work in their Los Angeles location. A high school diploma is required, and applicants must be knowledgeable at interpreting EKGs and have at least one year of experience on the job.
- A Los Angeles medical facility is looking for a cardiac monitor/EKG technician to work all shifts, including weekends and holidays. Candidates must have at least one year of experience and knowledge of EKG monitoring/interpretation, event recorders and Holter monitors. Job duties include editing and interpreting EKG rhythm tracings, documenting patient concerns and notifying doctors of cardiac concerns. Applicants must have technical training in EKG monitoring or medical assisting, strong computer skills and certified cardiac technician certification.
- A cardiac monitor/EKG technician is needed to work for a Texas healthcare industry. Applicants must have training in EKG monitoring, knowledge of HIPAA guidelines, medical ethics, EKG monitoring and Holter monitors. Job duties include educating patients on using event monitors, solving problems with monitor use, answering patients' questions, interpreting EKGs and documenting patient records.
Top Skills for Certified Cardiographic Technicians
In addition to having training and certification, cardiac technicians should possess these skills to help them be successful in this career.
- Good communication skills
- Ability to work independently
- Capability of standing for extended periods
- Excellent computer skills
- Must have mechanical aptitude
- Skills to put patients at ease
How Can I Stand Out?
Completing a formal training program or on-the-job training will provide you with the skills to seek an entry-level position as a cardiographic technician. However, to be competitive in the job market, you may want to obtain as much training as possible, as well as certifications.
Although certification may be voluntary, many employers prefer to hire applicants who are certified because it demonstrates proficiency and commitment to the profession. Eligible applicants can obtain the certified cardiographic technician (CCT) credential through the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) or the certified EKG technician (CET) designation through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) also offers certification to EKG technicians. To be eligible to sit for the exams, you need to meet educational and/or work experience requirements.
Continuing education is usually required to maintain certification. It's also a good way to keep up with technology and put yourself in the best position for career advancements. Technicians often advance to technologist positions with additional training, and technologists may become supervisors. Cardiographic techs who obtain training to perform stress tests and Holter monitoring, along with certifications, may find better career opportunities.
Alternative Career Paths
Radiologic technologists perform x-rays on patients and work in hospitals and medical facilities. While opportunities are available to specialize in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT), all radiologic technologists are responsible for preparing patients for the procedure and position them to get the proper image. To work as a technologist, you need to complete at least an associate's degree in radiologic technology. According to the BLS, jobs in this field are expected to grow 28% from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average. In 2011, the salary for a radiologic technologist was $55,100, reported the BLS.
Diagnostic medical sonographer
If a career where you can assist in diagnosing and treating patients interests you, you may also consider becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer. Unlike cardiographic technicians who can receive on-the-job training, sonographers are typically required to complete 2-year programs and become registered. As a sonographer, you'll be able to choose from several areas of specialization, such as breast sonography, abdominal sonography, obstetrical sonography and neurosonography. According to the BLS, diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median annual wage of about $64,000 - substantially higher than cardiographic technicians.