Echocardiogram Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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An echocardiogram technician's mean annual salary is about $55,000, but is it worth the training requirements? Get the truth about job duties and career prospects to decide if this is the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career As an Echocardiogram Technician

Echocardiogram technicians, also known as echocardiographers or cardiac sonographers, use ultrasound equipment to obtain images of a patient's heart and blood vessels for diagnostic purposes. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of this career to make an informed career decision.

Pros of a Career As an Echocardiogram Technician
High estimated job growth (predicted to grow by 39% from 2012-2022)*
Higher-than-average salary (mean annual wage of around $55,000 as of 2014)*
Several educational paths from which to choose, including 1-, 2- and 4-year programs*
No radiation is involved***

Cons of a Career as an Echocardiogram Technician
Work on your feet for long periods*
Must be able to move or lift patients*
May have to work weekend, evening or overnight shifts*
Work in some high-stress situations**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **O NET OnLine, ***American Society of Echocardiography (ASE)

Career Information

Job Duties

Echocardiogram technicians use imaging technology to examine the heart's vessels, valves and chambers so that a physician can make a diagnostic assessment. Your first task as an echocardiogram technician might be to ask the patient some questions and explain the procedure. Sometimes a patient may need assistance getting onto the exam table. Then, you attach electrodes to his or her chest with medical tape. You use a special gel and slide a device like a microphone, called a transducer, over the patient's chest. The reflected sound waves from the device make a live picture of the heart and valves on a monitor.

At times, you make marks on the monitor with computer calipers to measure the function, size and blood flow of the heart. You might need to re-position a patient during a heart ultrasound to get different views. Sometimes, you confer with your supervisor or a doctor during the procedure. Finally, you remove the electrodes from the patient's chest, wipe the ultrasound gel off the skin and possibly help the patient off the exam table. The images that you recorded are submitted to a cardiologist for interpretation.

Salary

According to the BLS, echocardiography is a specialty that falls under the professional umbrella of cardiovascular technologists and technicians. In May 2014, the BLS reported a mean annual wage of approximately $54,000 for individuals working in these occupations. At that time, the top-paying industries included offices of dentists, physicians and other health practitioners, management of companies and enterprises, and employment services. The top-paying states in 2013 included Alaska, Massachusetts, New Jersey, District of Columbia and Rhode Island.

Requirements

Aspiring echocardiogram technicians can start preparing in high school by taking courses in mathematics, physiology and anatomy. Upon high school graduation, several different educational paths can prepare you for the profession. In some cases, you might be able to earn a position through on-the-job training, although many employers prefer to hire candidates with some postsecondary education. Certificate and associate's degree programs are common in this field; bachelor's degree programs are available as well. Your program will likely include classroom-based sessions and a clinical component in an imaging laboratory, hospital or physician's office.

In addition to technical knowledge, you need to have a good eye for detail. Communication skills are also essential; echocardiogram technicians spend a lot of time interacting with patients.

Certification and Registration

Certification and registration may not be required, but they are preferred by many employers. In addition, some insurance carriers only pay for procedures provided by technicians with these credentials. Voluntary registration is available through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS); Cardiovascular Credentialing International offers certification.

In order to earn professional credentials, you often need to complete an accredited program and pass specific exams; experience is sometimes a valid substitute for education. You need to earn continuing education credits in order to maintain your credentials.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Most employers look for technicians who are graduates of accredited echocardiography programs and have at least one year of experience. Professional credentials are sometimes required as well. Take a look at a few real job postings from April 2012:

  • A health system in Illinois is looking for a part-time echo tech to perform echocardiograms and other noninvasive diagnostic cardiac tests. Applicants must be graduates of an accredited echo program or have two years of on-the-job training and experience. They should also have adult registration or be pursuing registration.
  • A hospital in Maine seeks an experienced adult echocardiographer. This job is per diem or as needed. Qualified applicants should have 1-2 years of experience and registration.
  • A hospital in Pennsylvania seeks full-time echocardiography technologists. Job duties include preparing patients, performing studies with maximum quality results, maintaining equipment and entering data in computer systems. Candidates should have completed an accredited ultrasound program, at least one year of echocardiography experience and the ARDMS principles and instrumentation exam. The registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer (RDCS) credential is also required. A bachelor's degree is preferred.

How to Stand Out in Your Field

According to the BLS in 2010, applicants who hold multiple professional credentials and have training in a variety of procedures will have the best job prospects. In addition, if you're willing to work irregular hours or to relocate, you might have better opportunities.

Related Careers to Consider

Radiation Therapist

If you'd like to earn an even higher salary and don't mind working with radiation, this career might be for you. As a radiation therapist, you treat diseases like cancer by giving patients radiation treatments. An associate's degree is required, and you could earn a mean annual wage of about $79,000, according to 2011 stats from the BLS. The number of employed radiation therapists is expected to grow 20% from 2010-2020.

Respiratory Therapist

In this field, you take care of patients with breathing problems, such as asthma or emphysema. You might also provide emergency care for victims of strokes, heart attacks, drownings or shock. An associate's degree is required, and the mean annual wage is around $56,000, according to the BLS in May 2011. Employment in the profession is predicted to grow 28% between 2010 and 2020.

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Keiser University

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Saint Joseph's University

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Grand Canyon University

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