Pros and Cons of an Echocardiology Technician Career
Echocardiology technicians, also known as cardiac sonographers or echocardiographers, use ultrasound technology to create images of patients' hearts for diagnostic purposes. Check out these pros and cons to see if a career as an echocardiology technician is right for you:
|Pros of an Echocardiology Technician Career|
|High-growth field (30% increase from 2012-2022)*|
|Two years required education*|
|Employment is available in all types of medical facilities*|
|Opportunities to work with patients in all stages of life**|
|Cons of an Echocardiology Technician Career|
|Potential physical stress*|
|Possible weekend, evening or on-call hours*|
|Requires an excellent bedside manner*|
|May require registration for licensure**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Society of Echocardiography
Essential Career Info
There are many kinds of cardiovascular technicians and diagnostic medical sonographers, but as an echocardiology technician, you would use ultrasound technology, or high-frequency sound waves, to create a visual image of a patient's heart. Because of the close and direct contact during a scan, which may take up to an hour, you need to be able to calmly and congenially interact with the patient under your care. You may also have light administrative and cleaning duties, cataloging the images you gather and sterilizing the equipment you use.
Salary and Career Prospects
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2014 that cardiovascular technicians and technologists made a median annual wage of $54,330. More specifically, Salary.com reported in August 2015 that echocardiograph technicians made a median annual wage of $68,112. From 2012-2022, the BLS projected an employment increase of 30% for cardiovascular technicians and technologists, mostly due to an active aging population with higher susceptibility to blood clots and tumors. The use of ultrasound technology is generally becoming more prevalent as a cost-effective alternative to invasive procedures.
Education and Training Requirements
An associate's degree in cardiovascular technology is the typical path of entry for echocardiology technicians. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits programs in cardiovascular technology, including those that concentrate on adult or pediatric echocardiography. Some programs, which typically combine classroom learning with practical clinical experience, may cover multiple cardiovascular techniques while others focus only on ultrasound.
What Employers Are Looking For
Because patients may be at a higher risk for cardiac arrest, many employers require you to be CPR certified. They may also require a certification in cardiography. Some echocardiology positions are part-time. Read these summaries of job postings open in March 2012 to get an idea of what types of jobs may be available:
- A hospital in California was looking to hire an echo technician with two years of experience and CPR certification for part-time work and some on-call hours.
- A hospital in Tennessee wanted an echocardiographer with five years of experience and a certification in echocardiography.
- A children's hospital in Connecticut was looking for an echo tech with an associate's degree, three years of experience and certification eligibility.
How to Stand Out in the Field
Although certification or registration is not mandated, some states may require echocardiology technicians to have a professional credential. Check with your state's board for specific information. Even if you don't need a certification, many employers prefer it. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography offers the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonography designation, which is awarded after you have qualified for and passed the general sonography exam and the specialty exam in adult, fetal or pediatric echocardiography. Cardiac Credentialing International offers the Registered Cardiac Sonographer designation, for which you must meet education and experience requirements before taking the exam.
Expand Your Skills
While you may be able to find a full-time position as an echocardiology technician, some areas may only offer part-time work. If you are able to perform multiple diagnostic sonography techniques, you may be able to supplement your cardiography work and create a full-time schedule. You could train in vascular technology or prenatal sonography, both of which use the same technology as cardiography. Some cardiovascular technology degree programs may cover all of these or more, which would expand your skill set at the outset of your career.
Other Careers to Consider
If you're interested in diagnostic imaging but aren't sure about the level of direct patient contact in sonography, you could consider becoming a radiologic technician. Radiologic technicians use technologies like x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to create images for diagnostic purposes. As with echo techs, you'd need to attend a 2-year associate's degree program. The BLS reported in May 2011 that radiologic technicians and technologists made a median annual wage of $55,000.
If you like helping to diagnose patients but prefer almost no patient interaction, you might be interested in having a career in clinical laboratory technology. Entering this field also typically requires an associate's degree. Clinical or medical lab technicians analyze blood, tissue and other bodily samples from patients to test for disease or abnormalities. The BLS reported that medical and clinical lab technicians made a median annual wage of $37,000 in 2011.