Among the fastest-growing jobs for medical technicians, cardiovascular technologists enjoy strong job prospects. Cardiovascular technologists must obtain a formal education through a postsecondary certificate or associate program. They may also need professional certification to qualify for entry-level positions. This guide covers how to become a cardiovascular technologist, including degree and certification options.
Essential Career Information
- Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory Technologist
- Cardiac Catheterization Technologist
- Cardiac Monitor Technician
- Cardiac Technician
- Cardiopulmonary Technologist
- Cardiovascular Interventional Technologist
- Cardiovascular Technologist
- EKG Technician
- Echocardiogram Technician
- Echocardiographic Technologist
- Echocardiography Technician
- Echocardiology Technologist
- Electrocardiogram Technician
- Electrocardiograph Operator
- Pulmonary Function Technologist
What is a Cardiovascular Technologist?
Cardiovascular technologists assist physicians by performing tests on patients' hearts and lungs using special equipment. These professionals often work alongside medical sonographers and other diagnostic imaging workers. Cardiovascular technicians and technologists may specialize in areas such as cardiac catheterization, electrocardiograms (EKGs), or pulmonary technology.
Cardiovascular technologists need a postsecondary certificate or associate degree to practice. Generally, employers prefer graduates of a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Many states and employers also require candidates to obtain professional certification.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a cardiovascular technician make an hour?
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians earn $27 per hour, on average, which amounts to $56,850 per year.
What does a cardiovascular technician do?
Cardiovascular technicians use technology for diagnostic imaging and to perform tests on patients' hearts and lungs.
How long does it take to become a cardiovascular technician?
Most cardiovascular technologists complete a two-year associate degree, though some schools offer certificate programs spanning roughly one year.
How do you become a certified cardiovascular technician?
Candidates must complete an accredited cardiovascular technician program and pass a credentialing exam.
What Does a Cardiovascular Technologist Do?
Cardiovascular technologists prepare patients for heart and lung tests, such as stress tests and EKGs, as well as for specialized procedures like cardiac catheterization. Cardiovascular technologists may also interpret test results and diagnose abnormalities, including heart disease and heart valve failure.
Trained cardiovascular technologists may take on specialized roles such as cardiac catheterization laboratory technologist, EKG technician, and pulmonary function technologist. Catheterization laboratory technologists monitor patients' heart rates during open-heart surgery and assist with catheterization, while EKG technicians perform and interpret EKGs. Pulmonary function technologists monitor, test, and help diagnose and treat pulmonary problems.
While most cardiovascular technologists work in hospitals, the second-largest population of professionals in this specialty work in physicians' offices, followed by medical and diagnostic laboratories and outpatient care centers. In addition to excellent interpersonal and technical skills, cardiovascular technologists need advanced hand-eye coordination, attention to detail, and the physical stamina to maneuver patients in ways that produce readable images.
How to Become a Cardiovascular Technologist
Prospective cardiovascular technologists should pursue a degree or certificate through a program accredited by CAAHEP. This programmatic accreditation expands employment opportunities and often enables graduates to earn credentials in less time than a program without CAAHEP approval.
Most states require cardiovascular technologists to earn certification from an organization like Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Even if certification is not required by the state, many employers still prefer or require these professionals to hold certification.
Additionally, aspiring cardiovascular and vascular technologists often receive on-the-job training and pursue certification in a specialty. Both CCI and ARRT offer specialized credentials to qualified candidates, including registered cardiovascular invasive specialist, registered cardiac electrophysiology specialist, and certified rhythm analysis technician.
Cardiovascular technologists need at least a postsecondary certificate to qualify for entry-level employment. Many vocational schools, community colleges, and allied health/nursing training facilities offer certificate programs in cardiovascular technology. These programs generally take one year of full-time study to complete and include a clinical practicum to give students hands-on experience.
Core coursework explores topics like medical terminology, the anatomy of the heart, and diagnostic equipment, with acute courses in echocardiology, tachycardia, and respiratory therapy. Programs with CAAHEP accreditation provide graduates with the training they need to sit for certification exams from credentialing organizations, such as CCI.
Associate Degree Programs
Many cardiovascular technologists possess an accredited associate degree. Aspiring cardiovascular technologists may pursue a two-year associate degree in cardiovascular technology, echocardiography/radiology, or cardiac sonography from a community college or four-year university. These programs typically culminate in a clinical practicum that gives students hands-on experience in the field.
Students may choose to focus on invasive or non-invasive cardiovascular or vascular technology through coursework emphasizing anatomy, cardiology, and critical care. Graduates qualify for careers as cardiovascular technicians, echocardiographers, and respiratory therapists.
Professional Licensing, Credentialing, and Certification for Cardiovascular Technologists
Most states require cardiovascular technologists to hold professional certification through a credentialing agency such as CCI or ARRT. Additionally, most employers prefer, if not require, certified candidates for cardiovascular technology positions. Moreover, some insurance policies only cover procedures and diagnostic tests performed by certified cardiovascular technicians.
To earn certification, candidates must pass an exam administered by CCI or ARRT. Though requirements vary, eligibility for these credentialing exams generally requires candidates to have completed, or be in the process of completing, an accredited certificate or associate program. Professionals must renew their credentials within certain time periods by meeting continuing education requirements and paying a renewal fee.