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EKG technicians perform diagnostic testing, report results to physicians, and help treat patients accordingly. They work with patients of all ages, collaborate with health professionals, handle technical equipment, and use medical terminology. If a career like this interests you, you only need a high school diploma to get started.
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What Does an EKG Technician Do?
EKG technicians perform diagnostic tests and aid physicians in diagnosing and treating cardiac conditions, such as heart failure or heart attack. Depending on their specialty, they may work with adult, pediatric or unborn patients.
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- Maintain and take inventory of EKG equipment
- Perform diagnostic tests, such as stress tests and EKGs
- Aid physicians with diagnosis and treatment
- Perform administrative duties such as recording results, entering data, and writing up reports for physicians
- Prepare patients by taking their medical history and vitals
- Physical stamina
- Technical skills
- Attention to detail
Where Do EKG Technician Work?
EKG technicians work in many different settings, such as imaging centers, doctor's offices, hospitals, and nursing homes. Their job involves many of the same duties regardless of where they work. However, their hours, work equipment, and patients' abilities vary.
Of all EKG technicians, 78% find employment in hospitals. They may work at patients' bedsides or help transport people to and from their procedures.
EKG technicians working in outpatient settings, such as doctor's offices and imaging centers, can often avoid working weekends, night, and evening hours.
EKG technicians who work in long-term care facilities often use more mobile EKG equipment. They can visit more patients, who may have reduced mobility and need urgent testing.
How to Become an EKG Technician
Individuals can explore several pathways to becoming an EKG technician. Some employers will give their EKG technicians on-the-job training after earning high school diplomas or GED certificates, but employers increasingly require certification.
The Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC) requires technical staff in accredited institutions to hold certification to practice. Many employers require EKG technicians to be certified by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) or Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). New Mexico and Oregon passed laws requiring EKG technicians to hold certification.
Learn more about how to become an EKG technician.
EKG technicians can pursue many relevant certifications. Some EKG technicians earn multiple certifications. Each certification comes with different requirements for eligibility and pay increases.
The certification most associated with EKG technicians is registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer (RDCS). To qualify to apply for RDCS certification, you must:
- Meet one of the nine sets of prerequisites
- Apply online
- Pay the application fee
- Submit the required documentation depending on the prerequisite you choose
After you apply for RDCS certification, you must take the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) exam. This exam tests your knowledge and skills in quality assurance, clinical safety, physical principles, and pulsed echo instrumentation. The SPI exam is used as part of the credentialing requirements for:
- RDCS certification
- Registered Vascular Technician (RVT) certification
- Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) certification
- Registered Musculoskeletal Sonographer (RMSKS)
After you take the SPI exam, you must choose a specialty exam: fetal, pediatric, or adult echocardiography.
EKG technician certification does not require any other education after high school. Some employers allow a grace period to get the required certification after your hire date. According to the American Society of Echocardiography's (ASE) 2010 Cardiovascular Sonographer Salary Survey, the most common grace periods are six months (20%) and one year (64%).
If you obtain certification after your hire date, you may not need a postsecondary education program as long as you meet another prerequisite for certification. Colleges and some hospitals offer certification programs that take a year to complete.
Universities and colleges offer associate and bachelor's degrees in sonography and cardiovascular technology. Programs include clinical hours and courses in medical terminology, anatomy, and invasive or noninvasive cardiovascular or vascular technology procedures.
How Much Do EKG Technicians Make?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 8% job growth rate for EKG technicians from 2020-2030, matching the average for all occupations. Cardiovascular technologists and technicians, a classification that the BLS uses to include EKG technicians, earn an annual median salary of $62,020. The lowest-paid 10% of EKG technicians make an average of $29,910. The highest-paid 10% of EKG technicians earn a salary of $98,070, on average.
Certifications, experience level, and skills can all affect an EKG technician's salary. August 2022 Payscale data indicates that EKG technicians with RDCS certification earn an average of $71,000 annually, which is over $30,000 higher than the reported salary for all EKG technicians.
EKG technicians with more than 20 years of experience make 23% more than the average salary, according to Payscale data from August 2022. EKG technicians with skills in video EEG monitoring make 13% more than average.
Frequently Asked Questions about EKG Technicians
Why is electrocardiogram abbreviated as EKG instead of ECG?
The electrocardiogram is abbreviated EKG instead of ECG because a Dutch physician, Dr. Willem Einthoven, first introduced the electrocardiogram. When he invented the procedure in 1900, Einthoven spelled it the German way: "electokardiogram."
Do EKG technicians need to be certified?
No, but you may find more job opportunities and higher pay if you hold certification. Some employers will only hire registered cardiac sonographers).
Is an EKG program hard?
EKG programs include clinical hours and courses in anatomy and medical terminology, which some students find difficult. Programs can take as little as a year or as long as four years, depending on your chosen pathway.
Who do EKG technicians work with?
EKG technicians work with physicians, nurses, and other medical staff and help diagnose and treat patients with unusual EKG results in the shape or rhythm of the heart.
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