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With less than one year of training, you can become an electrocardiograph (EKG) technician, a healthcare career in high demand. EKG techs complete accredited training programs in 3-6 months, or they can gain on-the-job training soon after high school. Find out how to become an EKG technician and earn an EKG technician certification.
How Long to Become
EKG Training Program or On-the-Job Training
Certified EKG Technician (CET)
What Is an EKG Technician?
EKG technicians (also referred to as ECG technicians) work under the direction of physicians to monitor a patient's heart. Employers need EKG techs at hospitals, physician offices, outpatient care centers, and medical and diagnostic laboratories, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Using an EKG machine, technicians help detect abnormal heart rhythms and inflammation.
EKG training programs teach students how to conduct an electrocardiogram by connecting electrodes and wires to a patient's arms, legs, and chest. EKG techs also learn to do clerical work, such as scheduling appointments, delivering physician orders to pharmacies, and keeping track of office supplies. More experienced EKG technicians can also insert catheters into blood vessels to monitor the heart.
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Steps to Becoming an EKG Technician
EKG technicians come to the profession directly from high school, with on-the-job medical experience or training programs offered through community colleges and vocational schools. EKG training programs can take 3-6 months or up to two years to finish. Some employers may prefer candidates that complete an EKG training program.
The steps below outline this career path.
Earn your High School Diploma or GED Certificate
A high school education serves as the first step to a career as an EKG technician. Employers require applicants to hold either a high school diploma or its equivalent. High school students who want to become EKG techs should take anatomy, physiology, physics, and math courses.
Complete an EKG Training Program
Not every EKG tech has completed an accredited formal training program, but employers often prefer it. Vocational schools and community colleges offer in-person and online EKG tech training programs. Programs often include American Red Cross Basic Life Support and American Heart Association cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid certifications.
Find Employment as an EKG Technician
Local healthcare facilities need trained EKG technicians and often list job openings on their websites. Professional healthcare associations, such as the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) also feature job boards. Additionally, aspiring EKG technicians can find employment through their high school or college career counselors.
Consider Becoming a Certified EKG Technician (CET)
EKG techs can become certified if they have at least one year of work experience or have completed a formal EKG program. EKG technician certification requires taking a two-hour exam that tests an EKG technician's knowledge and training. The NHA and the National Performance Specialists administer CET certifications.
EKG Technician Education
An EKG technician training program can prepare students to administer and interpret EKG exams in as few as three months.
EKG Technician Training Program
EKG technician programs focus on the anatomy of the heart, physiology, medical terminology, caring for patients, and medical ethics and law. Hands-on labs teach students how to use EKG machines and perform the 12-lead placement, interpret EKG strip analysis, and perform EKG interpretation, including sinus bradycardia and sinus tachycardia.
Community colleges and vocational schools offer EKG technician certificates and associate degrees in cardiovascular technology. Students can expect to spend 50-60 hours training to complete EKG technician programs. Incoming students generally need a high school diploma or a GED certificate to enter an EKG tech training program.
EKG tech training programs offer in-person courses or hybrid programs which often allow students to sit for CET certification. School tuition may include costs for EKG technician certification exams and basic life support certificate exams. It does not take certification to become an EKG tech, but employers often prefer certified candidates.
Applicants need a high school diploma, GED certificate, or its equivalent. Colleges may also require that applicants be over the age of 18 and have a clean background check.
Core curriculum in an EKG technician program covers human biology, medical emergency and electrocardiography, and medical terminology.
Time to Complete
It takes 50-60 hours of lab and classroom work to complete an EKG technician program. Students can graduate in 3-6 months in the most accelerated programs. Associate degrees in cardiovascular technology take up to two years to complete.
Students enrolled in an EKG technician program learn about EKG interpretation, theory, and procedures. Courses also cover cardiac anatomy and physiology and infection control. Programs teach Holter monitoring, stress testing, and equipment maintenance.
EKG Technician Certification
EKG technicians do not need a license or a certification to work. However, gaining certification gives EKG technicians the opportunity to advance in the medical industry and make more money. The NHA and NPS offer CET certifications. CET certification requires at least a high school education and one year of work experience or the completion of a formal training program.
Experienced EKG technicians who perform Holter monitoring, used when the traditional EKG exam does not yield results, can become certified cardiographic technicians.
Working as an EKG Technician
After completing on-the-job training or education, EKG technicians can find jobs through their college programs or professional healthcare organizations. For instance, earning EKG technician certification through NPS gives applicants access to electrocardiography recruiters.
About 76% of EKG technicians work in state, local, and private hospitals, according to the BLS. The rest work in physician offices, outpatient care centers, and medical and diagnostic labs.
The BLS projects 6% job growth for cardiovascular technologists and technicians from 2021-2031.It also expects 2,700 new job openings for cardiovascular technologists and technicians during this time period. This does not include job openings that arise from people who retire or change careers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an EKG Technician
How long does it take to become an EKG technician?
It takes about 3-6 months in the fastest training programs to become an EKG technician. EKG technicians may also get professional training by working under a senior EKG technician for 4-6 weeks. Certified EKG techs need at least one year of experience to begin working.
Where do EKG technicians earn the highest salaries?
EKG technicians earn the highest salaries in western states, such as Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska. EKG technicians in these states can earn almost $20,000 more annually than the national average salary of $65,490 per year. Washington, D.C. and Rhode Island also pay EKG technicians more than average.
Are EKG and ECG technicians the same?
Yes, EKG technician and ECG technician refer to the same role in the healthcare setting. They specialize in testing the heart's rhythm, shape, and performance. Job listings for these roles may also call EKG technicians: cardiographic technicians, cardiac monitor technicians, and rhythm analysis technicians.
Is becoming an EKG technician hard?
Compared to other medical professions, becoming a EKG technician takes less time. However, EKG techs work in demanding atmospheres and must be accurate and organized to maintain patient safety.
Can you become an EKG technician online?
Yes. EKG tech programs can be completed fully online with students taking classroom lessons online, but they must come in person to complete labs. Generally online coursework offers a self-paced format that lets students complete their work on their own time.
Can you complete an EKG technician training program part time?
EKG tech programs commonly operate full time, but schools may provide part-time options that make it convenient for people with work and/or familial obligations. Part-time programs, when available, take double the time allotted for full-time programs.
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