How to Become an EKG Technician

EKG Technician

Are you interested in pursuing a career within the medical field? Would you like to earn a comfortable living within this sector without spending an exorbitant amount of time and financial resources to achieve this end? If you answered “yes” to one or both questions, a career as an EKG technician might be the one for you. Without significant barriers to entry and with plenty of opportunities to advance, this rewarding job offers the chance to make a discernable impact in the lives of patients and forms a crucial role within the medical profession.

How to Become an EKG Technician

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Overview of the Role

An EKG technician handles medical equipment which serves to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cardiovascular problems. The role is also known by the title of cardiographic technician or electrocardiogram technician, as it requires you to operate testing equipment imperative to detecting and managing cardiovascular issues and complications.

EKG technicians typically work in hospitals but may retain employment in physician’s offices, clinics, and laboratories. The role demands a certain amount of physical fortitude. You must stand for long periods of time and often move patients suffering from disabilities to prepare them for the tests. As EKG tests are required day or night, a technician in the field might work a combination of days, nights, and weekends to meet patient demands.

What It Involves

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The daily tasks associated with working as an EKG technician require frequent patient interaction. You must have an affable and pleasing manner in communicating with patients and be able to put them at ease in what could be a quite stressful situation for them. In talking with patients, you will ask questions to put together a detailed medical history, including any relevant cardiovascular issues, and then explain the tests and procedures to follow.

After obtaining the patient’s medical chronology, explaining the upcoming procedures, and answering any initial questions, you will attach electrodes to the chest of the patient and any other areas on the body as required to complete the tests. These electrodes enable the technician to note and record the nature of the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure, detecting any irregularities.

Most of the time, EKG tests are performed on patients while they lie in bed. However, other procedures, such as stress tests, require the patient to walk on a treadmill in order for the technician to measure cardiovascular function. The treadmill’s speed is gradually heightened, allowing the technician to see how the heart responds to these increased endeavors.

If the patient’s heart rate or function reveals abnormalities during any of these tests, this might show that cardiovascular disease or malfunction is present. The final step for the EKG technician is to note all the patient’s results, including any detected abnormalities, so these can be prepared in hard copy form for the doctor to read and determine a course of action.

Education and Training Requirements

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To find employment as an EKG technician, you must first have graduated with your high school diploma. If you are still in high school and interested in a career within this field, you might wish to take additional courses in math and science, including physiology and anatomy.

There are several educational programs available if you want to become trained as an EKG technician, some of which only take two months to complete. Classes cover a host of topics, including physiology, cardiac anatomy, medical terms, heart disease, pacemakers, and ethics. Students are trained regarding how to use, operate, and maintain all associated EKG technology and equipment, including how to apply electrodes and read results from patients. A number of educational programs also include coursework in phlebotomy and training in operating Holt monitors for lengthier EKG tests.

After Graduation

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Once you have graduated from an accredited educational program, you may take a state or national exam to become a certified professional. This is not necessarily required, but it is highly preferred by employers and will provide you with greater opportunities for career latitude. The Cardiovascular Credentialing International Association proctors such an exam, with successful trainees earning the designation of Certified Cardiograph Technician.

If you have graduated from an accredited EKG technician educational program or have no less than 6 months on-the-job experience under your belt, you may take the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians’ Electrocardiograph Technician exam. This is another certification that is highly respected by employers and will afford you greater career potential in the future.

Other Training

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If you would like to increase your competitive edge as an EKG technician, you might wish to consider obtaining additional experience in the medical field prior to entering this job role. Working as an EMT, paramedic, or nurse can afford you with a more wide ranging skill set and knowledge base than you might otherwise have by jumping head first into the role of EKG technician.

With that being said, completing an accredited educational program, getting certified, and securing additional training will also serve you well should you wish to make a career within this field. Should you undergo additional education, you might consider an 18- to 24-month course of study that will teach you how to perform complicated EKG tests, operate Holt monitoring equipment, and perform stress tests.

This course of study is usually completed while on the job and necessitates further education in key concepts like cardiovascular anatomy and physiology. In short, the more education and experience you gain, the better your job and earning prospects will be.

How Much Does an EKG Technician Make?

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Contributing Factors

Ultimately, the salary of an EKG technician is affected by a number of key factors. If you have been working within the field for a number of years already, went the extra mile to become educated and certified, and received additional on-the-job training experience, your earning potential will be on the higher end of the spectrum.

If you graduated from high school only and did not opt to complete a relevant educational program or certification, your salary will probably be far lower. You can still earn a comfortable living with this background, but you will not have the same opportunities for advancement and salary increases as you would with the preferred education and training.

Your location and employer also makes a difference regarding the salary you can hope to earn. Salaries in the coastal cities might be higher than those in the heartland. If you are working for a large hospital or clinic, you might be offered a higher salary than if you were to accept a position at a smaller medical office.

Salary Potential

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The average salary of an EKG technician falls around $56,000 per year. Essentially, about half of professionals in this field make more than this amount while half earn below this number. Individuals earning on the lowest end of the salary spectrum bring home about $29,000 per year.

However, those earning in the uppermost range may make as much annually as $89,000. If you are just starting out as an EKG technician, with your high school diploma, some training, and potentially some educational credentials, you can expect to earn around $31,000 a year initially.

Career Outlook of an EKG Technician

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Experience Is Key

In most careers, the more education and training you have, the greater your earning potential and career mobility is. This job is no different. Do not let this discourage you, as some time, patience, and training suffice to afford you significantly more opportunities for job growth.

The more experience you gain, the more options you will have. If, down the road, you decide you would like to switch to a different career path but stay within the medical field, your EKG technician experience could make it easier for you to transition into a degree in nuclear medical technology or radiation treatment, to name a few examples.

If you remain an EKG technician, pursuing additional certifications or on-the-job training opportunities will be invaluable tools for mobility. The career itself is thriving and always in high demand, so the more credentials you can present to an employer, the better. The longer you work in a facility, the greater your benefits often are. If you stick it out with a solid employer, you might have opportunities to work better shifts and take more vacation after a few years working there.

Field Growth

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The EKG technician field itself is growing by leaps and bounds, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting that jobs for cardiovascular professionals will grow 10 percent by 2026. This is much higher than the national average for other job fields. With an increase in patients needing effective testing and diagnostics performed to assess cardiovascular and related conditions, the role of EKG technician offers generous job security.

Conclusion

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Pursuing a career as an EKG technician offers a very rewarding, viable role that makes a palpable difference within the health care industry. In working with patients, assessing their needs, performing tests, and reading diagnostic results, you are playing an invaluable part in the detection and treatment of cardiovascular disorders.

If you would like to increase your earning potential and job mobility, consider completing an accredited educational program and sitting for one of the certifications exams we mentioned. This will make you extremely marketable to employers and offer considerable opportunities for growth in the long run.

Author: Emma Campbell

I am a director at the Phlebotomy Training Institute