Certified EKG Tech: Training, Salary & Job Prospects
Are you a fan of technology? Are you fascinated by how the human heart works? If yes, building a career as an EKG tech is an idea worth considering.
EKG technicians like to get close to their patients’ hearts. Literally. They work in an exciting and fast growing field, and – what’s more – salary and job prospects have never been better. If you’re a natural people person, this job will provide you with plenty of opportunities to interact with new people every day.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to work as an EKG tech – and how to make that happen – here’s everything you need to know.
What’s It Like to Work as an EKG Tech?
EKG technicians (also known as cardiac monitor technicians) are part of the allied health family and are among the healthcare careers that you can kick start in less than a year. Typically, they work in hospitals or clinics and provide direct patient care. EKG techs can have a very dynamic working environment, which involves working with patients from all types of backgrounds.
EKG techs are also an important part of any cardiology department. They help in routine physical exams, as well as screening procedures before a patient undergoes surgery. To do so, EKG techs use specialized equipment, such as EKG machines, to measure the efficiency of the heart.
Depending on their education, they may perform and administer electrocardiograms, stress testing, Holter monitoring, and telemetry monitoring tests.
Some other job duties may include comforting patients, as well as recording and providing information to the patient’s physician. Clear and accurate diagnostic images are crucial so physicians can make accurate diagnoses.
What Are EKG Technicians Called?
While EKG technician is the most popular, the job titles can vary, depending on the job description or the training program. Some of the most common titles that you may come across are:
- ECG Technician
- Cardiac Monitor Technician
- Cardiographic Technician
- Rhythm Analysis Technician
- Telemetry Monitor Technician
What Skills Does an EKG Tech Need?
While having the technical know-how is important, it is also necessary for techs to have strong interpersonal skills. As an EKG technician, you will be in direct contact with patients, doctors, and technologists every day. You might be called in to assist in the operating room or check on patients after surgery. Whatever the case, you must be able to remain calm, adapt easily to stressful situations, and follow instructions closely.
If you don’t enjoy working with people, you may find working as an EKG tech quite challenging. Some of your patients will be anxious or in pain, so you will need good communication and compassion skills. Staying in good physical shape is also crucial, as you may be expected to spend a lot of time on your feet.
EKG Tech Career Outlook
The future is certainly bright for EKG technicians. Job opportunities for allied health workers in the cardiology field are projected to grow by 29%, which doesn’t come as a surprise, as cardiovascular disease is a big health issue and the leading cause of death in the United States.
The need for skilled EKG professionals in hospitals, doctor’s practices, clinics, and diagnostic labs has never been greater.
The field is filled with opportunities for development and career growth. Such rapid employment means it’s a good time to start working in healthcare or consider a career change.
What Are Some Typical EKG Tech Job Duties?
The job responsibilities of EKG technicians can be very diverse and may include using different instruments and methods to carry out diagnostic procedures while recording the results. In addition, EKG techs educate patients on how to reduce the risk of heart disease. Some other tasks, depending on the employer and state regulations, may include recording patient history, training new technicians, and assisting with invasive procedures.
An electrocardiogram, often referred to as an EKG or ECG, is a test that can determine issues with heart activity. As an EKG tech, it’s your responsibility to place the electrodes on the patient’s arms, legs, and chest area.
The electrodes are hooked to a computer that creates an image of the impulses transmitted by the heart. You then analyze and provide the data to the patient’s physician for further interpretation. The procedure may look quite scary but it helps diagnose irregular heartbeats and arrhythmias, and usually doesn’t last more than 10 minutes.
If you go a little deeper, you will see that monitoring heart activity is much more than wires and graphs. Each heartbeat is triggered by contractions, due to the heart’s sinoatrial node sending out electrical impulses across the heart’s muscle cells. What EKGs record and measure are these electrical impulses.
An exercise electrocardiogram, also referred to as “stress test”, monitors the heart while a patient exercises. Typically, this is done either by walking on a treadmill or pedaling on a stationary bike.
As an EKG tech, you will monitor the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, and symptoms such as lack of breath, dizziness, or chest pressure. Your goal is to learn at what point the heart loses its rhythm. This type of test can help determine a number of issues such as heart diseases and unexplained or post-surgical chest pain.
In the simplest of terms, telemetry is used to monitor and record heart activity for an extended period of time. Unlike EKG monitoring, telemetry receives data remotely at the technician’s location with the help of a portable box attached to the patient.
Telemetry monitoring may last anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, depending on the patient’s case.
As an EKG technician, you are responsible for preparing the patient and placing the electrodes on their chest and stomach area.
How Can I Become an EKG Technician?
A good way to jumpstart your career is completing a Cardiac Monitor Technician (CMT) program. This fast certificate program offers classroom education and an internship. The CMT program can be completed in approximately 3 to 6 months.
The EKG technician training includes non-invasive cardiology and field specific classes such as stress testing, ambulatory monitoring, and rhythm analysis. This allows you to spend more time on the subjects that you’re interested in, and gives you the knowledge and confidence you need to succeed in your future career.
While certification is not required, it will help you get your resumé on top of the pile. What’s more, many insurance providers will only cover procedures carried out by a certified technician. Certifications are also a great way to show that your skills are current and up to date. Taking on additional education will make you stand out when looking for a job or asking for a raise.
Most EKG techs get certified by passing the Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) or Certified Rhythm Analysis Technician (CRAT) exams offered by Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). Another popular type of certification is the Certified EKG Technician, which falls under the umbrella of the National Healthcareer Association.
What Kind of Salary Can I Expect?
When considering any career, job satisfaction and pay rate go hand in hand. The average annual income of a cardiac monitor technician is around $35,100, but salaries can get as high as $48,240. You probably won’t get the highest pay rate off the bat, but an EKG tech in New Jersey can expect a starting wage of around $12-$15 per hour.
Generally, the rate of pay depends on a number of different factors including experience, location, job responsibilities, and specialized training. As a rule of thumb, however, salaries increase as you gain experience.
Do You Have What It Takes?
As an EKG technician you get to meet new people, from children to seniors, and impact their lives every day. It’s a dynamic and exciting job that offers great career prospects in a fast-growing field with high salaries.
Pursuing an EKG tech career might be the best move to thrive and grow professionally. To take the first step, all you need to do is sign up for a Cardiac Monitor Technician Program.
If you’re still not convinced that a career as an EKG technician is the right fit for you, there are plenty of other career ideas in allied healthcare that will allow you to complete your education in less than a year.