Comparing EEG Tech and Other Neurology Careers
Many of us are fascinated by the brain and its complex inner workings. For those who want to work in a field related to the brain, it can be daunting sorting through all of the career possibilities. Neuroscience has a multitude of branches. Clinical neuroscience (neurology), molecular neuroscience, and neuroimaging are just a few examples. Then within each of those branches, you have roles for doctors, scientists, technologists, and more.
If you’re looking at changing careers to a job in one of these areas, you may want to consider a career with fewer years of training, such as an EEG technologist. With that in mind, here’s a complete breakdown of how this career relates to other careers in neurology.
Let’s start with the basics of what an EEG technologist does and then compare this career path to other similar options.
What Is an EEG Technologist?
To start, EEG stands for electroencephalogram. It’s a mouthful, we know. But this procedure is actually more familiar than you think. If you’ve ever seen someone with small metal discs attached to their head, you’ve seen electroencephalography in action! These small discs are used to detect electrical activity in the brain, which occurs when your neurons communicate with each other.
By conducting an EEG test, an EEG technologist, along with other neurology professionals, can diagnose a wide variety of brain issues – from epilepsy to sleep disorders. As a technologist, your primary role involves running diagnostic tests to assist doctors with their diagnoses.
EEG Technologist Training
Becoming an EEG technologist starts with a training program. Nowadays many training programs introduce students to a broad range of neurodiagnostic procedures and prepare them to work as neurodiagnostic technologists. Once you’ve completed a training program, you may have the option of obtaining certification as an EEG technologist or possibly another specialty.
In other words, an EEG technologist is a type of neurodiagnostic technologist. An EEG is a specific tool within the wider set of technologies used to diagnose neurological conditions. Beginning with a broad training program will prepare you for several subfields, including EEG.
Most training programs usually take around 12 to 18 months. A good training program will include a balance of theory and practicum. It’s important to find a program that also includes a clinical internship as part of the training. In order to be eligible for admission, many programs only require a high school diploma. However, prior coursework in Anatomy & Physiology or Medical Terminology can certainly be beneficial.
Once you’ve completed your training, becoming a registered EEG technologist is the next step in your career preparation. Graduates of programs that are ABRET approved or CAAHEP accredited are eligible to take the ABRET exams to become a registered EEG Technologist.
EEG Technologist Employment Opportunities
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have specific employment data for EEG technologists, the data for health technologists and technicians as a whole shows strong salaries and growth. For example, the national mean annual wage in this category is $45,730, though that number can vary from around $40,000 to over $58,000, depending on the exact area technologists work in. For example, technologists in New Jersey can earn as much as $74,110.
This variation is an important element when you’re looking at EEG technologist employment. Since employment opportunities exist in a wide variety of settings and locations, there are a variety of potential employers out there. Whether you’d like to work in a laboratory, a hospital, a clinic, a specialty clinic for issues like substance abuse, or a research center, you can look for job openings suited to your interests.
The Daily Responsibilities of an EEG Technologist
You’ll be working closely with neurologists, nurses, and electroencephalography machines, but what exactly does a day look like for an EEG tech? Your everyday duties will include obtaining patient medical records, performing tests with EEG equipment, analyzing those test results, and maintaining the EEG equipment.
But beyond just EEGs, neurodiagnostic technologists may also perform EPs (Evoked Potential tests), NCSs (Nerve Conduction Studies), and IONMs (Intraoperative Neurophysiologic Monitoring).
Those are the basic job duties, but beyond that, the exact nature of your job can vary based on the setting. You could find yourself working with test subjects, the elderly, or other specific groups depending on your employer.
Comparing EEG Techs and Other Neurology Careers
As mentioned, this is just one of an enormous variety of careers within neuroscience. How does an EEG Technologist compare?
EEG Technologists and Neurologists
A neurologist is a medical doctor who will typically work in a clinical setting. In general, they work to diagnose and treat medical conditions related to the brain, spine, and nervous system, treating conditions like strokes, multiple sclerosis, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or epilepsy.
Compared to an EEG Technologist, this is a much wider area of expertise and responsibility. That’s because neurologists are doctors who have to go through the full training of medical school and a residency.
While an EEG Tech certification can be obtained in a relatively short period of time, becoming a neurologist can take around 12 years between undergraduate studies, medical school, internship, and specialist training. That difference is also borne out in salary information. The average neurologist makes more than four times the average EEG tech at over $200,000.
For most people considering changing careers, looking at an EEG Tech and a high level neurology career like a neurologist is comparing apples and oranges. The educational requirements are just too different for someone to consider them side by side. But what about people who are unsure whether they want to work in medicine but are still interested in the brain?
EEG Technologists and Neuroscientists
Neuroscience is, as its name implies, rooted firmly in the sciences, namely biology. Though neurologists and EEG technicians will, in spite of their differences, ultimately find themselves working in many of the same environments, that doesn’t hold true for neuroscientists.
While they may end up working with many of the same equipment as EEG technicians to conduct experiments (though neuroscientists will often use fMRI machines instead of EEGs), the questions they’re trying to answer are quite different.
The medical side of neurology is concerned with diagnosing and treating illness, but the scientific side attempts to address questions of how the brain observes and analyzes information. The questions in play here are more theoretical, connected with questions about how we perceive reality and the nuts and bolts of how our brains function.
Unsurprisingly, this is a fairly young field when compared with neurology as a whole. The technology required for this kind of cutting-edge research to be conducted is still fairly new. So, if you’re considering a career as a neuroscientist, what do you need to know?
How Long Does It Take to Become a Neuroscientist?
While becoming a neurologist takes more time, entering the neuroscience field is by no means quick or easy. For this field, you’ll be expected to have a PhD or medical degree.
You can expect the same four years of undergraduate work, in addition to another four years or so to complete a doctorate. That adds up to a minimum of around eight years – still a third less than what’s required to become a neurologist.
Still, when compared with the 12 – 18 months of training required to become certified as an EEG tech, there’s a significant difference, making a neuroscientist career less realistic for a career shift. But how do other technologist positions stack up?
EEG Technologists and MRI Technologists
While it’s not 100% within the neurology field, MRI technologists often use MRI equipment to perform diagnostic tests on the brain. The difference is that while EEG machines monitor the electrical synapses firing in the brain, an MRI can create a detailed image of the brain. These two diagnostic tools can be used to diagnose a wide variety of neurological conditions.
Besides that similarity, the responsibilities of an EEG technologist and an MRI technologist are fairly similar. Both are in charge of maintaining equipment, working with patients, performing tests, analyzing results, and collaborating with nurses, neurologists, and other doctors. As such, their training requirements are also more similar than the positions mentioned above.
MRI Technologist Training and Education Requirements
Becoming an MRI technologist takes approximately 2 years. Depending on the program you are interested in, a high school diploma or an associate degree may be required for admission.
The median annual salary for an MRI technologist is $58,120, compared to $45,730 for an EEG technologist. The estimated pace of job growth from 2014 to 2024 is also at 9% – slightly less than what’s typical for most allied healthcare careers (generally between 15% and 23%), but still faster than the national average for all careers. Compared directly, both of these neurology careers have solid salary and career prospects.
Looking Broadly at Neurology Career Opportunities
Taking a step back now, what do we see? There are two tiers within the broader neurology career category: First, careers like neurologists or neuroscientists, which require many years of advanced training and offer six-figure salaries.
Next, you have the wider variety of technical and support staff positions. These positions generally require between one and two years of training and don’t necessarily require a university degree. As a result, they offer salaries that, while competitive, are nowhere near those offered in the positions requiring more advanced training.
If you’re interested in a career in neurology, start by considering these two categories. If you’re still in high school, you can think about which is best for you. If you’re considering a mid-career switch, you may prefer to focus on positions like EEG techs. Either way, the opportunities for an excellent career in neurology are there for the taking.
Where do you see your future taking you? If you’d like to read more about career options, you can find tons of useful information on EEG technologists and MRI technologists at AIMS Education. Then, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.