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The Résumé Rx

How To Become An EKG Technician: 4 Steps To Achieving Your Goal

Amanda Guarniere

An electrocardiograph technician, also known as an EKG technician, is a type of allied healthcare professional who uses specialized equipment to measure the electrical activity of the heart. 

We’re here to discuss the duties and responsibilities of an EKG technician, as well as the job’s advantages and disadvantages, to help you decide if this is the job for you.

Table of Contents

What is an EKG Technician?

An EKG technician, also known as an electrocardiograph technician, is an allied healthcare professional who measures the electrical activity of the heart using specialized equipment. This information can be used by physicians and other medical professionals to assess and treat a patient’s cardiac health. 

The role requires a specialized set of skills, a high level of competence, attention to detail, and good communication skills, as well as people skills.

What Does an EKG Technician Do?

EKG technicians are in charge of performing various tests on a patient’s heart and lungs, the most common of which are electrocardiograms. They connect wires to the patient’s arms, chest, and legs, monitor EKG readings, and report the results. 

The tests can be performed while the patient is at rest or while they are active, most commonly while walking on a treadmill. EKG technicians may also be responsible for a variety of other tasks related to diagnostic preparation, procedures, and reporting.

Duties and Responsibilities

An EKG technician’s responsibilities are as follows:

  • Prepare the patients for the procedure.
  •  Respond to procedure-related questions.
  • Gather and document the patient’s medical history.
  • Prepare and keep diagnostic imaging equipment in good working order.
  • Use equipment to obtain diagnostic images or run tests.
  • Examine images or test results for quality and coverage.
  • Recognize abnormal images and other pertinent diagnostic data.
  • Analyze diagnostic data to provide a summary of findings to doctors
  • Keep track of the patient’s records and record findings.
  • Assist doctors during procedures.

Skills

When it comes to being an excellent EKG technician, it is important to consider not only your certifications but also your soft skills. The following are some of the necessary skills to become one:

Attention to detail: EKG technicians must pay close attention in order to obtain the images required to accurately diagnose and treat patients. For example, while scanning a patient’s body, they must pay close attention to the computer screen because the cues that distinguish a healthy image from an unhealthy one are often quite subtle.

Hand-eye coordination: EKG technicians must correctly configure and attach equipment to the patient’s body in order to obtain high-quality images. In addition, they must reposition and adjust equipment based on what they perceive on the screen.

People skills: EKG technicians maintain close contact with their patients. When patients are in pain, sick, injured, or disabled in some way, diagnostic testing becomes difficult. In order to produce usable images, EKG technicians must frequently gain the patient’s trust and cooperation.

Physical endurance: EKG technicians must stand for extended periods of time. They also anticipated moving, setting up, and adjusting equipment. They must be able to lift and move patients who, in some cases, require assistance.

Technical skills: EKG technicians must be able to operate sophisticated machinery and computerized instruments. Diagnostic equipment, like any other technology, evolves over time and may necessitate the assistance of a skilled troubleshooter.

4 Steps to Becoming an EKG Technician

EKG technician training does not require much more education than most other medical professions, making it an excellent first step for those interested in working in healthcare.

Although most employers prefer that their employees complete an EKG certification program before applying for a position, such programs typically last three to six months. Here are the exact steps to becoming an EKG technician.

Step1: Education Requirements

To become an EKG technician, you must first have a high school diploma or GED, which is the minimum requirement. Higher-level math classes, anatomies and physiology, and other science courses may be beneficial in helping you understand the terminology and anatomy you will need to know as an EKG technician.

Step 2: Training

There are many certification programs available in the United States, and while the EKG technician program is not required, it is outstanding to have because it provides you with the education you need to be successful.

Students who complete an EKG tech program will be more comfortable working hands-on with EKG equipment and more confident working in a patient care setting. There are several certifications that an EKG technician can obtain, including:

  • The National Health Career Association certifies EKG technicians.
  • The American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians certifies EKG technicians.
  • ECG Technician American Certification Agency for Healthcare Professionals

Each certification has different requirements, but all require EKG technician experience.

Step 3: Experience

The third step is to gain practical experience. This can be accomplished by receiving on-the-job training from senior EKG technicians or other cardiology professionals. Orientation and training typically last a month or a month and a half. 

This will allow you to learn about what students in an EKG technology program study. You will, however, gain knowledge and skills in an on-the-job orientation setting.

Although not required, some employers may prefer candidates with healthcare experience. Prior experience as a hospital volunteer or EMT can also help you stand out during interviews.

Step 4: Further Your Education

Once you have at least one year of experience as an EKG technician, you are eligible to take the National Healthcare Association’s certification exam to become a certified EKG technician (CET). You must do the following in order to take the certification exam:

Some of the certifications and programs available to help you further your education are as follows:

EKG certification is available through the National Performance Specialists (CET). This certification program includes an e-learning platform, free practice tests, the ability to retake the exam three times, and a digital copy of the EKG technician certification.

EKG technicians can also obtain certification as Certified Cardiographic Technicians (CCT). This exam is designed for EKG technicians who work with Holter monitoring and stress testing and want to validate their understanding for employers.

Where Can an EKG Technician Work?

EKG technicians can be found in a variety of settings, including imaging centers, doctor’s offices, hospitals, and nursing homes. Their job entails many of the same responsibilities regardless of where they work. Their working hours, work equipment, and patients’ abilities, on the other hand, vary.

  • 78% of all EKG technicians find work in hospitals. They may work at patients’ bedsides or assist with transportation to and from procedures.
  • Working in outpatient settings, such as doctor’s offices and imaging centers, allows EKG technicians to avoid working weekends, nights, and evenings.
  • Long-term care facility EKG technicians frequently use more mobile EKG equipment. They can see more patients who may have limited mobility and require immediate testing.

EKG Technician Salary

EKG technicians earned an average* salary of $60,940 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hourly workers earned around $30 per hour on average. EKG technicians in the top 10% can earn $96,000 or more per year.

Highest Paying States for EKG Technicians

The salary of an EKG technician* can also vary greatly depending on location. For example, here are the top five states for EKG technicians in terms of pay:

State Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Rhode Island $41.15 $85,590
Oregon $39.81 $82,810
California $38.22 $79,490
New Jersey $37.91 $78,850
Washinton D.C. $37.52 $78,040

 

Highest Paying Cities for EKG Technicians

EKG technicians’ annual earnings can also vary by city. Here are the top five cities for EKG technicians based on average annual salary:

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Ventura, CA $50.21 $104,430
San Jose, CA $43.24 $89,930
Fairfield, CA $42.52 $88,450
San Diego, CA $41.95 $87,260
Sacramento, CA $41.28 $85,870

 

Is EKG Technician a Good Job?

Depending on your personality, working as an EKG technician can be both easy and enjoyable. This job, like any other in this field, would be a good fit for you if you have a desire to help people. We list the pros and cons of working as an EKG technician to help you decide whether you want to be one.

Pros

Job growth and safety

EKG technicians are in high demand as a medical profession, with a growing pool of available positions each year. According to the BLS, the job outlook for 2020–2030 is 14%, nearly double the national average of 8%. Individual companies may downsize, but your EKG certifications should easily transfer to another job.

Salary

EKG technicians earn a competitive annual salary with room for advancement at the upper end. EKG technicians who work in other facilities, such as physician offices or outpatient care centers, earn a higher mean annual wage, with outpatient centers paying up to $81,300.

Caregiving

Many people value having a job that has a positive impact as much as having a job that pays well. The skills of an EKG technician can mean the difference between life and death. Every EKG you perform may give the grandchildren a few more years with their grandparents.

Cons

Medical work environment.

The BLS reports that 43,610 of the nearly 56,000 technicians it tracks work in general or surgical hospitals.

A medical work environment does include risks and considerations that other fields of work do not, such as a higher exposure risk to contagious diseases and a higher emotional toll with death and injury always nearby.

There is no work from home.

In a work-from-home environment, an EKG technician is unlikely to find a position directly related to their expertise.

With more and more jobs shifting to WFH operations to make things easier for employees and eliminate office costs for employers, this is one of the few significant disadvantages to consider when weighing your career options.

Fast-paced work environments.

Throughout your shift at a busy hospital or doctor’s office, you may be rapidly cycling from preparing a patient to performing tests and submitting the results.

To keep patients moving through their appointments, the cardiologist and other doctors may put pressure on you to provide faster results.

While this drive is usually motivated by the desire to provide better care for patients, it can be exhausting for some people over time.

What Are The Best EKG Technician Programs?

Las Vegas College: Las Vegas College provides electrocardiography, phlebotomy (blood drawing), and lab assistant training. Graduates of this combined program can work in any of the three areas covered. They also have the opportunity to obtain multiple national healthcare certifications.

The College of Southern Nevada (CSN) offers a beginner-level EKG interpretation course. This course can serve as a foundation for more extensive professional training.

Contra Costa Medical Career College created this comprehensive 80-hour EKG technician program. After successfully completing this program, the student will receive a certificate of completion from Contra Costa Medical Career College. The program is intended to teach electrocardiography testing and interpretation procedures used in the detection of heart disease and other cardiovascular disorders. 

Triton College provides a comprehensive 60-hour EKG Technician Certification Program that prepares students to work as EKG technicians and take the NHA (National Healthcareer Association) examination. This course will cover the anatomy and physiology of the heart, medical disease processes, medical terminology, medical ethics, legal aspects of patient contact, laboratory assisting, electrocardiography, and echocardiography.

EKG Technician Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies skilled EKG technicians as cardiovascular technologists and technicians. These professions are experiencing rapid career growth, with an 8% increase in available positions predicted by 2030.

Because of the aging population, the continued prevalence of cardiovascular disease, and the availability of affordable diagnostic testing, the demand for EKG technicians will increase. Furthermore, as electrocardiogram equipment becomes more affordable, private practices will begin offering the exams, which will necessitate the use of EKG technicians.

FAQs About Becoming an EKG Technician

How long does it take to become an EKG Technician?

Hands-on training typically lasts four to six weeks and is carried out under the supervision of a cardiologist or EKG supervisor.

What does an EKG Technician usually do?

EKG technicians are the people in charge of maintaining and setting up the EKG equipment, as well as performing the tests to diagnose various heart conditions. These individuals must be alert at all times because they must care for their patients.

What is the demand for EKG Technicians?

EKG technicians, like many other medical technicians, are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies skilled EKG technicians as cardiovascular technologists and technicians. These professions are experiencing rapid career growth, with an 8% increase in available positions predicted by 2030.

Is being an EKG Technician a good career?

If you have a passion for helping people, this job is a good fit because it is in high demand, so you will have job security, and it does not rely solely on your technical skills and does not require too much of your educational background.

Is being an EKG Technician stressful?

Being an EKG technician, like any other career in the healthcare field, can be extremely stressful. An EKG technician must be able to think quickly and make quick decisions. But stress can help EKG technicians improve their skills.

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