If you're interested in working in the healthcare industry, training to be an EKG technician may be a good place to start. If you're good with technology and people, you can start your career in three months or less!
What is an EKG Technician?
Electrocardiography technicians (sometimes called electrocardiogram or electrocardiograph technicians) are healthcare professionals that perform diagnostic tests that help doctors identify cardiovascular problems in patients.
Most commonly, they administer an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG for short), which measures the electrical activity of your heart. These tests can help uncover irregularities that indicate heart disease or put a patient at risk for a heart attack.
EKG Technologist vs EKG Technician
When you're researching a career as an EKG Tech, you need to pay close attention to whether the job is described as an "EKG Technician" or an "EKG Technologist." The titles may look similar, but these are different jobs with different levels of education, qualifications, and income.
Technologists have more training than technicians. As a result, they can do more complicated work and earn more money. Cardiology technologists must have an associate or bachelor's degree, unlike technicians.
What Does an EKG Technician Do?
On average, full-time EKG technicians run 13 tests a day. EKG techs can administer a variety of cardiovascular tests, but a 12-lead EKG is the most common.
EKG techs work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, or private practices. They're often stationed in a dedicated room with EKG equipment. When an EKG test is ordered, you schedule the appointment and the patient usually comes to you.
First, you'll explain how the test works and what the patient can expect. You may need to calm patients who are anxious, so that test results are accurate. Next, you'll position the patient, attach electrodes to their skin in the proper locations, and monitor blood pressure and heart activity during the test. In some cases, EKG techs may need to lift or turn patients.
Once the test is complete, you're responsible for editing the graph data and highlighting any anomalies or areas of concern. Then you take the test results to a physician who will interpret the data and draw conclusions. Techs are often responsible for transcribing the doctor's notes for the medical records.
You may also be responsible for maintaining EKG equipment and any inventory needed for testing.
Other tests may require additional training or experience. You might instruct patients on how to use a Holter monitor, which is a portable EKG that patients take home for two or three days of monitoring at a time. Experienced EKG technicians administer "stress tests," in which you monitor an EKG while the patient uses a treadmill.
As an EKG tech, you can expect to spend most of the day on your feet. Your hours and schedule will depend on the type of facility and patients. You may work full-time or part-time, and you may be scheduled for weekends or nights.
What is an EKG Technician's Salary?
According to Salary.com, the average yearly income for a full-time EKG technician is $39,200. The typical range lies between $34,800 and $45,400 and varies by location and level of experience.
Not all EKG technicians work full-time. On average, EKG techs make $19 an hour, with a typical range between $17 and $22 per hour.
Please note, you can find some sites that quote higher salaries. This is almost always the result of lumping "technicians" and "technologists" together. The average of both is significantly higher than an electrocardiography technician can expect to earn.
How Do You Become an EKG Technician?
EKG technicians are typically given on-the-job training, so it's possible to get the job and learn from scratch. However, you may find it easier to get a job if you invest in a brief training program and pass a certification exam beforehand.
EKG Technician Requirements
To be hired as an EKG tech, you'll almost certainly need a high school diploma or the equivalent. This is an employer preference rather than a legal requirement, but it's one you should expect.
At this point, there are no regulations in the U.S. for electrocardiography technicians. If you intend to seek out a related or combined position, like phlebotomy, you may need to meet certain state or local requirements.
While higher education or certifications isn't legally required for EKG techs, most employers show hiring preference to candidates that are certified as EKG technicians or have previous healthcare experience.
How Long is EKG Technician Training?
On-the-job training from an employer usually takes 4-6 weeks, if you can find someone willing to hire you without experience or certification.
A certification program for EKG technicians is another option. They typically take 3-6 months, depending on whether you're studying full-time or part-time. Online programs like ours offer flexibility, so you can set your own pace and study when and where it's convenient.
You'll gain some background knowledge of the cardiovascular system and EKG testing, but you'll mostly focus on practicalities: how to implement proper patient care procedures, how to set up and conduct EKG tests, and how to read and interpret the results.
Our program also includes an optional 40-hour unpaid externship, to help you gain experience and make professional connections.
How to Get EKG Certified
Becoming a Certified EKG Technician (CET) means you've passed an exam that validates your knowledge and training. It proves a certain level of competence to any prospective employers, so it's easier to get hired.
The CET exam is offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). To be eligible for the exam, you must have a high school diploma or the equivalent.
You also need to have EITHER completed an EKG tech education program (within the last 5 years) OR had one year of supervised work experience as an EKG tech (within the last 3 years).
Regardless of how you got your training, you need to meet an experience requirement of performing at least 10 EKGs on live individuals. You can't use mannequin practice to meet this requirement.
The exam itself is 120 questions. Our EKG Tech program includes a voucher for the exam so you don't have to worry about the $117 fee.
Potential Career Advancements
EKG technician is often an entry-level career in healthcare, and you can choose to advance your skills in a number of ways.
You can remain an electrocardiography technician who performs more specialized and advanced EKG tests. This typically requires 18 to 24 months of additional on-the-job training.
You can earn a 2-year or 4-year degree to advance your skills towards an EKG technologist position. Alternatively, you can broaden your skill set to become a Clinical Medical Assistant or Clinical Medical Technician.
Train Online, At Your Own Pace
Since 1969, we've been a leader in at-home healthcare career training. These days, our programs are 100% online. You can study at your own pace, around your current schedule, and in just a few months, you'll be on your way to your new career. When it's time to learn new skills and advance, we probably have a program for that, too! Contact us today and find out if you qualify for financial assistance!