January 11, 2024

How to Become an EKG Technician

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How to Become an EKG Technician

If you are interested in the medical field, training to become an EKG technician is the best place to start. EKG technicians are predominantly responsible for running diagnostic tests to identify cardiovascular problems in patients correctly. 

Although an EKG Technician is responsible for operating EKG machines, they require adequate skills to detect abnormalities that may lead to more serious heart pphlebroblems. The median annual wage for EKG technicians was estimated at $60,570 in May 2021. Hence, there is a great demand for EKG technicians, even in the medical field. 

What Is an EKG Technician? 

An EKG Technician is a trained professional that administers specialized equipment to detect abnormal heart patterns. Although learning the mechanics of a machine seems pretty simple, it is more complex than it seems. 

Certified EKG Technicians are required to assist physicians in diagnosing heart disease. The EKG technician performs various tests by ascertaining the heart's electrical activity. These are carried out in the following steps: 

  • The EKG technician assists the patient by laying them on the examination table. 
  • The technician begins the test by attaching electrodes to the patient’s legs, arms, and chest. 
  • After starting the EKG machine, electronic impulses are transmitted by the heart, and wave tracings are recorded on paper.

Once the test is completed, the EKG technician marks relevant sections of the report that need to be reviewed by the physician. While this process does not seem intricate, other more complex tests like Holter monitoring and treadmill stress tests need additional training. 

Therefore, certain skills qualify a person for this job position. 

What Does an EKG Technician Do? 

An EKG Technician is entrusted with an intricate list of responsibilities. Some of them can be as simple as developing a cordial demeanour while addressing the patient and making them comfortable for the test. However, some basic duties of an EKG Technician are listed below: 

  • Setting up EKG machines and monitoring stress tests 
  • Documenting the medical history of the patient
  • Disassembling and sanitizing equipment 
  • Creating standardized reports 
  • Editing and delivering final results to the doctor in charge 
  • Transcribing physicians observation 

If you’re looking for a rewarding career in the healthcare sector–which has been estimated to grow 17 percent from 2019 to 2029, becoming an EKG technician might be the path for you. 

Where Do EKG Technicians Work? 

EKG technicians are healthcare professionals that work in stressful environments–just like any other doctor. As professionals, they are expected to be on their feet almost all day–assisting patients, running diagnostic tests, and creating analytical reports. 

On average, an EKG technician performs 13 tests a day while administering a couple of cardiovascular tests, which includes a rundown of numerous other activities such as handling patients, running tests, sanitizing the EKG machine, cleaning EKG equipment, and creating cumulative reports. Therefore, an EKG technician is always on their feet performing tasks throughout the day. 

They are predominantly recruited in medical fields like hospitals, doctor’s chambers, labs, and outpatient centers. In addition to rigorous training sessions, most employers look for people who are detail-oriented, approachable, and tech-savvy. 

How Do You Become an EKG Technician? 

EKG technicians are typically given hands-on training before attempting the certification exam. Although most EKG technicians already have requisite qualifications, most employers prefer candidates that have enrolled in a training program and have proper certification. 

This makes your journey longer than it seems but also allows you to get employed in recognized hospitals and institutions. Listed below are some of the steps to becoming an EKG technician. 

  1. Get a High School Diploma or GED 

A high school diploma or GED is the minimum requirement for becoming an EKG Technician. If you are still in high school, consider opting for higher-level subjects like mathematics, physiology, and anatomy. 

It’s always better to possess a basic knowledge of the terminology before you obtain on-the-job training. It also gives you an edge over other competitors enrolling in the EKG technician program. 

However, if you have earned an associate degree from a community college with practical training experience, you can become a qualified EKG technician in the future. It’s not uncommon for EKG techs to have a bachelor’s degree. 

  1. Complete an EKG Training Program 

Although it is not necessary to complete an EKG training program before applying for a job, it is a beneficial course for gaining on-the-job training experience. 

Since working with EKG equipment requires technical skills, you will need to enroll in a training program that meets these requirements. While some people opt for EKG programs, others choose to do an associate’s degree in cardiovascular and vascular technology. These programs primarily navigate through various invasive and noninvasive cardiovascular technology procedures. 

Most EKG programs from a reputed institute take about one year to finish. In an EKG technician program, you are expected to learn: 

  • Anatomy and Physiology 
  • Medical Terminology 
  • Written Communication 
  • Electrocardiography Introduction 
  • Cardiac diagnostic procedures 

You can even obtain an EKG technician certification online as long as you receive some kind of hands-off experience at the end of it. San Francisco State University and Best American Healthcare University offer online certification programs with the need for hands-on practice. Students who enroll in this program must be willing to appear in person for the hands-on portion of the training. 

Regarding the EKG technician program cost, tuition fees usually vary from $400 to more than $1000 depending on the educational institution. While some colleges like Carroll Community College offer an EKG training program that costs $629, excluding textbooks, California State University offers the course textbook in their tuition costs of $1099. 

Employers usually look for candidates that have completed their training from an accredited college by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. (CAAHEP) 

  1. Earn a Certification 

To become a certified EKG technician, you must pass an exam that validates your training and knowledge. There are numerous certifications available that recognize you as a licensed EKG technician. Voluntary credentials by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) are also beneficial for an EKG technician. 

Although the Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) credentials are not mandatory, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics affirms that employers prefer candidates who have a professional certification. 

For the certification exam, you must have the following: 

  • A high school diploma or GED 
  • Completed an education or training program 
  • Performed at least ten successful EKGs 

Some EKG testing facilities even ask for proof of employment in the cardiovascular technology field and whether you have completed a graduate or undergraduate degree in the science field. 

If you have one year of experience working as an EKG technician, you can become a certified EKG technician through the National Healthcare Association. Another EKG certification (CET) by the National Performance Specialists is an e-learning program that provides free practice tests, guidance from an academic supervisor, and a digital copy of the EKG certification. 

The certification exam should cost about $150 to $200. You can apply online and take the two-hour exam at any testing facility. 

For the exam, you will need to do the following:

  • Perform a successful EKG 
  • Run diagnostic testing 
  • Be well-versed in medical terminology 
  • Prepare Holter Monitoring and Stress Testing 

When you are looking to become an EKG technician, make sure that the educational institution is accredited by a recognized association. Depending on the type of certification, you can expect to spend a year before attempting this exam. 

4. Apply for Job

Although you can apply for jobs even after completing your training program, adding a certification can broaden your horizons in the medical field. Since an EKG technician is an entry-level career in the healthcare field, you can easily pick up on requisite skills to increase your career prospects. 

Individuals who wish to advance their skills can learn how to perform specialized EKG skills like Holter Monitoring and Stress Tests. The duration of this on-the-job training typically lasts 18-24 months. 

You can even complete a 2-year and 4-year degree program to become an EKG technologist. Additionally, there are other career positions in the medical field like a Clinical Medical Assistant. Longer programs such as a bachelor’s degree can qualify you for better job opportunities and higher pay in the medical field. As such, EKG technicians can earn up to $96,000 or more per year depending on the industry. The top five highest paying industries are listed below: 

Industry 

Average Salary 

  1. Physician’s Offices:  $62,040
  1. Outpatient Care Centres: $81,300
  1. Medical & Diagnostic Labs: $67,430
  1. Colleges & Universities: $69,900
  1. Offices of Other Healthcare Practitioners: $75,010

Since the career growth in the next decade for EKG technicians has been estimated to be close to 17%, rest assured you will find employment in medical as well as non-medical industries. The reason attributed to this steady growth is the vast improvements in technology. 

If you’re looking to start an entry-level job in a medical field or gain hands-on experience with patients, an EKG technician can be the best option for you. 

Who Earns a Higher Salary: Phlebotomists or EKG Technicians? 

A phlebotomist is a healthcare professional who performs invasive blood tests based on a physician's orders. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average phlebotomist salary is estimated at $38,450 while an EKG technician earns an average salary of $62,020. 

While this is a general comparison of numbers between the two job positions, there is a huge margin even when we look at industry-specific salaries. For general hospitals, phlebotomists made $37,430 while EKG technicians earned a whopping $61,150. Similarly, the average salaries at doctors’ offices ran $36,280 for phlebotomists as opposed to EKG techs who received $65,570. 

Moreover, the District of Columbia which is the top paying state for health professionals affirms that phlebotomists have an average mean salary of $45,390 while EKG techs earn $82,630.

Keep in mind that the demand for phlebotomists is expected to grow at a faster rate than EKG technicians. It has been estimated that the demand for phlebotomists will grow by 22% in the healthcare field. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How Long Is EKG Technician Training? 

Depending on the training institution, you can expect the EKG Technician training to last for 6 months to a year. You can obtain EKG Technician training from any college or school that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. 

After completing the EKG Training, you can get a certification for better job opportunities. 

  1. How Much Does it Cost to Become an EKG Technician? 

The costs can vary depending on the accredited college you pursue your EKG training from and the number of years you want to invest in your career. 

While some EKG technicians are satisfied with certification programs that can run about $2,500, others wish to expand their career opportunities by getting an associate’s degree which costs around $10,000 for two years. 

A four-year Bachelor’s degree can cost around $35,000 to $100000 on average. 

The Bottom Line 

Working as an EKG technician can advance your skills in the medical field and eventually help you grow in your career. Although an EKG technician has long work hours and busy schedules, the salary makes up for the hard work. 

With requisite skills and proper certification, you can expect a rewarding career as an EKG technician.

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Program outcomes may vary depending on each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guranteed.