How to Become an EKG Technician

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To become an EKG technician in the United States, you must choose whether you wish to practice as a noninvasive or invasive cardiovascular technologist. Then you must choose an accredited school offering a certificate in cardiovascular technology, or an associate's or bachelor's degree in health science. After successful completion of your chosen program, you will need to complete required testing to obtain certification and licensing.

Things You'll Need

  • Certificate or degree
  • Licensing
  • Certification
  • Choose a cardiovascular technology practice. EKG technologists are divided into two categories: noninvasive and invasive. Noninvasive cardiovascular technologists do not "invade" (or enter) the heart, performing diagnoses using ultrasound technology. These specialists have a working knowledge of ultrasound physics and instrumentation, anatomy of the heart and its diseases, clinical signs and symptoms of congenital heart disease, and cardiovascular pharmacology.

    Invasive technologists are part of a team in a cardiac catheterization laboratory, with a working knowledge of ECG interpretation, coronary anatomy, physiology and disease mechanisms, and cardiovascular pharmacology.

  • Choose an accredited certificate or degree program. Several schools offer programs for a certificate of cardiovascular technology or associate's or bachelor's of health science degrees. These programs are administered through classroom instruction, practical laboratory application and clinical work. Subjects covered include anatomy and physiology, terminology, pharmacology, first aid and CPR, ethics and terminology. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs provides an up-to-date list of all accredited (or approved) schools offering these programs.

  • Complete the certificate or degree program. Program completion times vary: The cardiovascular technology certificate program is one year; an applied health science associate's degree is two years; and a bachelor's degree is four years. Most schools require students to receive a passing grade of "C" or better in all classes.

  • Obtain certification. Certification is a process of practical and written tests showing you have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform your job. Some cardiovascular degree programs require certification prior to admission or graduation; certain states require certification before you can be licensed. EKG technicians who obtain certification may have greater job prospects and higher pay.

  • Obtain licensing. Licensing is a process of testing and verifying certification and education. Once you're licensed, you'll have to renew every 9 to 12 months. For certification and licensing information, refer to the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography or Cardiovascular Credentialing International. These websites offer test dates, certification and licensure requirements, and verification of credentials.

Tips & Warnings

  • * Get your high school diploma. Most programs require a diploma for admission.
  • * Keep copies of all certifications and licensing for your records.
  • * Be sure to renew all certifications and licensing before they expire to ensure you're in compliance with current laws and regulations.
  • Do not participate in illegal behavior. Most programs and employers require background checks and drug testing before admission or hire.

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