Electrocardiogram (EKG) technicians work to assist cardiologists by producing electrocardiograms, which report the electrical impulses in a patient’s heart. A cardiologist then uses this information to assist in diagnosing a patient’s medical problems. EKG's are also performed before and after operations, during physicals and when patients are experiencing chest pains. EKG technician certificate programs provide students the opportunity to learn the skills needed to work in this field.
Community colleges, technical and vocational schools and some hospitals offer EKG certificate programs. Standard admission requirements for most programs are that applicants must possess a high school diploma or GED. These programs vary in length, depending on the specific school, but most programs last about six weeks. Students may have the option to complete classes in the evening. EKG certificate programs will combine classroom work with hands-on training, using a variety of medical equipment that a working professional will use.
Though programs focus on using EKG machines, recording data and preparing patients for an EKG, programs will also provide students with knowledge related to a position as an EKG technician. Some courses that most programs offer will include medical terminology, anatomy and legal and ethical aspects of care. Students will also learn about the circulatory system and common heart and related medical conditions. Most programs also train students in Holter Monitoring, which is a process where the patient wears a heart monitor which records heart activity over a 24 to 48 hour period.
The short duration of most EKG technician certificate programs allows a student to quickly learn an in demand job skill. Though many technicians learn the required job skills through on the job training, employers are more likely to hire an applicant with a certification, as she will need less training. There are a number of professional organizations that test and certify EKG technicians. Certificate programs will teach students the skills needed to pass these examinations. Though employers may hire applicants without a professional certification, those who do receive professional certification may have more opportunities for employment.
In addition to certificate programs, some schools also offer students the opportunity to obtain a two-year associate’s degree in EKG technology. Many of these programs also include training in phlebotomy, or drawing blood for medical testing. These degree programs are more thorough than the certificate programs and can help a graduate to acquire higher level positions and advance into other positions. Graduates can also use many of the courses from the associate’s degree as a basis for a bachelor’s degree in a health care field.