A perfusionist operates medical equipment that regulates a patient's circulatory system during invasive surgeries. Perfusionists must be college-educated, are paid a salary above the national average and can make over six figures as their careers progress.
Salary data for perfusionists is collected by the American Society of Extracorporeal Technology, and in 2010 it was reported that perfusionists made a starting salary that averaged between $60,000 and $75,000, and practicioners with more than 10 years of experience made in excess of $100,000 once they reacedh management level. A study of salaries in the health-care industry by the American Medical Association reinforces the accuracy of this estimate, as it reported the same salary range for recently graduated perfusionists in 2010. For a comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May of 2010 that the national average salary for all workers was $44,410.
There are two trends in the health-care industry that pull the employment outlook for perfusionists in separate directions. On one hand, organizations such as Florida Health Careers predicts that the number of job openings for perfusionists will increase as the population ages and the prevalence of open-heart surgeries increases. However, these trends may be offset by advances in medical technology. For example, the University of Arkansas wrote in its occupational overview for perfusionists that it expects job growth to stay flat because while the number of circulatory procedures is increasing, more and more of them do not require invasive surgery, and don't require a perfusionist.
In its Occupational Outlook Quarterly, the BLS describes the perfusionist position as one that requires medical expertise, a high degree of confidence, and excellent communication skills. Perfusionists need to have an excellent understanding of the human circulatory system and practical experience operating various types of medical equipment. Because surgical operations require quick decision-making, perfusionists need to have a high degree of confidence in their training and be able to communicate with surgeons and anesthesiologists during an operation.
Perfusionists need to graduate from an accredited program before they are allowed to practice. The programs typically last one to four years, with some employers requiring a bachelor's degree. Applicants to perfusionist programs are expected to complete a wide variety of college-level science and math classes before starting. For example, the University of Nebraska Medical Center requires applicants to have eight credit hours of biology, physiology, chemistry and math to be accepted into its program.