The health care industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the nation and employment in most medical fields is better than average. This certainly holds true for cardiovascular technologists. Anyone who's been to a doctor for a heart condition knows the importance of accurate testing and stringent diagnosis. Cardiovascular technologists are an integral part of that process, working in conjunction with a physician to help diagnose and treat heart conditions and blood ailments.
The job outlook for cardiovascular technologists is extremely good, due in part to an aging population and increases in heart disease. Between 2008 and 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment of cardiovascular technologists to increase 24 percent. Cardiovascular technologists earned a mean annual wage of $49,730 in 2009. Depending on location, earnings can be upwards of $60,000 a year.
What Does a Cardiovascular Technologist Do?
Cardiovascular technologists work with doctors to give patients the best possible cardiac care. They might schedule appointments, help with equipment care and work with patients. Aside from these duties, cardiovascular technologists often specialize in one of three areas: invasive cardiology, noninvasive technology or vascular technology. Below is a breakdown of the duties associated with each specialty:
- Invasive cardiology: Invasive cardiology involves procedures where probes or other catheters are inserted into the patient. Procedures such as balloon angioplasty are part of invasive cardiology. Cardiovascular technologists assist during procedures, such as cardiac catheterization, by preparing a patient for the procedure, monitoring the patient's vital signs during the procedure and assisting during the catheter insertion, as needed.
- Noninvasive technology: Procedures that don't involve insertion of any items into the patient are noninvasive. Noninvasive technology can include specialties such as echocardiographers and cardiograph technicians. Within these specialties, cardiovascular technologists perform such procedures as Doppler ultrasounds, echocardiograms, EKGs and stress tests under the direction of physician orders.
- Vascular technology: These cardiovascular technologists help diagnose and treat disorders of the circulatory system. Using ultrasound and other noninvasive technologies, they assess and record such things as blood flow, blood pressure, circulation in various parts of the vascular system and more.
What Are the Steps to Becoming a Cardiovascular Technologist?
To start a career as a cardiovascular technologist, most students earn an associate's degree from a community college that has an accredited cardiovascular technology program; however, four-year programs are also available for those wishing to further focus their studies.
Licensure and certification are voluntary as no states require either to become a cardiovascular technologist. Instead, the industry has its own professional standard, which dictates professional credentialing. Many employers also require credentialing when considering prospective employment candidates.
Two agencies offer credentials for cardiovascular technologists: the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Both organizations require that students complete an accredited program to be eligible for credentialing exams. Continuing education is another requirement for cardiovascular technologists to maintain certification.
How to Become a Great Cardiovascular Technologist
Once you've earned your degree and credentials, you can start your career as a cardiovascular technologist. Then, it's time to consider your future plans for success. To achieve the highest level in your profession, you can take the following professional and educational steps:
- Learn while you work: Starting out, you'll likely work under close supervision. However, as you demonstrate proficiency in various procedures, you will gain more responsibility.
- Never stop learning: Advanced certifications can increase your chances for advancement and finding better paying positions within your current job or in a new one. Consider niche areas of study to broaden your professional appeal.
- Maintain your certifications: Continuing education can keep you abreast of the current trends and news in your profession and shows your commitment to education.
- Help others learn your trade: If you have an aptitude for teaching, become an expert in your field by helping prospective students learn to be cardiovascular technologists.
Cardiovascular technologists can work in many settings, from hospitals to doctors' offices. They can also specialize in areas in which they're most interested. The most successful cardiovascular technologists have a mechanical aptitude and a keen eye for detail, but they're also able to put their patients' minds at ease during sometimes stressful situations. As the field continues to need new cardiovascular technologists, and as the health care industry grows and changes, the chances for an exciting career as a cardiovascular technologist will grow. Earning your degree, getting the proper credentialing and securing a job in your area of expertise are all within your grasp.
Resources for Cardiovascular Technologists