How To Become An EKG Technician

Gina L | July 1, 2009

Becoming an EKG technician is a great way to break into the allied health industry, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. EKG technicians may come into close contact with patients who have serious heart ailments that have life-or-death implications. But if you can handle the emotional stress, you’re in for a rewarding, in-demand career.

How do I become an EKG technician?
All EKG technicians must hold a high school diploma or equivalent. Many EKG technicians are trained on the job by an EKG supervisor or cardiologist, with training lasting about 8 to 16 weeks. Employers prefer to train people already in the health care field, such as nursing aides. Some EKG technicians choose to pursue more formal education. The most common level of education completed by EKG technicians is an associate degree, but bachelor’s degrees are becoming more available. Many EKG technicians enroll in degree programs while they work part time to gain experience and make contacts in the industry. Another option for EKG training is one-year diploma or certificate programs.

The Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology reviews EKG technician programs seeking accreditation, and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Professionals accredits EKG technician programs. As of 2009, there were 35 programs accredited in cardiovascular technology in the U.S. Once you graduate from an accredited cardiovascular technology program, you may be eligible to obtain professional certification.

Some states require EKG technicians to be licensed, and some states require certification as part of licensure. Cardiovascular Credentialing International offers the Certified Cardiographic Technician credential. Though your state may not require certification, many employers prefer to hire workers who have this professional designation. To find out the requirements in your area, contact your state medical board.

To become an EKG technician, you must be in good physical condition since you will spend a lot of time walking and standing. Plus, heavy lifting may be involved to move equipment or transfer patients. You must also possess mechanical aptitude and be able to follow detailed instructions. The best EKG technicians are pleasant and relaxed, as that puts patients at ease. You must also be able to communicate articulately and technically to work side by side with physicians and explain procedures to patients in a simple and coherent manner.

What will I learn in EKG technician school?
In two-year EKG technician programs, the first year is dedicated to core courses and the second year consists of specialized instruction in noninvasive cardiovascular technology, including the basics of EKG reading, Holter monitoring, lead placement, and stress testing. If you are already qualified in an allied health profession, you may only need to complete one year of specialized instruction.

Accredited cardiovascular technology programs consist of classroom instruction, formal laboratory experiences, and patient-based clinical instruction. Core curriculum includes instruction in general and applied sciences, human anatomy and physiology, basic pharmacology, and basic medical electronics and medical instrumentation. Specialized instruction that will prepare you for professional certification includes EKG techniques and recognition, Holter monitoring, electrophysiology, basic cardiovascular anatomy and physiology, stress test techniques, and cardiac medications.

Pharmacy Careers

Dawn Papandrea | May 8, 2008

One of my friends from high school just came back home from her semester at school. Unlike most of my friends, she didn’t graduate this semester. Now, this isn’t because she just couldn’t cut it – she’s actually super busy in a six-year intensive pharmacy program. When she graduates officially in two years, she’ll have her doctor of pharmacy and will be able to go out into the world as a pharmacist.

A lot of us go into school, not knowing what we want to do. And even if we have an idea, it’s very likely that that will change throughout our four years at school. My friend basically had to know that she wanted to do this when she was 17 years old, when she applied for the program. She was admitted and has kept up with it ever since. I really admire her for sticking to her guns! She’s always very busy with schoolwork and it’s all pretty interesting. Let’s examine the career…

Pharmacists don’t just fill prescriptions, you know. They must have a working knowledge of all the drugs out on the market, while being the go-to person for healthcare information. What kinds of drugs interact negatively with each other? Which prescriptions should people not take because of allergies? This profession carries a large responsibility in handling the lives of many people and, as a result, it’s very important to pay attention to detail. One wrong move, and it can cost someone their life. But that likely won’t happen since pharmacists have much experience and training.

Since the end of high school, my friend has worked at CVS in the pharmacy as an intern to get hands-on experience. A pharmacy isn’t the only place pharmacists work, however. They can also do research at pharmaceutical companies and work in hospitals. Throughout school they take basic science classes, including biology and chemistry. As the years go on, students take more specialized pharmaceutical classes, with professors who are specialists in each topic. My friend’s last year will be spent doing various rotations at different locations. Here, she will get very specialized experience that will prepare her for a career in pharmacy.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacists held about 230,000 jobs in 2004 and the number continues to grow. It estimates that a career in pharmacy will grow faster than the average career by 2014. The median wage in May 2004 was $84,900, as reported by the BLS.

Looks like a good career to get into, especially if you like the medical field but don’t want to go as far as getting your M.D. If you like helping people you’ll definitely like a career in pharmacy, as you deal constantly with others and helping them with their prescriptions (depending on your place of employment, of course). I had coffee with my friend the other night and she’s definitely dedicated to her profession. She’ll spend her summer interning and reading up on all the drugs so that she can get a good handle on them and what they do, she told me. She’s moving along on the path to a successful career in pharmacy.

-Amanda Fornecker