Become a Cardiovascular Technologist

Heart disease is a serious problem in the United States. In fact, cardiovascular disease is responsible for more than one in every three deaths in this country. There is evidence that, on average, a person dies in this country every minute from a heart attack. Although men still represent the lion’s share of patients, women are quickly gaining ground in the incidence of heart problems. This is an epidemic of epic proportions. A number of factors, ranging from obesity to environment, can cause cardiovascular disease that leads to of fatal events like cardiac arrest and stroke. More and more health care dollars will likely be spent on preventative measures and treatment of cardiovascular disease, which makes the cardiovascular health care team a sector of employment growth for the foreseeable future. This vital team consists of cardiologists, nutritionists, nurses, and support staff. It also includes cardiovascular technologists. If you have a desire to join the health care field but need to be careful about how you apportion your education dollars, you might want to become a cardiovascular technologist.

The most common pathway to becoming a cardiovascular technologist is to earn an associate’s degree in the discipline. Others will earn an undergraduate degree and complete a certificate as a cardiovascular technologist. Both degrees and certificates can be completed in around two years. Degree and certificate programs are offered at community colleges and some four-year colleges and universities as well. Degree programs will include general medical classes like biology and anatomy. The cardiovascular system will receive extra attention above and beyond the body’s other systems. Programs will also include clinical classes where students can expect to handle equipment under the supervision of working professionals. They will likely travel to local hospitals and residential facilities to obtain a working knowledge of their future careers.

One of the major responsibilities of cardiovascular technologists is running the testing and monitoring equipment involved in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease. It is a technical job and the right candidate will have strong mechanical aptitude. Machines like an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and devices like stents and pacemakers all fall under the purview of technologists. They may even get checked out on ultrasound equipment to image the cardiovascular system for diagnosis. Cardiovascular technologists can improve their career prospects by learning how to use new technology.

Patient care is another big responsibility of cardiovascular technologists. They spend a lot of time with patients, preparing them for operations, positioning them for diagnostic imaging, and explaining the use of pacemakers and other equipment. Technologists must be prepared for administrative duties, as well. Much of their work requires extensive record keeping, communicating, and reporting. Most degree programs include some coursework in administrative responsibilities.

Perhaps due to the rise in obesity or the graying of the population, employment opportunities in cardiovascular care have never been better. There is serious growth in this sector, suggesting that demand, and competitive salaries, will continue for a decade or more. Cardiovascular technologists make an average median salary of a little less than $50,000, which is a highly competitive salary for a position that can be obtained with an associate’s degree. This salary makes an education in the field one of the most cost-effective. The up-front savings can also mean fewer student loan repayments over time, which can add up when you calculate lifetime earnings of a cardiovascular technologist.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014