Part One What Is an EKG Technician?
An electrocardiograph technician, also known as an EKG technician, is an allied healthcare professional who uses specialized equipment to measure the heart’s electrical activity. Physicians and other medical professionals can use this information to diagnose and treat a patient's cardiac health.
Taking an EKG on a patient includes attaching electrodes to the patient's chest, arms, and legs. EKG techs are responsible for explaining this process to patients, positioning patients appropriately for testing, and connecting the necessary electrodes. They then use the EKG machine to collect a result.
After they ensure a clear reading, they report the information to the ordering physician. They can then confirm that a patient's heart is healthy or make a diagnosis and a care plan if needed.
We Found The Following Schools with Online EKG Technician Programs
Working as an EKG technician requires less education than many other medical professions, and training can be completed in just a few months. It's also an excellent entry point for those wishing to jumpstart their healthcare careers.
This comprehensive guide will give you all the information you need to know to decide if becoming an EKG tech is right for you, including what an EKG tech does each day, their salary, career outlook in the profession, how to get started in the field, and more.
What Kind of Skills Do You Need to Be a Good EKG Technician?
EKGs are entirely non-invasive and painless procedures. However, the stress of injury or disease and being in the hospital setting can be worrisome for patients. For that reason, EKG techs need to possess a calm, courteous bedside manner. Successful EKG techs should also be able to pay close attention to details, have strong hand-eye coordination, have physical stamina, have strong technical abilities, and have physical stamina.
What Other Titles Do EKG Technicians Go By?
Depending upon their work environment, the equipment they operate, and their training, they may be referred to by a variety of titles other than EKG technician, including:
- ECG Technician
- Cardiac Monitor Technician
- Cardiographic Technician
- Rhythm Analysis Technician
- Telemetry Monitor Technician
EKG vs ECG
Many people wonder why the abbreviation EKG is used instead of ECG. Elektrokardiogramm is the German spelling, and using the abbreviation EKG in the United States became common to avoid confusion.
Part Two What Do EKG Technicians Do?
EKG technicians usually work in hospital settings and are also needed in outpatient clinics, diagnostic testing centers, labs, nursing and long-term care homes, and private physicians’ practices.
The job description can vary depending on location, but EKG techs generally perform the following duties:
- Position patients correctly for monitoring
- Educate patients about the testing procedures
- Run EKGs and attach leads to patients, chest, arms, and legs
- Perform stress tests
- Prep patients for Holter monitoring (a type of ambulatory EKG device)
- Obtain a baseline record of the heart’s function for comparison to future electrocardiograms
- Deliver test results to physicians, nurse practitioners, or other medical professionals.
- Perform administrative tasks related to patient appointments and record-keeping
- Maintain EKG equipment
- Schedule appointments
- Assist physicians during procedures
Though physicians will interpret all EKG test results, technicians must be able to review the tests to identify irregularities that may appear so that medical personnel can be alerted to any concerning problems.
>> Related: How to Become a Paramedic
Part Three EKG Technician Salary
According to Salary.com, the average annual EKG technician salary in the United States is $41,900 as of June 2023, but the range typically falls between $37,100 and $48,400. However, compensation can vary depending on:
- Certification status
- Level of education - associate degree or bachelor's degree
- Years of experience
- The city and state you work in
- The number of modalities you are qualified to perform (EKG techs who can work with Holter monitors and telemetry often make more money)
Interestingly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) states the median annual wage for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $63,020 as of May 2022. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,000.
The type of facility you work in may also determine your salary. For example, EKG techs working in hospitals often earn more than those working in a physician's office.
Highest Paying States for EKG Technicians
Some geographical areas may also go through periods where there is a shortage of qualified EKG techs, and many offer increased salaries depending on their situation.
According to ZipRecruiter, the five states that pay the highest average salaries for EKG technicians are:
- New York - $56,451 annually, or $27.14/hr
- Idaho - $53,650 annually, or $25.79/hr
- California - $50,841 annually, or $24.44/hr
- Maine - $50,826 annually, or $24.44/hr
- Hawaii - $50,184 annually, or $24.13/hr
It is essential to consider the cost of living in the geographical area where you live. In general, in cities with a higher cost of living, EKG techs often make a higher salary. However, if you can live in a town with a lower cost of living and commute to a job that pays more, it may be worth your time as you will keep more money in your pocket.
EKG Tech Benefits
Most full-time EKG technicians also receive benefits, including health insurance, paid vacation time, sick leave, tuition reimbursement, and more.
We Found The Following Schools with Online EKG Technician Programs
Part Four How Do You Become an EKG Technician?
EKG technician training requires less education than most other medical professions and can be a great first step for those interested in working in the healthcare field.
Most employers prefer their staff to complete an EKG certification program before applying for a job. EKG certification programs usually take three to six months to complete.
Step 1: Earn a high school diploma or GED
A high school diploma or GED is the minimum requirement to become an EKG tech. While in high school, consider taking higher-level math classes, anatomy and physiology, and other science courses. Those courses can help you understand the terminology and anatomy you will need to know as an EKG tech.
It is also not uncommon for EKG technicians to have earned an associate degree from a community college that includes practical training. Some EKG techs even have a four-year bachelor’s degree before they begin their career.
Step 2: Complete an EKG technician program
Although completing an EKG technician program is not mandatory to start working as an EKG tech, many certificate programs are available in the US to give you the education you need to be successful.
Upon completing an EKG tech program, students will be more comfortable working hands-on with EKG equipment and more confident working in the patient care environment.
Aside from learning how to read an EKG, some of the skills and knowledge you will acquire through an EKG technician program include:
- Correct 6 and 12 lead ECG placement
- Medical Terminology
- Bedside manner
Step 3: Apply for a job as an EKG tech
Some students skip step 2 and move directly into step 3. Many EKG technicians are trained on the job by senior EKG technicians or other cardiology professionals. This orientation and training generally take about 4 to 6 weeks. You will have an opportunity to learn what students in an EKG tech program study. However, you will develop your knowledge and skills in an on-the-job orientation-type setting.
Although it is not mandatory, some employers may prefer that candidates have healthcare experience. Having prior experience as a hospital volunteer or EMT can also put you ahead of your competition during interviews.
Step 4: Get EKG Certified
Once you have at least one year of experience in the field working as an EKG tech, you are eligible for testing to become a certified EKG technician (CET) from the National Healthcare Association. To take the certification exam, you will need to:
- Apply online
- Select a location and date to take your certification exam
- Study using the website study guides and practice tests
- Take the two-hour exam at a testing center. Some students also take a live proctored exam at another location.
- Get your results within two days
National Performance Specialists offers an EKG certification (CET). This certification program provides an e-learning platform that includes access to an academic supervisor, free practice tests, the ability to take the exam three times, and a digital copy of the EKG technician certification.
EKG techs can also become certified as Certified Cardiographic Technicians (CCT). This exam is for EKG techs who work with Holter monitoring and stress testing and want to validate this knowledge for employers.
Applicants who want to sit for the CCT exam must meet the following criteria:
- Have a high-school diploma or GED
- Have proof that you are in one of the following categories:
- Enrollment as a student or a graduate of a cardiovascular or EKG training program
- Employment in the field of cardiovascular technology or a recognized allied health field
- Completed a graduate or undergraduate degree in a science or physical health field
Part Five What Is the Career Outlook for EKG Technicians?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics places skilled EKG technicians into a larger category of cardiovascular technologists and technicians. These professions are experiencing moderate career growth, with a predicted 4% increase in the number of available positions by 2032.
The need for EKG technicians will grow due to the aging of the population, the continued prevalence of cardiovascular disease, and the availability of affordable diagnostic testing. In addition, as electrocardiogram equipment becomes more affordable, private practices will begin offering the exams and will need EKG technicians to administer them.
Part Six What are the Continuing Education Requirements for EKG Technicians?
There is no legal mandatory continuing education (CE) requirement for non-certified EKG techs. However, most employers prefer or require that EKG techs are certified for employment, and being certified does have CE requirements.
Certified EKG technicians (CETs) will need to renew their credentials every two years by completing 10 CEs and paying a recertification fee.
EKG techs with CCT credentials must renew their certification 9-12 months after passing their exam. From then on, they will need to renew their credentials every three years. For the first renewal, there is no requirement to complete CEs. But on each three-year renewal, techs will need to complete a total of 16 CE credits as well as submit a signature of compliance to the CCI Code Of Ethics.
Part Seven Where Can I Learn More About Becoming an EKG Technician?
If you would like to learn more about a career as an EKG technician, the following organizations and associations can provide information, resources, and support.
- American Society of Electrocardiograph Technicians
- National Healthcare Workers Association
- National Telemetry Association
- National Associate for Health Professionals
Part Eight EKG Tech FAQs
How long does it take to become an EKG technician?
- Some EKG technicians obtain the necessary training while working on the job in about four to six weeks. Getting certified is recommended, as most hospitals require the credential for employment. However, many employers will allow an EKG tech to work while pursuing these credentials. Certification classes can be completed in about three-to-six months.
Is being an EKG technician a good career?
- EKG technicians deliver quality healthcare directly to patients while enjoying strong job security and a solid salary that usually includes good benefits. The work is interesting and provides the opportunity to continue learning and expand into related cardiac testing areas or other healthcare professions.
Is being an EKG technician stressful?
- The work that an EKG technician performs is not stressful. However, they must use their analytical skills when analyzing test results or reporting concerning findings. They also need to possess empathy, as they care for patients of all ages and conditions who may be confused, nervous, or fearful about their health and diagnostics testing.
Who earns a higher salary: phlebotomists or EKG technicians?
- On average, EKG technicians earn slightly more than phlebotomists. While the median annual phlebotomist salary is $38,530, Salary.com reports average annual EKG tech wages at $41,900.