Cardiovascular Technologist Degree Programs and Training
Your heartbeat is a precious rhythm, one that cardiovascular technologists know very well. These specialists are trained to assist physicians with procedures or tests related to the heart and peripheral vascular system. The digital tests and images they produce often have a huge impact on diagnoses and decisions made about the treatment of each patient.
Cardiovascular technologists have diagnostic skills related to the heart, and may know how to use a variety of tools ranging from the echocardiograph to the cardiac Doppler. Learning how to use digital and technical equipment does not have to be intimidating, however. There are a vast number of cardiovascular technologist degree programs available, providing students with instruction and even hands-on experience in a clinical setting.
Cardiovascular technologist degree programs
Students can find associate's and bachelor's degrees available in cardiovascular technology, according to the BLS, but the length of these programs can vary. Most associate's degree programs are around two years in length, while bachelor's degrees generally take four years. However, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) suggests that the length of an educational program can depend on the number of diagnostic evaluation areas a student wants to pursue. These include:
- Invasive cardiology
- Noninvasive cardiology
- Noninvasive peripheral vascular study
Typically, students need to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent to seek admission into one of the cardiovascular technologist programs. Depending on the state and the program, you may need to meet other requirements such as passing an entrance exam or having a pre-enrollment interview.
When selecting a degree program in this field, it's important to consider whether or not the program is accredited. This means it has been evaluated for quality by an outside organization. The CAAHEP accredits more than 2,000 allied health programs, and specifically accredits 57 cardiovascular technologist schools across the U.S.
Cardiovascular technologist training
Students working toward either an associate's or bachelor's degree in cardiovascular technology will complete both general education and career-specific coursework in their program. Direct instruction, laboratory experiences and hands-on learning through clinical rotations or externships are key features of many cardiovascular technologist programs. Some of the common courses include:
- Cardiac pharmacology
- Cardiovascular hemodynamics ("hemodynamics" is the study of blood flow)
- Echocardiography fundamentals
- EKG analysis
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Principles in medical electronics and instrumentation
Students should become familiar with a variety of diagnostic procedures that may include echocardiography, the ECG, Holter monitoring, telemetry, and stress testing. Many of these skills are gained through the experiential portions of the program, including clinical rotations or externships at actual health care sites. Upon completion of one of the cardiovascular technologist degree programs, students may want to seek certification through an organization like Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) or the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). Certification may be able to provide professionals with an edge when it comes to employment.
Career outlook for cardiovascular technologists
Demand for cardiovascular technologists is expected to be strong in upcoming years. The BLS reports that the number of jobs in this field is expected to grow by 30 percent nationwide -- much faster than average for all occupations -- from 2012 to 2022. One significant factor is that noninvasive imaging technologies are becoming preferred over more costly, invasive alternatives, according to the BLS. Additionally, an aging Baby Boomer population and recent changes in federal health care laws have created demand for health care services across the board.
As of May 2013, cardiovascular technologists and technicians nationwide earned a median annual wage of $53,210, according to the BLS. Those in the upper 10 percent earned as much as $82,920. Florida, Texas, California, Pennsylvania and New York had the highest concentrations of employed cardiovascular technologists and technicians in the U.S., according to the BLS, but jobs can still be found in many different areas of the country. Indeed, job opportunities may be best for those who have certification, particularly in one or more specialty areas.
Cardiovascular Technologist, Carnegie Institute, no date, http://www.carnegie-institute.edu/programs/cardiovascular-technologist/
Cardiovascular Technology, Milwaukee Area Technical College, no date, http://www.matc.edu/student/offerings/2014-2015/degrees/cardiovascular_technology.cfm
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm#tab-6
CAAHEP Accredited Program Search, Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, no date, http://www.caahep.org/Find-An-Accredited-Program/
Cardiovascular Technology, Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, no date, http://www.caahep.org/Content.aspx?ID=21
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292031.htm