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 Salary
What is the average salary for cardiovascular technologists?
Since cardiovascular technology is considered a critical care area, the salary is high compared to other medical technical professions. Cardiovascular technologists (CVTs) can often receive a pay jump when they work in a critical care area like an emergency department or an intensive care unit (ICU). The hourly pay range for the occupation varies based on geographic location, hospital size and numerous other factors, but it can generally fall anywhere between $13 to $40 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In fact, the BLS reports that the mean annual wages nationwide for cardiovascular technologists and technicians, as of May 2014, were $55,210. However, those with earnings in the lowest 10 percent made as little as $28,110 or less while those earning in the upper 10 percent made as much as $84,940 or more, shows May 2014 BLS data.
What personality traits or skills does a cardiovascular technologist need?
This field requires someone who is confident and not afraid to work in life and death situations to take care of critically sick patients. Other important skills, according to the BLS, include good hand-eye coordination, physical stamina, technical know-how and interpersonal skills to effectively communicate with patients and healthcare professionals.
Are cardiovascular technologists in high demand?
The BLS reports that job opportunities for cardiovascular technologists and technicians are expected to grow by 30 percent from 2012 to 2022. This job growth is considered much faster than average and could lead to 15,700 new jobs becoming available during this time. One factor leading to demand is that health care facilities should be turning more and more to imaging technology as the sector evolves, particularly to replace more expensive and pricier invasive procedures. Also, the BLS reports that many third-party payers, such as health insurance providers, are encouraging the use of noninvasive procedures in cardiovascular technology.
A shift toward outpatient care could also lead to greater use of cardiovascular technology equipment and machinery in diagnostic and medical labs as well as doctors' offices. An aging baby boomer population, as well as increased access to health care coverage for many individuals -- as a result of federal law -- could mean more people taking advantage of cardiovascular technology type services, including those that help diagnose conditions like tumors and blood clots.
Is there room for advancement?
Certification of skills may be one way you can distinguish yourself to seek higher pay or better job opportunities. In some states, certification may be required to obtain a license. Organizations that offer certification include Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
That said, cardiovascular technologists can work their way up to become a manager or director of a department. They also could further their schooling to become a physician or other medical professional although this would take much more education. They may be able to transition to a different position in the industry and sell medical equipment, which can lead to a lucrative salary. There are also temp agencies that hire contractual CVTs for a certain length of time when there are shortages at hospitals. Some agencies hire CVTs for three-month stints, and these opportunities can pay very well.
What are the advantages of a job as a cardiovascular technologist?
Working on hearts is a very exciting, prestigious field. Obviously, heart function is essential to sustain life. There is great satisfaction in this field when people who are sick are given interventions that lead to immediate relief and reversal of symptoms. Cardiovascular technologists also utilize amazing technology and equipment.
Learn more about cardiovascular technologist job specifics.
What employment settings exist for cardiovascular technologists?
Cardiovascular technologists mainly work in hospital settings, performing procedures with cardiologists in invasive cardiovascular laboratories (commonly called cath labs). Typically cardiovascular procedures are not portable and remain in the cath lab because of the x-ray equipment used. There are varying sizes of hospitals, including community hospitals and teaching institutions with medical programs. Some smaller community hospitals only perform coronary interventions but not cardiovascular surgery. Other smaller hospitals do not have the support structure in place for a cardiovascular program and therefore do not have a cath lab.
What are the hours like for a cardiovascular technologist?
This profession typically involves 10-hour daytime shifts since this is when the cath lab is open for individuals having elective procedures and surgeries. A common shift begins at 7 a.m. and lasts until 5:30 p.m. Some hospitals offer 8 or 12-hour shift options as well. Like many jobs in health care that deal with emergency situations, the job of a cardiovascular technologist may include on-call rotations for nights and weekends. Part-time work opportunities may also be available.
How to Become a Cardiovascular Technician
Cardiovascular technicians play an important role in health care, assisting physicians with heart-related tests, procedures and assessments. With job demand expected to be strong in upcoming years, the cardiovascular tech field may be one worth considering. Specialties in areas such as invasive cardiology, noninvasive technology or vascular technology may also be available, allowing techs to develop skills in niche fields, specializing in tasks ranging from Doppler ultrasound to cardiac catheterization. If you are interested in this field, read on for more details about how to become a cardiovascular technician.
Requirements and prerequisites for cardiovascular technicians
An associate's degree in cardiovascular technology is usually sufficient for students to obtain entry-level skills, but there are also bachelor's degree programs available, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The admissions process may vary from school to school, but many programs require at least:
- A high school diploma (GPA requirements may vary)
- A drug screening and/or background check
- A physical exam
- Prerequisite classes in math, English or other subjects
Students may want to look for cardiovascular tech programs that are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or another accrediting agency. Accreditation can help ensure that students are being provided with a quality instruction, but also be necessary to seeking certification. The CAAHEP accredits nearly 2,000 allied health programs, including more than 55 in cardiovascular technology nationwide. Students who already have training in a different allied health field may also be able to find a one-year advanced certificate available to help them obtain cardiovascular tech training.
Skills and qualifications needed for cardiovascular technicians
You may be interested in how to become a cardiovascular technician, but understanding the skills and qualifications needed for the job can also be advantageous. O*NET Online reports the following skills to be important in this field:
- Active listening
- Critical thinking
- Social perceptiveness
- Operation monitoring
- Judgment and decision making
- Service orientation
Technicians also need to be dependable, good at communicating and have strong evaluative skills. They should also be able to tolerate stress, have sensitivity toward others, and be adaptive and flexible on the job.
Once students have completed a postsecondary education program, they may want to consider additional certifications. According to the BLS, certification is preferred by some employers and it may even be necessary in some states where cardiovascular technician licensing is required. The BLS also points out that some insurance plans, including Medicare, will only cover services if they are performed by a certified technician. Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) offers eight certification exams, any of which could be appropriate depending on a student's training, specializations and subsequent education. Similarly, certification can also be sought through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
Cardiovascular technician working environment
Cardiovascular technicians can find jobs in acute care hospitals, outpatient services or even private offices or clinics. They often work full-time, but could be required to work during evenings and weekends or be on call. The job may also require them to be on their feet often, assisting physicians and other health care professionals with procedures or providing them with details about diagnostic tests afterward.
Job demand for cardiovascular technicians and technologists is expected to grow rapidly. In fact, the BLS shows that from 2012 to 2022 the need for these professionals could increase by 30 percent nationwide, which is much faster growth than average. Driving this occupational demand is an aging Baby Boomer population seeking expanding health care services, as well as the Affordable Care Act, which requires individuals to obtain health insurance. There is also some preference being given to non-invasive techniques, which are usually more affordable than invasive procedures and that can often now be done in some outpatient settings, according to the BLS.
Request Information from Cardiovascular Technologist Colleges
Cardiovascular Technician Schools and Cardiovascular Technologist Schools
Here, you can request information from accredited cardiovascular technologist schools that have many cardiovascular technologist degrees and cardiovascular technologist certification courses. You will notice that the cardiovascular technologist schools are listed by state. Feel free to request information from multiple cardiovascular technologist schools in order to find the best program for you.
- Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292031.htm
- 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
- 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