Medical student in front of a blackboard

How to Become an EKG Technician

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Medical student in front of a blackboard

If you’re considering a career as an EKG Technician, the Medical Assisting program at Brookline College could be the smartest entryway to your future aspirations. This accelerated Medical Assistant program, which can be completed in as little as 9 months, can prepare you to excel as a Medical Assistant (MA) and several other healthcare career options, including EKG Technician.

Medical Assistants are an important part of many healthcare teams. They are qualified to perform a wide range of clinical and administrative tasks, including the cardiovascular diagnostics role of an EKG technician. Medical Assisting can provide you with a broader base of skills and knowledge that can improve your performance as an EKG technician while also preparing you for other healthcare professions down the road.

(Click here to read our comprehensive guide on how to become a Medical Assistant)

EKG Technician is just one of several healthcare career options for graduates of a qualified Medical Assisting program. Other career paths include Medical Office Assistant, Medical Claims Examiner, Nursing Assistant, and Home Health Aide. To learn more about these career options, click here to explore our full list of alternative jobs for Medical Assistants.

What is an EKG Technician?

EKG Technician Defined

EKG Technicians, also known as EKG Technologists and Cardiovascular Technicians, are an integral part of a cardiovascular healthcare team. EKG technicians are responsible for administering a variety of vital tests on a patient’s pulmonary or cardiovascular system for diagnostic, therapeutic, or research purposes. The role requires specialized knowledge and skills, a high level of competence, and attention to detail, along with good communication and people skills.

Why Become an EKG Technician?

If you’re looking for a rewarding career in a fast-growing healthcare field that makes an important difference in the health and lives of many people, being an EKG technician could be right for you.

Demand for EKG techs is projected to grow 17 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. With an average salary of $60,940 per year, it’s one of the highest paying healthcare jobs that does not require a four-year college degree. As the U.S. population continues to age, the need to diagnose medical conditions—such as blood clots and heart disease—is expected to grow. This will only increase the demand for qualified EKG technicians.

From Medical Assistant to EKG Technician

Training to become an EKG Technician by completing a qualified Medical Assisting program may offer several important advantages to your healthcare career.

MAs are qualified to perform a wide range of clinical and administrative tasks in a variety of healthcare settings. Their duties can include patient interaction, basic coding & billing, office procedures, use of technology, medical and legal documentation, and electronic medical records. This breadth of knowledge can increase your value to your employers no matter what role you pursue. It can also provide opportunities for advancement into roles with greater responsibility and higher pay.

EKG Technician: Job Description

What Does an EKG Technicians Do?

EKG Technicians are responsible for conducting various tests of a patient’s heart and lungs, though primarily they perform electrocardiograms (EKGs). They attach wires to a patient’s arms, chest, and legs, monitor EKG readings and report the test results. The tests can be done while the patient is at rest or while they are physically active, often while walking on a treadmill. EKG techs may also perform a number of other tasks vital to diagnostic preparation, procedure, and reporting process.

Medical equipment in use

EKG Technician Duties

EKG Technician duties may include:

  • Prepare patients for procedures
  • Answer questions about the procedure
  • Obtain and record the patient’s medical history
  • Prepare and maintain diagnostic imaging equipment
  • Operate equipment to obtain diagnostic images or to conduct tests
  • Review images or test results to check for quality and coverage
  • Recognize abnormal images and identify other relevant diagnostic information
  • Analyze diagnostic information to provide a summary of findings for physicians
  • Record findings and keep track of the patient’s records
  • Help physicians during procedures

EKG Technician Skills

Beyond education and certification, a number of “soft” skills are considered key to success as an EKG technician. These include:

  • Attention to details. EKG techs must follow precise instructions to obtain the images needed to accurately diagnose and treat patients. For example, they must pay close attention to the computer screen while scanning a patient’s body, because the cues that distinguish a healthy image from an unhealthy one are often quite subtle.
  • Hand-eye coordination. To get quality images, EKG techs must accurately configure and attach equipment on the patient’s body. They must also reposition and adjust equipment in response to what they see on the screen.
  • People skills. EKG technicians work closely with their patients. Sometimes patients are in pain, sick, injured, or disabled in some way that makes diagnostic testing difficult. EKG techs often must gain the patient’s trust and cooperation in order to create usable images. EKG techs must also communicate clearly with patients, physicians and other healthcare professionals.
  • Physical stamina. EKG techs are on their feet for long periods. They also expected to move, set-up and adjust equipment. In some cases, they must be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.
  • Technical abilities. EKG techs must understand how to operate complex machinery and computerized instruments. Like any technology, diagnostics equipment can change with time and may require a knowledgeable trouble-shooter.

Where Do EKG Technicians Work?

EKG diagnostics are used widely throughout the healthcare industry. As a result, EKG Technicians can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including:

  • Doctors’ offices
  • General hospitals
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Specialized hospitals
  • Medical laboratories

EKG Technician School & Certification

Education Requirements for EKG Technicians

To be an EKG technician, you must have a formal education, such as an associates degree or postsecondary certificate or diploma. Many employers also require professional certification.

Many colleges and universities may offer both associates and bachelor’s degree programs in cardiovascular and vascular technology. One-year certification programs are also available from colleges and some hospitals. The programs include coursework in either invasive or noninvasive cardiovascular or vascular technology procedures. In addition to classroom study, most programs will include a clinical component, such as an externship, where students earn credit while working under an experienced technologist in a hospital, doctor’s office, or imaging laboratory.

It is important to note that employers generally prefer graduates of programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Model of a heart with an open book

EKG Technician Certification Requirements

Most employers require or prefer to hire EKG technicians with professional certification, or they may expect new technicians to earn certification shortly after being hired. This is because many insurance providers will only pay for procedures if the testing is performed by a certified technician.

The certification for professionals working in the areas of EKG, Holter monitoring, and stress testing is the Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT) certification. This certification is offered by Cardiovascular Credentialing International and computer-based testing for the CCT credential is offered year-round at local testing centers.

Requirements to take the CCT certification examination include:

  1. Have a high school diploma or general education diploma
  2. Be a current student or graduate of a cardiovascular or allied health training program. Or be currently employed or previously employed in the field of Cardiovascular Technology or an allied health field recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA). Or completed requirements for a graduate or undergraduate degree from a recognized institution in a field related to science of physical health.
  3. Typed documentation to support the qualification under which you are applying.

In addition to EKG technician certification, many employers prefer to hire EKG technicians who have a basic life support (BLS) certification, which confirms that they are trained in providing CPR. Some states may have other requirements as well, including licensure. You can contact your state’s medical board for more information.

How Long Does it Take to Become an EKG Technician?

Depending on the length of the educational program you choose, you can become an EKG technician in as little as 9 months with a qualified certificate program. While longer programs, such as an associates or bachelor’s degree, can qualify you for greater responsibility, more job opportunities, and higher pay, they are not required to start your medical career as an EKG technician.

While it costs about $100,000 on average to complete a 4-year in-state college program and about $32,000 to complete a 2-year in-state college program, the total cost of completing a 9-month certificate or diploma program can be much lower, especially when you factor in the income you are not earning while attending school, and before starting your career.

How Much Do EKG Technicians Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, EKG technicians earned an average salary* of $60,940. Hourly workers earned an average hourly rate of about $30 per hour.

EKG technicians who earn in the top highest 10th percent can make up to $96,000 or more per year.

Highest Paying Industries for EKG Technician Jobs

An EKG technician’s pay can vary depending on the industry in which they practice. Here are five highest paying industries for EKG techs:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Outpatient Care Centers $39.09 $81,300
Offices of Other Healthcare Practitioners $36.06 $75,010
Colleges & Universities $33.61 $69,900
Medical & Diagnostic Labs $32.42 $67,430
Physicians’ Offices $30.79 $64,040

Highest Paying States for EKG Technician

An EKG technician’s salary* can also vary considerably by geographical area. For instance, here are the top 5 states for EKG techs based on pay:

State Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Rhode Island $41.15 $85,590
Oregon $39.81 $82,810
California $38.22 $79,490
New Jersey $37.91 $78,850
Washington D.C. $37.52 $78,040

Highest Paying Cities for EKG Technicians

Annual income for EKG technicians can also vary by city. For example, here are the top 10 cities for EKG techs based on average annual salary:

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Ventura, CA $50.21 $104,430
San Jose, CA $43.24 $89,930
Fairfield, CA $42.52 $88,450
San Diego, CA $41.95 $87,260
Sacramento, CA $41.28 $85,870
Fresno, CA $40.58 $84,400
Stockton, CA $40.44 $84,120
Medford, OR $40.17 $83,550
Providence, RI $39.58 $82,330
Trenton, NJ $39.47 $82,090

Woman with a stethoscope typing on a laptop

About Brookline College

At Brookline College, our mission is to provide you with more than a degree or diploma. Our goal is to help you achieve your dreams for a brighter future. With both online and on-campus programs in Arizona and New Mexico, we offer an exceptional education in nursing and healthcare.

Our Medical Assistant Program can be completed in as little as 9 months and provides the necessary training for entry-level positions as a medical assistant in a healthcare facility such as a clinic, physician’s office, or urgent care facility.

It can also prepare you for a successful career as an EKG technician. The program includes an externship where you will have the opportunity to experience the EKG tech profession first-hand by working closely with patients, doctors, administrators, and other healthcare professionals. At Brookline College, your future starts now.