Cardiovascular Technologist Certification
While overall, cardiovascular technologist certification is voluntary, some states require cardiovascular techs to be licensed. For example, in Washington state, cardiovascular invasive specialists (professionals who assist with cardiac or vascular catheterizations) are required to be licensed. (To find out if certification is mandatory in your state, contact the Department of Health or ask faculty members if you are attending a cardiovascular tech school).
In many cases employers will either prefer or require you to have cardiovascular technologist certification. In any case, having such professional credentials will give you a competitive advantage over those who are not certified. CCI (Cardiovascular Credentialing International) and the ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) administer licensure or credentials relevant to the field of cardiovascular technology. Eligibility for cardiovascular technologist certification includes meeting educational or experiential prerequisites and writing an exam.
Note that most employers require cardiovascular technologists to have necessary first aid or lifesaving skills. You will notice that job listings tend to list BCLS, BART or other similar certifications as requirements for employment.
Types of Certifications
CCI offers numerous certification exams relevant to the field of cardiovascular technology. These include, but are not limited to:
- Certified Cardiographic Technician (CCT)
- Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS)
- Registered Vascular Specialist (RVS)
- Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS)
The ARDMS offers two certification exams related to the cardiovascular technology profession:
- Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS)
- Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT)
Depending on what you specialized in at cardiovascular technologist school or the particular job you are pursuing, you may wish to write exams for more than one credential.
Preparing for the Exam
Before applying for the certification exam, you need to make sure you meet the prerequisites.
The ARDMS has seven different options for prerequisites, meaning that you must meet one of them. For example, one of the prerequisites is completion of a two-year allied health program from an accredited school plus 12 months of full time clinical experience. Another prerequisite option is completion of a diagnostic medical sonography, diagnostic cardiac sonography or vascular technology educational program from an accredited school.
The CCI outlines prerequisite options for each type of certification exam. For example, some of the prerequisite options for the RCIS certification exam include completion of cardiovascular technology program from an accredited school OR two years professional experience as an invasive cardiovascular technologist.
Both the ARDMS and CCI provide a break-down of key topics that will be on the exam and sample questions. You can pay to take an online practice exam through the ARDMS or for a self-assessment exam through the CCI to help prepare. Apply online for an ARDMS exam; for CCI you must fill out an application and send it in the mail. As of 2012, the fee for the ARDMS certification exam is $450 (for the SPI exam plus either the RCS or RVT exam); each CCI exam costs $350 plus a $100 application fee.
What to Expect at the Cardiovascular Technologist Exam
If you are pursuing your RVT or RCS credential through the ARDMS, you must write two exams: the SPI (Sonography Principles & Instrumentation) exam plus one of the specialty exams. The specialty exam for the RVT credential focuses on Vascular Technology; for the RCS credential, you have the choice between adult, pediatric or fetal echocardiography exams.
Both the CCI and ARDMS certification exams take place at Pearson VUE test centers. There are over 200 of these centers across the United States and more than 3,000 around the world. The tests are multiple choice and are completed on a computer at the test center. Candidates must present two pieces of identification when checking in. They are not allowed to bring any assistive devices inside the exam room, such as a calculator or reference material; however they may use the calculator on the computer and will be given a whiteboard and marker for rough notes.
Again, you can consult the ARDMS and CCI websites for a detailed breakdown of what key topics are on the cardiovascular technologist certification exams. For example, ARDMS’ Vascular Technology exam has questions on cerebrovascular, venous, peripheral arterial and abdominal or visceral conditions/procedures plus questions on quality assurance and patient safety. CCI’s Certified Cardiographic Technician exam has questions on cardiovascular anatomy and physiology, ECG or EKG (electrocardiograms), cardiac electrophysiology, stress tests, ambulatory monitoring and medications.