Cardiovascular technologists perform non-invasive and/or invasive procedures to help doctors diagnose and treat problems related to the heart and peripheral vascular system (blood vessels throughout the body).
Numerous schools offer Associate level degrees for cardiovascular technologists, which is the most common level of education required for this profession. Some educational institutions are starting to offer Bachelor degree programs for those who wish to further specialize in a particular area, such as invasive cardiovascular technology, or who want the chance to complete longer clinical placement periods.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the projected growth for cardiovascular tech jobs by 2029 is 5%. Along with job growth, technologists can earn strong salaries, with median pay at $59,100 per year as of 2020 (conditions in your area may vary).
If you don’t see a cardiovascular tech school or program in your area, consider one of the many related careers, such as ultrasound technician, radiology tech, MRI tech, and more. Request information from a program that interests you and you will be contacted by a representative of the school. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions to determine the program will be a good fit for you.
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Choosing the Right Cardiovascular Technologist Program
There are several important things to keep in mind when selecting a cardiovascular technologist school, which include:
- Accreditation: Attending an accredited program will ensure that you know you are receiving a quality level of education and will be eligible for applying for professional certification after graduation. While certification through the ARDMS or CCI is not always mandatory, many employers prefer these credentials. Find a school that is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or CHEA (i.e. a CAAHEP-accredited school), or the United States Department of Education to make sure you can become certified.
- Experience of the Staff: Professors who teach and maintain active skills by working in the field bring invaluable experience to their students.
- Specialization: Select a school that offers a cardiovascular tech program with courses representative of your specific career goals. Specializations primarily available for study are echocardiography, electrocardiography, cardiology, and vascular technology.
- Employability: Find out about the school’s track record for successful employment after graduation. Naturally, you would want to attend a school where most if not all graduates find work after completing the program.
- Internships: Internships and externships occur in an outside healthcare setting, where the skills learned in the classroom will be put to practical use. The school that you are enrolled in should have strong partnerships with healthcare agencies in the community, such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, and clinics, and may help place you in one of these programs. Ask your prospective school what their practice is for these important training opportunities.
In order to enroll in an Associates program, a High School Diploma or equivalent is required. Some programs may accept qualifications met in a closely related allied health profession.
For those who already have completed a health educational program, some cardiovascular technologist schools offer one-year certificate programs. Training naturally extends outside of the classroom with experiential lab work, clinical internships, and even your first job, since you can learn from your more experienced colleagues.
Bachelors Degrees: Several cardiovascular technology schools offer Bachelor completion programs for those who already have an Associates Degree in radiology, sonography or another health discipline. Other universities offer more specific Bachelor programs in Cardiovascular Sonography or Vascular Sonography. Completing a Bachelors degree can help cardiovascular techs advance their career into a more specialized or executive position.
Masters Degrees: Masters in Cardiovascular Technology are a relatively recent course of study. Related graduate programs include a Masters in Cardiovascular Sonography or a Masters in Cardiovascular Science. Employers in places such as universities, hospitals, hiring program coordinators, and department heads prefer candidates to have a Masters Degree.
Are There Any Online Programs?
You typically won’t be able to find an Associates Degree in Cardiovascular Technology offered online, since a lot of the coursework includes hands-on work in laboratories and during clinical rotations. However, if you already have clinical experience and are pursuing a Bachelors completion program, some cardiovascular technologist schools will offer all or some of the courses online.
There is only one cardiovascular technologist online program currently accredited by the CAAHEP:
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
Cardiovascular Technology – Cardiac Electrophysiology Program
Program Director: Lee Ann Johnson BS, RCIS
If you are already a practicing cardiovascular technologist and are seeking professional development or CME (continuing medical education) credits, numerous organizations, such as the American Society of Echocardiography or the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, will offer online courses.
Cardiovascular technologist courses include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound)
- Invasive cardiovascular procedures
- Clinical cardiovascular laboratory
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do you have to go to school to become a cardiovascular technologist?
The majority of programs take one to two years of full time coursework to get your associates degree. One year certificate programs are also available to some individuals who already have a degree in a related field (called a postsecondary certificate).
Is an Associates degree enough to make you a good candidate for a job?
Yes, as most cardiovascular techs have an associates degree. Bachelor’s programs do exist, but they’re generally for those already working in the field who are looking to advance their career.
Where does a cardiovascular tech work?
By far most of the techs work in medical and surgical hospitals, though employment can also be found in doctors offices and outpatient care centers.
What kind of training will you receive?
A cardiovascular technician must have a balance of interpersonal skills, technical know-how, physical endurance and a firm knowledge of biology and physics. Each of these areas will be learned and/or practiced during your cardiovascular training.
Other important skills you will learn include interacting with patients, medical terminology and emergency protocols. A lot of cardiovascular technologist training is hands-on during laboratory sessions and clinical placements, but there is also what’s called didactic courses, which are essentially lectures.