Cardiovascular technologists perform non-invasive and/or invasive procedures to help doctors diagnose and treat problems with the heart and peripheral vascular system (blood vessels throughout the body).
Numerous schools offer Associate level degrees, the most common level of education for these professionals. 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 2026 is 17%, a job outlook “much faster than the average” of occupations overall. Along with job growth, technologists can find strong salaries available, with median pay at $56,850 per year.
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. If you see a program that interests you, request information, and you will be contacted by a representative of the school. You will have the opportunity to ask questions to determine if it 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.
- Accreditation: It is advisable to attend an accredited program so that you know you are receiving a quality level of education, but also so that you 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.
- Experience of the Staff: Do the instructors currently work in the field? Professors who not only teach but 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 or a specialization representative of your 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: One of the most important parts of your education will occur during an internship or externship 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, whether they be Doctor’s offices, hospitals, or clinics, and help with placement in one of these programs should be offered to all students. Ask your prospective school what their practice is for these important training opportunities.
How Long Do You Have to go to School to Become a Cardiovascular Technologist?
Associates Degrees: Most cardiovascular technologists complete an Associates degree, which generally takes two years of full time coursework. As part of an overall cardiovascular tech program, coursework will include:
- sonography (i.e. echocardiograms and vascular ultrasound)
- patient care and monitoring
- electrophysiological procedures (such as EKG and stress tests)
- invasive cardiovascular technology (such as catheterization, angioplasty and surgery assistance)
Clinical internships are included in most Associate degree programs.
In order to enroll, a High School Diploma or equivalent is required, and 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 once you start your first job, as you can learn from your more experienced colleagues.
Bachelors Degrees: Several cardiovascular technology schools offer Bachelor completion programs for those who already have an Associate 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 technologists advance their career into a more specialized or executive position.
Masters Degrees: Masters in Cardiovascular Technology are a relatively recent course of study. In 2008, Geneva College reported that it was the first educational institute to offer a graduate cardiovascular tech program in the country. Other related graduate programs include a Masters in Cardiovascular Sonography or a Masters in Cardiovascular Science. Employers, such as universities or hospitals, hiring program coordinators or department heads prefer candidates to have a Masters.
Are There Any Online Programs?
Generally you will not 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
850 Greenfield Rd
Lancaster, PA 17601
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.