Career Profile: EKG Technician

Nurse Anesthesiologist

See Available EKG Technician

Also Called: Electrocardiograph Technician

Job Description:
EKG Technicians are cardiovascular technicians who trace electrical impulses transmitted by the heart. A basic EKG tests involves attaching electrodes to a patient's chest, arms, and legs, and working with an EKG machine to obtain a reading, which is then printed out for a physician. This is a fairly common test, which is done before most kinds of surgery, and as part of a routine physical for middle-aged patients and those persons with a history of cardiovascular problems.

EKG technicians with advanced training perform Holter monitor and stress testing. Holtor monitoring involves following 24 (or more) hours of normal activity by a patient through a portable EKG monitor, which is attached to the patient's belt, along with electrodes on their chest. This longer test is also printed out for interpretation by a physician, who uses the information to diagnose heart conditions (irregular heartbeat, pacemaker problems). Stress tests involve technicians recording a patient's "base" EKG reading (while standing still), and, using a treadmill, having a patient walk and run (as the technician increases the treadmill's speed) to observe the effect that increased exertion has on a patient's heart.

Work Environment:
Like other cardiovascular technicians, EKG technicians work five-day, 40-hour weeks. Most of the time on the job is spent walking and standing. Those who work in catheterization labs may face stressful working conditions because they are in close contact with patients with serious heart ailments.

Education and Training Requirements:
Most EKG technicians are still trained on the job by an EKG supervisor or a cardiologist, although there are 1-year certification programs for basic EKGs, Holter monitoring, and stress testing available. On-the-job training usually lasts 8 to 16 weeks.

Salary Range:
The average annual salary for EKG technicians is $24,300. Depending on location and experience, qualified EKG technicians salaries range from around $21,700 to $29,800.

Job Outlook:
Depends. As hospitals are training nursing aids and others to perform basic EKG procedures, technicians who can only perform a basic EKG will have fewer job opportunities, while those who can perform Holter monitoring and stress tests will have more favorable job prospects. Because the field is relatively small, there will also be fewer job openings than in other professions.

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Quick Fact
In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*
*Bureau of Labor Statistics