How to Become an EKG Technician
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Cardiovascular health is a vital part of the healthcare ecosystem, and an EKG technician is a pivotal member of any cardiovascular team. So, what does an EKG tech do?
Let’s start with what EKG means. EKG (or occasionally ECG) is short-hand for electrocardiogram, which records the electrical signal from the heart. This method can be used to find various heart problems and ailments, like arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, or if a pacemaker is working properly. For people with heart problems, an electrocardiogram is important to ensure they’re staying healthy. And an EKG tech is the person responsible for that monitoring.
In addition to heart monitoring, an EKG tech can expect to attach the monitoring equipment to patients, take note of the patient’s medical history, help other physicians during monitoring, and summarize data. An analytical mind and a team-player mentality are important to become a good tech. In terms of physical activity, an EKG tech’s work isn’t too strenuous. Some lifting of boxes and records should be accounted for, but most of a worker’s 40-hour week will be spent in a medical office.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022), EKG techs and similar diagnostic jobs are expected to see a 10 percent increase in jobs nationally between 2021 and 2031. That means it’s an exciting and growing field for those who want to work in the medical industry. Those same statistics estimate there will be around 12,000 job openings for EKG techs yearly over this decade. Indeed (2022) estimates that the average pay for an EKG tech is $24.44 per hour, or nearly $57,000 dollars per year.
A Nationally Registered EKG Technician (NRCEKG) credential is required to become an EKG tech. This process starts with an educational program, whether through a college or online course, then onsite training and an exam.
Someone looking to become an EKG tech should be aware of the background educational needs for the profession. A high school diploma or GED is required, and an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is often preferred.
Keep reading more to find out how to become an EKG tech and the possible programs for obtaining the training.
Steps to Become an Electrocardiograph (EKG) Technician
Step One: Graduate from high school or obtain a GED (four years)
Someone looking to become an EKG tech should be aware of the background educational needs for the profession. A high school diploma or GED is required. Excelling on classes in biology, anatomy, and other scientific fields will be advantageous.
Step Two: Find a certificate or degree program (one to two years)
Many programs in the United States that help future EKG techs train for their career can be found at community colleges and vocational schools across the country. Additionally, as these programs do not provide national certification directly, there are options to find online training programs in partnership with universities.
Most of those programs help find externships and hours for face-to-face training and counselors to help with future choices within the profession.
Here are some examples of degree and certificate programs:
Midlands Technical College offers a program based around two courses: medical terminology and EKG technician. Medical terminology is the prerequisite class, covering the fundamental vocabulary and terms used within the profession. That class is estimated to take 48 hours and can be completed online and in person.
The main course covers the base functions and expected tasks of an EKG tech and includes in-depth clinical hours that can go toward later needed hours. That class is expected to take 165 hours and is the bulk of the time and cost of the full program.
- Location: Midland, Maryland
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
- Expected Time to Completion: Two semesters
- Estimated Cost: $2,294.00
This certificate focuses both on the fundamentals of being a technician and how to easily and accurately read metrics. This class also looks at machine maintenance and upkeep, ensuring students know how to get the best out of the EKG machinery.
UT Rio Grande Valley will help students be placed into a volunteer externship after finishing the program. The program encourages keeping in touch with an assigned externship coordinator to get the most out of future work. The program is also hybrid.
- Location: Edinburg, TX
- Accreditation: National Healthcareer Association (NHA) Certified EKG technician (CET)
- Expected Time to Completion: One semester or two months
- Estimated Cost: $1,299
An entirely online program, Preppy offers a course through the basic methodology of reading EKG technology and what future techs can expect in the workplace. The program also offers resume support. Though, it should be noted that an externship or future face-to-face medical work is not supplied by this path.
- Location: Remote/online
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
- Expected Time to Completion: Minimum of two months
- Estimated Cost: 99 dollars per month
A New York-based program, the Borough of Manhattan CC offers learning with current professionals like doctors and nurses alongside coursework. The college also will help students with an externship coordinator and an “externship starter kit.” The course is open enrollment and goes through an eight-step class, focusing on the different fundamentals of the job.
- Location: In person
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association (NCA); Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
- Expected Time to Completion: Six months
- Estimated Cost: $1,995.00
Step 3: Complete an externship (timeline varies)
As noted above, most of these programs will need to go alongside onsite training. For programs like the one at the University of Texas Rio Grande, the classes themselves will help any student find an externship in the field. For others, finding local hospitals and healthcare providers that can provide onsite training will be a part of the process.
To qualify for certification, a minimum of 10 EKGs must be performed in an educational program or as part of this externship.
Step 4: Prepare and apply for the exam (timeline varies)
Before taking the exam, participants should make sure they qualify to take the test. The National Healthcare Association offers a free and quick quiz to check eligibility.
Afterward, the NAHP offers the exam, alongside a candidate handbook and content outline page, both of which are strongly recommended before taking the exam. The certification exam itself costs $150 to take. Once done, and if passed, the certification can be used. The next step is job placement.
Step 5: Find a Job
This is undoubtedly the step where having instruction through a college helps the most. The externship and courses, alongside career counselors, can make the job search process much easier, as that sort of networking can lead to easier job applications and interviews.