Neurodiagnostic Technologist Schools
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A picture is worth a million thoughts. At least that’s what a neurodiagnostic technician or technologist (NDT) might tell you. While other photographers are stuck with surface images, NDTs can actually capture the thought and brain patterns of their subjects using sophisticated machinery. Neurodiagnostic technologists learn how to apply different neurological scans, capture brain information, and analyze it in order to help those with neurological disorders. This field is also referred to as electroneurodiagnostic (END) technology.
Although there are four-year bachelor (B.S.) degree programs available, most NDTs only require a two-year associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree. For aspiring NDTs, there are several programs to choose from—some with 100% of their graduates landing full-time employment upon graduation, such as the program at the Mayo Clinic. Students who choose to further their career as a neurodiagnostic technologist can even complete additional schooling and specialize by earning a certificate in sleep disorders, EEG, or epilepsy.
Neurodiagnostic technology appears to be a lucrative career on the rise. According to Payscale, salaries for NDTs can range from around $34,000 to over $68,000 annually depending on training and experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014) projects that this field—classified here as “medical technologists and technicians”—will grow 22% between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the average growth expected for all occupations (11%).
For those interested in a growing healthcare career which probes deeper than a surface level, the NDT schooling might be the perfect choice.
Degree & Certification Programs
While new students to the field of neurodiagnostic technology may benefit from an associate (A.S. or A.A.S.) degree in the field, more seasoned healthcare professionals or those already with degrees may consider a certification program to increase their employment marketability. An A.A.S provides students with the basic healthcare experiences allowing them to determine whether an electrodiagnostic (END) career is a good fit for their personality and skill set.
For an A.A.S. degree, students can apply directly out of high school, or with very little background in the medical field. Still, some programs require certain clinical or educational standards to be met prior to beginning the program.
Here is a sampling of programs in neurodiagnostic technology:
Oregon Tech Online (A.A.S.) – This polysomnographic technology degree program does not require interested students to have medical experience or employment. Rather than simulated labs at the university campus, students gain clinical experience in sleep facilities in their local area. Graduates are prepared to sit for the RPSGT exam. While graduates are highly employable in the field of sleep, some go on to earn a BS degree in Health Care Management.
Mayo Clinic (A.S., certificate) – This is one of the top healthcare schools as listed by the U.S. News and World Report (2014). This clinical neurophysiology program admits only seven students per year. In addition, students who complete this program receive not only an A.S. degree from the Rochester Community and Technical College, but also a certificate. Ninety percent of students graduating from this program pass their national board exam on the first try.
Carnegie Institute (B.S.) – One of the few four-year neurodiagnostic programs, this is an excellent program for students who are looking to further their medical education after completing their EEG, END, or NDT certifications. Not only do students gain experience with neurodiagnostics, but they also receive pharmacology, medical law, and lifesaving training.
Orange Coast College (A.A.S.) – This 22-month program is compliant with the standards set by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Heath Education Programs (CAAHEP), and prepares students to take the ABRET EEG Technician Certification exam. This program is offered every other year with the next program beginning in fall of 2016.
Kirkwood Community College (A.A.S.) – This CAAHEP-accredited degree program in electroneurodiagnostic (END) technology, affiliated with the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, is best known for its small class sizes and intense one-on-one training. As one of the top 50 community colleges according to CNN.com, it boasts not only a relatively cheap price tag ($8,990 for the entire program), but has a range of scholarship options available as well (over $2.8 million awarded annually).
In addition, the American Society of Electroneurodiagnostic Technologists (ASET) provides a comprehensive list of every college that provides an accredited degree program— including A.A.S., B.S., and certification program options.
List of Neurodiagnostic Technologist Schools
|School||City||State||Website||Total grads (2013)|
|GateWay Community College||Phoenix||Arizona||http://www.gatewaycc.edu||20|
|Alvin Community College||Alvin||Texas||http://www.alvincollege.edu||15|
|D G Erwin Technical Center||Tampa||Florida||http://erwin.edu||13|
|Minneapolis Community and Technical College||Minneapolis||Minnesota||http://www.minneapolis.edu||11|
|Cuyahoga Community College District||Cleveland||Ohio||http://www.tri-c.edu||10|
|McLennan Community College||Waco||Texas||http://www.mclennan.edu||8|
|Kirkwood Community College||Cedar Rapids||Iowa||http://www.kirkwood.edu||8|
|Harford Community College||Bel Air||Maryland||http://www.harford.edu||6|
|DeVry University-New Jersey||North Brunswick||New Jersey||http://www.devry.edu||6|
|Eastern Iowa Community College District||Davenport||Iowa||http://www.eicc.edu||5|
|Central Georgia Technical College||Warner Robins||Georgia||http://www.centralgatech.edu||5|
|Southeast Technical Institute||Sioux Falls||South Dakota||http://www.southeasttech.edu||4|
|Rochester Community and Technical College||Rochester||Minnesota||http://www.rctc.edu/||4|
|Catawba Valley Community College||Hickory||North Carolina||http://www.cvcc.edu/index.php||4|
|American Institute of Medical Sciences & Education||Piscataway||New Jersey||https://www.aimseducation.edu/||3|
|Pamlico Community College||Grantsboro||North Carolina||http://www.pamlicocc.edu||2|
|Ivy Tech Community College||Indianapolis||Indiana||http://www.ivytech.edu||2|
|Community College of Denver||Denver||Colorado||https://www.ccd.edu/||1|
Hybrid & Online programs
While there are several traditional, brick-and-mortar colleges that offer neurodiagnostic technology (NDT) degrees, there are few accredited online and hybrid options as there is a vital clinical portion that must be completed at an approved medical site. As of 2015, there are no fully online degree or certificate programs in this field.
That said, there are some certificate programs that offer the convenience and flexibility of hybrid (online + in-person) coursework for students on the go.
Here are two programs that offer classes on the web that are expected to be completed in conjunction with supervised practicums (i.e., the hands-on portion of NDT training):
Labouré College (certificate) – This is one of the few online NDT programs, and is at the cutting edge of professional distance education. This 20-month program prepares students to perform a variety of procedures, including electroencephalograms (EEG), evoked potentials (EP), polysomnograms (PSG), nerve conduction monitoring (NCM), and more. Additionally, this CAAHEP-accredited program gives students the independence to find their own clinical facilities where they are expected to complete at least 16 hours per week of supervised work for the duration of the program. These placements can be secured with the assistance of a program coordinator.
Institute of Health Sciences (certificate): This two-year electroneurodiagnostic (END) program combines online coursework with supervised clinical practicums. While completing rigorous classes on the web, including electroneurodiagnostics, neurological disorders, and emergency preparedness, students are expected to complete at least 15 hours per week at a pre-approved clinical site. This school is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
Students graduating from these programs are generally eligible to take the national certification exam for EEG Technicians administered by the American Board of Registration of Electroencephalographic and Evoked Potential Technologists (ABRET).
As regional and clinic-specific certification guidelines may vary, it’s important to ensure with program administrators that schools can meet student-specific needs prior to enrollment.
Core & Elective Courses
For neurodiagnostic technology programs, program duration may vary depending on degree earned (e.g., associate, bachelor's), but the curriculum is very much the same. Candidates are taught how to use various neurodiagnostic machines such as an electroencephalogram machine (EEG), as well as how to interpret and analyze readings from these machines.
Some of the courses in the program curriculum may include:
Basic Core Curriculum: For an associate (A.A.S.) degree program, students are required to take basic science, math, and English courses.
Electroencephalography: This teaches neurological patterning and how the brain’s physical composition affects electrical reading of the EEG machine. This class also shows how to apply electrodes to patients' scalps to take EEG readings.
Introduction to Neuroscience: All NDT students must have a good basic understanding of the neurological functions of the brain and the parts of the nervous system. In this course, students are exposed to various imaging techniques and how to identify types of synaptic potentials.
Clinical Correlations: This coursework connects the readings from electrodiagnostic machines to specific neurological disorders and diseases. Specifically, students are taught how to recognize readings associated with epilepsy, sleep disorders, and pediatric conditions.
Intraoperative Neurophysiological Monitoring (IOM): This class—often offered as an introductory course—shows how to monitor patients' EEGs and evoked potentials (EPs), in addition to instructing on neuromuscular applications.
Evoked Potentials (EP): This class instructs students in stimulating ("evoking") and recognizing neural activity based on auditory, visual, and physical stimuli.
Polysomnography (PSG or sleep studies): Although this class is usually offered as an introductory course, it can provide the basis for further NDT specialization. It teaches how to recognize stages of sleep, sleep disorders, and potential treatment options.
Although different specialties may require certification through an independent specialty board, all valid END degrees must be completed by a school complying with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Heath Education Programs (CAAHEP). In addition, many schools are in concert with standards set by the Committee on Accreditation for Education in Neurodiagnostic Technology (CoA-NDT). This body does a thorough investigation on the university or college in question, including a site visit, review of the student outcomes at the school, and a curriculum audit to ensure that courses are compliant with CAAHEP's benchmarks.
All NDT programs, regardless of whether they are online or in a brick-and-mortar setting, should be compliant with the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and listed as an accredited university or trade school with the U.S. Department of Education.
If a student is planning on attending an online or hybrid neurodiagnostic technology program, it may be advisable to ensure that a school is also in compliance with the Distance Education Accreditation Council (DEAC). In this accreditation process, the DEAC confirms that the online university is financially sound, helping real students, and providing education in compliance with state standards.
Because Neurodiagnostic Technology is such a specialized industry, O*NET (2014) projects these career opportunities to grow by 22% over the next eight years. That is much higher than the national average of 15%, mostly due to the projected increase in aging Baby Boomers and their related neural dysfunctions. In addition, as scientists look more at the connection between neurology and increased aberrant behaviors (such as autism or ADHD) more young people will need the services of Neurodiagnostic Technicians and Specialists.
There are several specializations, which may be even in more demand. Intraoperative Neuromonitoring Technologists make an average of $59,313 per year according to PayScale.com (2012), while Epilepsy Monitoring Technicians can make a little over $57,000 per year. There are several other job specializations, such as Electroencephalographic (EEG) Technologist, Evoked Potential (EP) Technologist, Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS) Technologist, Polysomnographic (PSG)/Sleep Technologist, which pay an average of $40,900, according to O*NET (2014).
Although it is possible to get a job as a Neurodiagnostic Technologist without a degree, pay increases with certification and an associate’s degree. This can also lead to better wages, as a technologist degree can be transferred towards a Specialist program.
|Career Facts||Neurodiagnostic Technologist|
|Related Careers||Sonography, Ultrasound Technology, Medical Assisting|
|Common Job Titles||EEG Tech, Monitor Tech, Neurophysiology Tech, Epilepsy Monitoring Tech.|
|Technology & Equipment||Electroencephalography (EEG) Equipment, Neurofax Polysmith Software, Electomyographs (EMG)|
|Sourced from BLS, January 2018|
Licensing & Certification
It is possible to work as a Neurodiagnostic Technologist without a degree, as long as you have extensive experience working with neurodiagnostic machines and software. This means that a medical assistant or sonographer could potentially be hired, as long as they can prove a significant mastery of the equipment and other responsibilities. Still, there are many employers who will not hire a Neurodiagnostic Technician without some form of licensure or certification. There are several ways to accomplish this depending on what specialty you’d like to pursue.
The American Association of Electrodiagnostic Technologists (AAET) offers a certification for Registered Nerve Conduction Study Technology (R.NCS.T), which can be completed by both degree holders and non-degree holder. Students not completing electrodiagnostic technologist programs can still take the certification exam, provided that they have at least six months of experience in Nerve Conduction Studies and an equivalent of two years of college courses in biology, math, anatomy, English, and physiology.
For a majority of NDT, END, and EEG applicants, you will be required to obtain an Associate’s Degree in NDT Technology as well passing a national certification exam through the American Board of Registration of Electroencephalographic & Evoked Potential Technologists (ABRET). This national board exam is only for those who have been recommended by the Committee on Accreditation for Education in Neurodiagnostic Technology (CoA-NDT), and who have completed a program at a school affiliated with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Heath Education Programs (CAAHEP).