Electrocardiogram technicians, also known as EKG technicians or cardiographic technicians, are health care professionals who are trained to perform electrocardiograms (EKGs or ECGs) on patients. This noninvasive assessment of the heart’s electrical activity entails correctly attaching electrodes to the patient’s chest and limbs, followed a reading from an EKG machine. As regular EKG technicians, the majority of electrocardiogram technician jobs are in hospitals. Additional training may be required for positions such as 24-hour Holter monitor technicians, phonocardiographic technicians, and cardiac stress test, or treadmill EKG, technicians. In most cases, cardiac stress test technicians work in an outpatient setting.
EKG technicians perform the majority of electrocardiogram technician jobs as part of a routine checkup or physical exam, as part of surgery clearance, or to investigate complaints of chest pain. Holter monitor specialists work as advanced electrocardiogram technicians in an outpatient setting, attaching electrodes to the patient and carrying portable EKG recording devices on their waistbands or belts. Before having the patient exercise on a treadmill, stress test technicians attach electrodes to him or her, explain the procedure to him or her, and take a baseline reading. Phonocardiographers use equipment to listen for unusual sounds that could indicate a heart murmur or other issue.
The majority of electrocardiogram technician jobs are held certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who have completed a four to six week on-the-job training program. Additional on-the-job training and apprenticeship may be required to become a Holter monitor technician, which could take another 18 to 24 months. There are a few yearlong community college classes in the United States that prepare students for certification in all electrocardiogram technician jobs, including advanced Holter monitor and stress test jobs. A few EKG technicians may be cardiovascular technology students gaining clinical experience as part of their two-year associate degree program. Graduates of cardiovascular technology can earn certification from a professional organization.
As the general population ages, the job market for electrocardiogram technicians is expected to be very good or much better than average over the next two decades. Health care workers with an associate’s degree in the field or the ability and experience to perform more than a basic 12-lead EKG will have the best chance of getting hired faster and earning more money.