A medical team has a multitude of people who play an important part in a patient’s health – medical assistants, medical lab techs, nurses and doctors all work together, helping the sick and injured. EKG technicians are part of the team, too, focusing on ailments of the heart.
You likely know the basics of what EKG technicians do: interact with patients and administer and interpret the results of EKG tests. But how do you get to that point? What’s EKG technician training like? And do you really need that formal education, anyway?
Those are all good questions. And we’re here to help you find the answers. Let’s explore EKG tech education options and coursework.
EKG technician education
EKG techs need at least a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, employers like to see that students have gone “above and beyond” the minimum requirements, says Tammy Renner, Rasmussen College’s national medical laboratory technician program director. So if you want to stand out, consider pursuing further education.
Most colleges with an EKG tech program offer a two-year associate’s degree or a certificate, which can be completed in as few as nine months. Certificates offer field-specific courses and less general education classes, which means you’ll spend more time on the subject in which you’re actually interested.
No matter whether you earn an associate’s degree or certificate, earning an EKG tech credential is usually the next step. While an EKG Technician Certification from the National Healthcareer Association isn’t required to get a job, it’s something employers look for, Renner says. After you pass the exam you’ll be a Certified EKG Technician.
EKG technician courses
You should expect healthcare-heavy course work, especially if you decide to earn a certificate. Below are four essential courses from the EKG tech certificate program at Rasmussen College, ranging from classes where you’ll learn the basic knowledge you need, to the last class where you put your new skills to work.
- Introduction to Electrocardiograms - This is a pretty important course for EKG techs! It’s where you actually learn how to perform and interpret an EKG – you’ll handle the equipment and learn how to properly use it. Patient safety and patient communication is also covered.
- Introduction to Electronic Health Records - Electronic health records (EHRs) are something you’ll read on a daily basis. All facilities are required to convert from paper records to EHRs by 2014, so they’re a critical piece of medical technology with which you’ll need to be familiar. This course focuses on how to read an EHR and how technology is affecting healthcare today.
- Cardiovascular Anatomy and Pathology - It’s key for EKG techs to understand how the heart works, Renner says. This course focuses on the anatomy of the heart, the cardiac cycle and the variety of diseases that impair heart function.
- EKG Externship - At the end of your EKG course work, be prepared to put your skills to the test with an 80-hour externship. You’ll work side-by-side with practicing medical staff at a clinical facility and you’ll be interacting with real patients. “[Students will] solidify the skills they’ve learned in their student lab and put them to practical use in a patient environment,” Renner says.
Separately, these classes teaches you bits and pieces of what you need to know to be an EKG tech. Together, they give you the knowledge and confidence you need to succeed in the field. The real-world training will help you be more prepared for your job search – not to mention the externship experience will look good on your resume!
The bottom line
Now that you know what it takes to be an EKG tech, does it sound like the career for you? If the things you read above sound exciting and you know you’re ready to jump in, be sure to find out more about EKG tech certificates on the Rasmussen College degree page.
If, on the other hand, you’re not sure that EKG tech training is for you, remember that there are countless other options for you in the healthcare industry. Our “Healthcare Job Outlook” eBook covers a range of other careers for you to consider.