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Cardiovascular Technologist Career

Cardiovascular technologists, also referred to as cardiac technicians or cardiac sonographers, work in concert with physicians to help diagnose and treat heart and vascular disorders and diseases.

Cardiovascular Tech Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cardiovascular technologist career outlook is high, with the demand for such professionals increasing by 30% through to 2022. As a cardiac sonographer, cardiovascular technologists perform ultrasounds that provide images of the heart. These may be echocardiograms (ECHOs) or electrocardiograms (EKGs). Vascular technologists perform non-invasive ultrasounds on a patient’s blood vessels to check for abnormal blood flows in arteries and veins. Other cardiovascular technologist duties may include monitoring heart rate and blood pressure, conducting stress and aerobic tests and even assisting with medical procedures/surgeries such as inserting a cardiac catheter into a patient’s heart.

Cardiovascular Tech Credentials

Although not all states require certification. most hospitals and healthcare facilities will only hire cardiovascular technologists who are certified. Certification from the ARDMS (The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) is widely respected and accepted by the medical community within the United States and abroad. You can sit for an ARDMS exam to become a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer. To be eligible to sit for the exam, you must have completed a two-year allied health educational program and completed a year of related experience or graduated with an accredited educational program specifically related, such as a Certificate in Cardiovascular Technology. If you want your job description to go beyond ultrasonography, you may wish to investigate certification through CCI (Cardiovascular Credentialing International).

What do Cardiovascular Tech s Do?

Cardiovascular technologists or technicians assist physicians in diagnosing and treating problems associated with the cardiovascular system (the heart and peripheral blood vessels throughout the whole body). A cardiovascular technologist job description may include invasive duties (such as inserting a catheter through a patient’s artery) or non-invasive duties, such as performing an ultrasound on the heart (echocardiogram).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are several types of cardiovascular technologist jobs within this field. These include:

Cardiology Technologists. Cardiology technologists assist doctors in diagnosing and treating heart problems and ailments. They perform cardiac catheterizations (including balloon angioplasties), monitor blood pressure and heart rate, prepare and monitor patients for procedures, such as heart surgery or the insertion of stents and pacemakers, and conduct EKGs (electrocardiograms). They also may perform ultrasounds on the heart (echocardiograms or ECHOs).

Vascular Technologists. Vascular technologists are a part of the healthcare team that diagnoses diseases and problems associated with the vascular (blood vessel) system. Vascular sonographers perform ultrasounds on patients to monitor blood pressure, blood flow and the blood’s oxygen saturation. Often these procedures take place during or right after surgery.

Cardiac Sonographers. Cardiac sonographers perform echocardiograms, also referred to as ECHOs, which involves performing ultrasounds on all components of the heart. Echocardiograms may be conducted on both active and inactive patients.

A cardiac ultrasound performed in space!

Working Environment

According to the BLS, as of May 2012, 74% of cardiovascular technicians and technologists worked for hospitals. Most of the remainder worked for diagnostic laboratories, doctor’s offices and outpatient healthcare facilities. In a hospital environment, cardiovascular technologists are on their feet for most of their work day and are often on the move going to portions of the hospital to work with patients, doctors and surgeons that require their services. However, in some cases, patients will come to their department, such as if they have an appointment to have an ECHO done. In emergency situations, cardiovascular technicians may be required to work evenings and weekends.

Typical duties for a cardiovascular tech:

  • Meeting with patients to prepare them for and explain to them about the procedures they are about to undergo.
  • Performing cardiac or vascular ultrasounds and analyzing the images recorded.
  • Assisting physicians/surgeons with procedures, such as surgeries, cardiac catheterizations, angioplasties.
  • Checking on patients who have recently undergone surgery or another procedure and monitoring their heart rate, blood pressure and other vitals.
  • Maintaining all cardiovascular equipment.
  • Conducting stress tests or other EKG procedures.
  • Sharing results from any tests with physicians and members of the healthcare team.
  • Recording results and updating patient records.

Patient Care

Depending on one’s specialty and work setting, cardiovascular technologists and sonographers may work with fetal, pediatric and/or adult patients. The ARDMS offers certification exams for each age group. Cardiac sonographers and technologists work with patients to collect their medical history and also to explain the procedures they will undergo, answering any questions they may have. They must maintain and prepare ultrasound and other equipment they work with on a daily basis. Sonographers must be able to interpret the images they have collected and share this vital information with other medical staff. Cardiac sonographers generally perform non-invasive procedures, whereas technologists may also perform invasive procedures. Cardiac technologists and sonographers rely on a multi-varied skill set: a knowledge of biology and physics, a firm grasp on the technology they are using and excellent communication and patient care skills.

Cardiovascular Technologist Terminology

A cardiovascular technologist job description includes having a comfortable working knowledge of terminology specifically related to this medical profession. Here are some examples of common terms (Sources: Medical Device Daily and Stanford School of Medicine):

• EKG: Electrocardiogram (also referred to as an ECG)

• Holter Monitor: Machine used to keep track of a patient’s heart rate during a stress test or while the patient is at rest.

• Pacemaker: Used to regulate a patient’s heartbeat.

• Cardiac catheterization: A catheter is fed through an artery and led up to the heart; one of its purposes is to find out if there are blockages in the blood vessels connected to the heart.

• Angioplasty: A procedure where a catheter with a balloon on one end is inserted into an artery; the balloon is inflated to open a blocked artery.

• Arrhythmia: An abnormal heartbeat rhythm.

• CAD: Coronary Artery Disease

• CABG: Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (surgery to improve blood flow into the heart).

• CHF: Congestive Heart Failure

• Embolism: A blood vessel blockage that could cause a heart attack or stroke.

• MI: Myocardial Infarction or AMI; the heart’s oxygen supply is cutoff.

• MACE: Major Adverse Cardiac Event

• Stent: A tube inserted to open up the artery.

• CVD: Cardiovascular Disease

How Can I Get Promoted within the Field of Cardiovascular Technology?

According to Grossmont College in California, cardiovascular technologists make approximately $50,000/year. (This is inline with the $53,210 mean salary presented by the BLS*). Those who rise up the ranks to managerial or directorial roles of a cardiovascular technology department or who become trainers, consultants or salespersons of cardiovascular technologies can potentially earn $75,000-100,000/year, adds Grossmont College. In order to rise up the ranks, cardiovascular technicians or technologists must have several years experience in the field and often must complete advanced education (i.e. from an Associates to a Bachelors degree or a Bachelors to a Masters degree). Continuous professional development to keep up with the latest cardiovascular procedures and technologies, such as an Advanced Certificate in Cardiac Sonography, will also help you get promoted within the field.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012 Salary Data, and

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Online Ultrasound Technician Degree Programs

Essential Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diagnostic medical sonographers typically hold at least an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. Some of these degrees include an Associate’s of Applied Science, Associate’s of Science, Bachelor’s of Science and Bachelor’s of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Entirely online degree programs in medical sonography are available, but relatively rare, because this field requires clinical work experience. Some states require sonographers to be professionally licensed, so when choosing a program, check the licensing requirements in your state and look for programs that count toward licensure.

Associate’s Degree for Ultrasound Technicians

Most online associate’s degree programs for ultrasound technicians emphasize ultrasound procedures, sonographic instrumentation and medical terminology. A 2-year online program in diagnostic medical sonography can result in an Associate of Applied Science or an Associate of Science degree. Some online programs also offer certificates in diagnostic medical sonography.

Distance education programs resulting in an associate’s degree for ultrasound technicians are typically presented in a combination of on-campus and online classes. In many cases, program requirements include a clinical experience at a local hospital, imaging center or clinic. An online associate’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography generally takes two years to complete.

Program coursework for online associate’s degree programs for ultrasound technicians generally includes introductory courses in sonographic instrumentation and procedures. such as those used for vascular, cardiovascular, abdominal and gynecological purposes. Additional courses might include medical terminology, sectional anatomy, pathophysiology, sonographic physics and imaging ethics. A clinical practicum might also be part of the curriculum.

Introductory or foundation courses typically offer study in the history and theories of sonography. Ultrasound uses, medical terminology, and legal and ethical issues in the field might also be discussed.

Instrumentation courses focus on the operation and maintenance of ultrasound equipment. How equipment is used for different ultrasound procedures and the function of instrumentation components are likely to be addressed.

The anatomy of several areas of the body most commonly subject to ultrasound procedures is addressed in these courses. Body areas include the pelvis, thorax, abdomen and nervous system. Some courses might use ultrasound images for illustration.

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Bachelor’s Degree for Ultrasound Technicians

An online bachelor’s degree program for ultrasound technicians generally provides students with advanced courses in many of the topics covered in a 2-year program. Students can choose to pursue a degree in diagnostic medical sonography, radiologic sciences or radiation sciences. A 4-year online program in these areas of study most commonly results in a Bachelor of Science degree. In some cases, an associate’s degree is required to enroll in an online bachelor’s degree program.

Online bachelor’s degree programs for ultrasound technicians can be conducted entirely online, or in a combination of live instruction and Web-based classes. Some schools require completion of clinical labs, while others offer only non-clinical programs. Most programs will take four years to complete.

The curriculum of an online bachelor’s degree program for ultrasound technicians will typically address intermediate and advanced sonographic procedures, instrumentation, physics, anatomy and patient care. Courses might also be taken in pharmacology, pathology, and current health care trends and issues.

Courses in specific ultrasound procedures comprise a large portion of the curriculum of an online bachelor’s degree program in medical sonography or radiologic sciences. Students learn procedures and principles of abdominal, vascular, obstetrical, gynecological and breast sonography.

Likewise, physics courses in an online bachelor’s degree program for ultrasound technicians address ultrasound physics, Doppler physics, ultrasound principles and basic equipment. Parameters, ultrasound transducer and the effects of medical imaging on the human body are other topics of discussion.

Courses in patient care focus on teaching students how to physically and mentally comfort patients during medical imaging exams. Patient care theories and techniques are discussed.

Graduate Career Information

Graduates of an online bachelor’s degree program for ultrasound technicians might qualify for more advanced positions in the field. They might also choose an area of specialization, such as cardiovascular technician or obstetric sonographer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries will vary depending on specialization and employer type. Annual median wages can range between $48,720 for the lowest-earning 10% and $97,390 for the highest-earning 10%, as reported in May 2015.

Graduates of an online associate’s degree program in diagnostic medical sonography are prepared for entry-level positions at hospitals or diagnostic imaging centers. According to the BLS, job growth for ultrasound technicians was expected to be 24%, much faster than the average for all occupations, between 2014 and 2024. The BLS further reported that the yearly median salary for ultrasound technicians was just over $68,970 as of May 2015.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates of an online bachelor’s degree program can pursue voluntary certification for diagnostic medical sonographers. Certifying organizations include the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Continuing education requirements might apply in order to maintain certification.

Upon completion of an online associate’s degree program, graduates can pursue a bachelor’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography or a related area. Continuing education might also include training sessions held by the manufacturing companies of imaging machines and instrumentation.

Degrees in diagnostic medical sonography are rarely online because most courses for this field of study require clinical experience. Students may obtain an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in sonography with the option of continuing their education and obtaining other licenses and certifications.

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Bachelors Degree Program in Sonography

A Sonography Bachelor s Degree program is generally open to those who have already completed an associates degree or certificate program and who are currently certified as a Registered Diagnostic Sonographer through ARDMS or a similar professional association.

Career advancement: It’s something most of us strive for as we seek a higher level of stability, challenge, fulfillment and salary. Completing a Bachelors Degree Program in Sonography enables just that – a move up the professional ladder from sonographer to director of an ultrasound department, consultant, an educator of diagnostic medical sonography or other prestigious positions.

If you are thinking of going to medical school down the road, then a four year degree in ultrasound would also be an ideal educational foundation. (Note: Admission requirements vary from school to school. For example completion of any two-year allied health program may suffice or in some cases you can start your Bachelor of Science from scratch, rather than transferring credits from a previous associates/certificate program).

Advanced Placement Bachelors Programs in Ultrasound

An Advanced Placement Bachelor’s of Diagnostic Medical Sonography is an educational option that allows you to further specialize as a Sonographer or ultrasound technician. In many cases, fulfilling a Bachelors Degree in Sonography involves transferring your credits from a two-year Associates or certificate program plus completing professional credits specific to the profession of sonography. Such a degree is referred to as a “bachelor’s completion program”.

While pre-requisites for admissions into an ultrasound degree school vary, generally to be accepted into a Bachelors program, you must have already completed a two-year allied health program in areas such as sonography, radiation therapy or nuclear medicine technology and be a practicing Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. Again, not all four year degree in ultrasound programs require this; some schools allow you to complete pre-professional courses at the beginning of your undergraduate degree. But for an Advanced Placement Bachelors Degree in Ultrasound, the emphasis is on professional development for existing sonographers and ultrasound technicians.

Coursework delves into biology, physics, lab equipment, medical terminology and patient interaction specially tailored to the field of ultrasound. Many Bachelor’s Degrees in Ultrasound programs offer students the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of diagnostic medical sonography. such as vascular, echocardiography or general (abdominal, obstetrics and gynecology). Usually an Ultrasound Bachelors degree will include clinical or internship experiences, but for an Advanced Placement program this may not be required due to previous work experience.


Should I pursue an Associates or a Bachelors degree in ultrasound?

If you would like to remain as an entry-level sonographer, then an ultrasound associates degree will suffice. If you wish to continuously engage in professional development and further specialize then you may wish to pursue a Bachelors degree in Ultrasound. Also if you plan to go on to medical school, then a bachelor s degree is a credible, pre-med option.

What jobs will I qualify for with a Bachelors degree?

An Ultrasound Bachelors degree coupled with several years work experience can lead to significant career advancements. The ARDMS describes this professional progression: “A sonographer with 3-5 years of experience can become lead sonographer or director of an ultrasound department. There are also opportunities in consulting, sales, equipment manufacturing, imaging administration and education”. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for diagnostic medical sonographers will continue to grow by 46% through to 2022. This job growth, which is faster than average, also equates to more high-level positions within the ultrasound field.

Can I pursue a Bachelors degree in Ultrasound while working?

Yes in many cases you can. If you are already a registered sonographer, some schools offer bachelor completion courses completely online since you would already have the clinical and lab experience from your vocation and prior education. Other schools offer flexible course schedules during the evenings and weekends.

Will a Bachelors degree make me more competitive in the job market or affect my salary?

Yes. Completing a program that equates to a four year degree in ultrasound will make you more specialized, qualified and more competitive for both entry-level and advanced sonographer positions. In 2015, the median salary for diagnostic medical sonographers was $68,970 per year, according to the BLS. However, the top 10% of sonographers made more than $97,000 annually. By upgrading your education, experience and job title, you can strive to become a part of this top 10%.

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Ultrasound and X-Ray Programs at Ontario Colleges

What to expect from a career in Imaging, Ultrasound and Radiation Technology

Ultrasound and x-ray professionals play an important role in the medical industry, assisting in the diagnosis and treatment of injuries and diseases by producing and interpreting diagnostic images. Ontario college ultrasound and x-ray programs offer training in a wide range of imaging focus areas to prepare students for careers as sonographers or radiation technologists or to build on their current imaging training.

If you re interested in starting a career using x-rays or ultrasounds, or you want to upgrade your current industry skills, here s what you need to know. More

Ultrasound and X-Ray Courses

Ultrasound and x-ray programs have distinct streams of study, with most programs specializing in only one focus area. Below is a description of what you can expect from each discipline:

  • Ultrasound and Sonography. Ultrasound programs explore the use of high-frequency sound waves to create images, which are used to monitor pregnancies and uncover abnormalities within the body. Through lab and class work, students will learn to operate ultrasound and sonographic equipment and interpret results.
  • Medical Radiation Technology. Radiation technology programs focus on specialized techniques and body positioning to produce clear x-ray images that will help lead to a diagnosis. Course topics include radiological protocols, patient care and management, imaging processing, x-ray equipment operation and quality control.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRI programs build on the skills taught in medical radiation programs, preparing students to operate magnetic resonance imaging equipment (an advanced form of imaging technology).

In all ultrasound and x-ray programs at Ontario colleges, students are taught through a combination of theoretical lectures, lab time and clinical placements.

General Ultrasound and X-Ray Program Requirements

Ultrasound and radiation (x-ray) program requirements vary depending on the program level and institution. For entry-level programs, an Ontario Secondary School Diploma or equivalent is required, which includes a grade 12 English credit and often multiple senior math, physics and science credits.

Some Ontario college ultrasound and x-ray programs are offered as graduate certificate programs, in which case a degree or diploma in a related health science field is required.

Ultrasound and X-Ray Jobs and Salaries

Professional examinations are a necessity for working in both ultrasound and x-ray jobs. Those who want to work in ultrasound and sonography must take exams through the Canadian Association of Registered Diagnostic Ultrasound Professionals or the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers .

In contrast, to work as a Medical Radiation Technologist (MRT), graduates must register with the College of Medical Radiation Technologists of Ontario upon completion of the MRT exam.

Graduates who gain accreditation will find employment in a variety of medical facilities and departments, including (but not limited to):

  • Emergency and operating rooms
  • Clinics
  • Private medical practices
  • Education and research institutions
  • Specialized treatment centres

The average starting salary for x-ray and ultrasound jobs is between $47,000 and $54,000 per year, with the potential to be much higher as your level of expertise grows.

Ontario Colleges Offering Ultrasound and X-Ray Programs

Use the left-column navigation to refine your search by College, Program Availability, Program Start Date and more, or see the table below for a complete list of ultrasound and x-ray programs at Ontario colleges. Less