What is an EKG?

It looks like just another medical acronym – but what is an EKG? A simple definition of an EKG (or electrocardiogram) is that it is a test to measure the heart’s electrical activity. Many people who know to ask, “What is an EKG?” have known someone who has had this test done but were not sure what it measures. When a heart has an electric system that functions properly, the heart muscle expands and contracts efficiently. Heart conditions that cause problems with the heart’s natural rhythm need proper diagnosis for the most effective treatment.

When there is a problem with how the heart functions, an electrocardiogram might be used to determine the cause of the problem. During this test, the heart’s electrical activity shows up as lines on a paper called waves that can detect abnormal activity, including dangerous rhythms that could lead to a heart attack or cardiac arrest. Professionals who know how to perform an EKG play a vital role in saving lives.

Procedures and techniques

An EKG, which is sometimes also known as an ECG, is a safe and painless procedure for those who need to undergo the procedure for diagnosis or as a step before surgery. Patients may undergo this procedure before surgery if they are known to have a heart condition, or when they are over 50 with a family history of heart disease, or have symptoms that might indicate a heart problem.

Before an electrocardiogram, a patient has between 12 and 15 electrodes attached to their chest, with some possibly attached to the arms and legs. These electrodes connect to lead wires that are, in turn, connected to the ECG machine. The machine records each of the heartbeats for about 10 minutes. Once the technician has a readout from the test, the doctor will evaluate the results to properly diagnose the condition that is causing the problems.

Skills and certification

Students who want to learn how to do an EKG will undergo thorough training, regardless of whether the certification is part of a degree program or on its own. The skills learned in how to perform an EKG are an invaluable part of the diagnosis and treatment of heart issues. EKG training is one of the most worthwhile skills that many professionals will learn.

Besides administering an EKG, you may also learn how to do stress tests and Holter monitoring when you decide to become an EKG technician. Technicians make sure physicians receive their patients’ test results quickly. Transcribing the test results is an important part of the position. The EKG classes technicians receive allow work in a variety of settings from cardiology practices to emergency departments.

What types of colleges offer these courses and how long does the degree take?

Many colleges now offer EKG certification courses and cardiovascular sonography programs, with training for electrocardiogram-specific programs having become especially popular in recent years. Many two-year colleges and vocational schools in areas with a high demand for medical professionals offer these courses. Schools that offer extensive medical programs also offer ECG programs, usually as two-year degrees that offer preparation for entry-level jobs.

A lot of programs to help you become an EKG technician require specified hours in the classroom and lab hours in the classroom, along with a clinical portion of training. When taken through a two-year college or vocational school as standalone EKG training, the required training usually takes as little as a semester. However, there are employers who are now requiring more extensive training, leading some students to prefer going through a full two-year cardiovascular sonography program.

Taking a full cardiovascular sonography program

A full cardiovascular sonography program provides two-year degrees that are ideal for entry into a rapidly-growing field. In addition to getting EKG training, students also learn about sonography techniques that are in use for diagnostic purposes, including tests that measure overall heart function and tests that detect blockages. Learning both cardiac and vascular methods, as students will learn in many programs, helps broaden the range of potential positions that are available.

A sonography program involves extensive work around a sonography machine, giving students the familiarity that they need to work around this medical equipment. With 670 hours of classroom training with lectures, 900 clinical hours and 200 lab hours, students have a well-rounded education after completing their training. The 107-credit curriculum provides a good foundation for those who may prefer to go on to a four-year program later. A sonography background may prove helpful for professionals who decide to pursue their education further as nurses or surgical technicians.

Who can perform an EKG?

A technician trained to perform an EKG can work in many different medical settings. In addition to technicians trained under an electrocardiogram program, this procedure is sometimes performed by a doctor or a nurse. However, technicians are most likely to be in demand when a doctor orders this procedure.

Medical professionals who can perform an EKG may work in an emergency room setting and have to perform the test for a patient showing signs that indicate heart problems. Sometimes, these professionals work in primary care settings, where doctors treat a variety of conditions.

Professionals trained in cardiac sonography and EKG techniques also work for cardiology professionals, including both cardiologists who work with adults and pediatric cardiologists. These skills are in high demand both in interventional cardiac practices that use non-invasive, imaging-focused treatments and for cardiac surgeons.


What is the demand for qualified professionals like, especially in Florida?

With a growing, aging population, there is an increasing need for technicians who can perform ECG and related procedures. A professional with EKG training enjoys the possibility of a higher median salary, often in the range of $30,000-50,000 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the demand for EKG technicians will grow 29 percent by 2020. The greatest demand for this position will be in private practice and diagnostic labs, although there will continue to be a demand in hospital settings.

The job outlook for an EKG technician in Florida is good, with the state having the highest number of technicians. Pensacola, Gainesville, and Tampa are among some of the top cities with open opportunities at any given time.

City College offers cardiovascular sonography and other programs for students looking for an exciting, stable career. Call us or visit our website for more information today.