Vascular ultrasounds are non-invasive diagnostic tests delivered by high frequency sound waves to generate internal images of the blood flow in vessels, veins, and arteries. These vascular exams are essential for finding clots and blockages that could lead to a stroke or heart attack. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 84 million U.S. adults suffer from a cardiovascular disease. Approximately 2,200 cardiovascular deaths occur daily, making it the #1 killer above cancer and respiratory disease. Vascular technologists play a pivotal role in helping physicians discover problems in the human body’s over 60,000 miles of veins before it’s too late. Whether they’re conducting renal duplex ultrasounds of blood vessels to the kidneys or carotid duplex ultrasounds of the neck, vascular technologists give doctors a close look at blood circulation.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that America’s 51,400 cardiovascular technologists, including vascular technologists, made a mean annual wage of $56,100, or $26.97 per hour. Salary.com had higher survey results for a median pay of $67,274 for vascular technologists. Those working in general hospitals earn $55,350 on average, but the top-paid vascular technologists are employed in health practitioners offices with a mean salary of $67,420.
Newly hired vascular technologists with little experience usually land toward the bottom of the bell curve with yearly income around $37,670. Technologists with RVT certification typically make between $49,464 and $67,962 to start. However, vascular technologists can see their salaries increase from $83,917 and beyond with time. Vascular technologists could also seek promotions like diagnostic imaging manager for a median salary of $102,962.
Vascular technologists are primarily responsible for using sonography equipment to produce the high-definition images of blood flow ordered by physicians or surgeons. They’ll begin by taking the patient’s medical history, prepping the area tested, and answering any questions or worries. Technologists will also use blood pressure cuffs to measure the force of blood flow first. Then, they’ll direct imaging instruments to record circulation anywhere from head to toe. Vascular technologists analyze the blood volume, oxygen saturation, and presence of blockages. They review the images for adequate quality and coverage before carefully looking for abnormalities. Vascular technologists finally send the results to medical doctors for further treatment.
Working in the diagnostic imaging field will require advanced technical skills to work high-tech equipment. Vascular technologists need the computer proficiency to log results in electronic software for patient records. Physical stamina and hand-eye coordination are critical for technologists to move both patients and instruments for the best imaging. Like most healthcare jobs, interpersonal skills are a must to communication instructions to patients who may be in pain or stressed. Vascular technologists need organizational skills to keep precise records that physicians rely on for accuracy. Analytical and deductive reasoning skills are also important for technologists to zero in on abnormalities that could signal unhealthy veins.
Degree and Education Requirements
Formal education after a high school diploma or GED is required for aspiring vascular technologists. Most will complete at least an associate degree in cardiovascular or vascular technology at colleges accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Preference could be given to technologists who study further for bachelor’s degrees at schools like Rutgers University and Clemson University. Vascular technologists should take courses in human anatomy, medical terminology, health ethics, ultrasound physics, arterial disease, and cardiovascular care. Technologists who earn graduate degrees, such as a Master of Health Administration (MHA), develop the managerial skills for promotions like cardiovascular imaging medical director.
Pros and Cons of the Position
Becoming a vascular technologist to study the tubes carrying oxygen-depleted blood toward the heart will provide both perks and disadvantages. On the positive side, vascular technologists unlock a healthy salary and good benefits for relatively few years of training. Simply an associate degree could suffice in today’s fast-growing market for diagnostic imaging. Vascular technologists generally only use non-invasive procedures, so there’s no need for the squeamish to worry about surgery. Gaining the opportunity to assist doctors in efficiently treating patients whose lives could be saved by testing results is rewarding. On the other hand, vascular technologists can feel physical stress from lifting heavy equipment and emotional stress from interacting with patients in pain. In hospitals, technologists work irregular night and weekend shifts for a hefty time commitment. Continuing education is mandatory to remain registered in vascular technology. Technologists could also potentially be exposed to infections via patient contact.
Receiving the right training is the crucial first step towards becoming a vascular technologist. All CAAHEP-accredited programs include a clinical component for practicing learned skills in actual healthcare facilities. Technologists can shape their resume further with voluntary internships. Medical centers like the Mayo Clinic, St. Alexius Health, and Cleveland Clinic will hire six- to 10-week interns in cardiovascular technology. After graduation, you’ll have to fulfill your state’s certification requirements. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography confers the preferred Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT) credential. This requires passing a 170 multiple-choice question exam with a minimum scaled score of 555. Technologists could also expand job opportunities imaging the heart by pursuing the CCI’s Basic Ecocardiography Credentialing Program.
Advanced imaging technologies are increasingly being used as first-line tools for diagnosing diseases affecting blood vessels. Vascular technologists offer a reliable imaging alternative to techniques involving potentially harmful radiation, which lowers risk and saves on costs. Aging baby boomers are most likely to present symptoms like varicose veins and thrombosis that need testing. Medicaid relaxed some regulations on vascular exams, which has increased their accessibility and frequency too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that vascular technologists will have faster-than-average job growth by 22 percent through 2024. These estimated 11,500 new jobs will spark demand for certified technologists in state and private hospitals, physician offices, diagnostic laboratories, specialty clinics, outpatient centers, and even professional schools.
The U.S. News and World Report recognized vascular technologists for having the #8 best healthcare support job nationally with low unemployment at 1.4 percent. Vascular technologists have an in-demand role in recording imaging evidence of issues with blood flow throughout the extremities to shape doctors’ diagnoses. Their work begins the treatment for all-too-common vascular conditions like peripheral artery disease, embolism, aortic aneurysm, and chronic venous insufficiency. Being a vascular technologist could also provide the clinical background for pursuing master’s in healthcare jobs later.