Using specialized equipment, neurodiagnostic technologists identify normal and abnormal electrical activity in the central nervous, autonomic and peripheral nervous systems.
By recording electrical patterns throughout these systems, neurodiagnostic technologists provide valuable data that a physician will use to diagnose and treat conditions such as epilepsy, motor neuron diseases, dizziness, seizure disorders, strokes and degenerative brain disease.
The tests performed by neurodiagnostic technologists can also help doctors uncover hidden causes of mental disorders and determine whether a patient is “brain dead.”
Neurodiagnostic technologists perform a number of procedures, including:
- Electroencephalograms (EEG), used to assess brain activity
- Intraoperative neuromonitoring, which tracks brain and nerve function during surgery
- Long-term monitoring in epilepsy and intensive care unit/critical care continuous EEG, used to diagnose seizures and other disorders
- Polysomnograms, used to diagnose sleep disorders
- Evoked potential studies, in which the technologist measures neurological responses to external stimuli to trace electrical pathways
- Nerve conduction studies, which measure the time it takes to send an electrical signal along a nerve to a specific muscle
- Magnetoencephalography to detect and record magnetic fields associated with electrical activity in the brain.
- Autonomic function testing, to detect autonomic system dysfunction.
The EEG is the most common test performed by neurodiagnostic technologists. Technologists also are responsible for ensuring patient safety and maintaining and calibrating equipment.
Neurodiagnostic monitoring procedures can last from an hour or two to prolonged continuous daily monitoring. While acquiring the study, the neurodiagnostic technologist will ensure that the patient is comfortable, answer questions about the procedure and help to relieve any anxiety, while continuously monitoring the recording for artifacts or events that require the attention of an attending physician.
Patients undergoing certain surgical procedures require intraoperative neuromonitoring. In this case, the neurodiagnostic technologist will monitor the patient’s EEG or evoked potentials throughout the procedure, providing the surgeon with ongoing information about the patient’s nerve function and/or brain activity.
Neurologists depend on neurodiagnostic technologists to provide accurate data and analysis. The neurodiagnostic technologist must, therefore, have the knowledge, judgment and critical thinking skills to ensure that the results reported are accurate and complete.
Neurodiagnostic technologists work in hospitals; specialized sleep and epilepsy labs; private practice; independent clinics; patient homes; educational institutions; research facilities; and equipment design, sales and manufacturing companies. Most procedures are performed in labs supplied with the necessary equipment required to conduct neurodiagnostic studies.
Salary Range and Outlook
The career potential for neurodiagnostic technologists is excellent. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 22% growth in the number of neurodiagnostic technologists between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the average for all health occupations. There is a continuous need for well-educated neurodiagnostic technologists, and the demand grows as new labs open and existing labs expand.
Salaries range from $31,100 for a neurodiagnostic technology program graduate just entering the field to over $70,000 per year for lab managers and independent contractors. The mean (average) salary for all neurodiagnostic technologists across the country is $41,260, based on 2015 wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Technologists who hold professional credentials, college degrees and who own their own business command the highest salaries.
You can start your preparation for a career as a neurodiagnostic technologist in high school by:
- Taking math, science, biology, computer and language courses
- Volunteering at a hospital, rehabilitation center or other facility to gain experience working with seriously ill people
Technologists enter the field through many employment pathways such as formal schooling, on-the-job training or a combination of both. If you are interested in this career, it is a good idea to attend an accredited school specializing in the field. Currently, most of the schools are associated with two-year colleges, with a few located within hospitals or vocational schools. Some schools offer distance-learning programs.
Within two years of graduation, it is recommended that you take and pass a recognized, national examination for professional credentials in an area of neurodiagnostic specialty. Both education and clinical experience are necessary to attain a sufficient knowledge base and clinical expertise.
Neurodiagnostic technologists must have a current CPR/basic cardiac life support certification to take the registry exams.
Learn More About a Career as a Neurodiagnostic Technologist
- Watch “Who’s Taking Care of Your Brain?,” a video about what neurodiagnostic technologists do.
- Watch “ABRET” a video about neurodiagnostic technology filmed at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
- American Association of Electrodiagnostic Technologists
- American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine
- American Association of Sleep Technologists
- ASET - The Neurodiagnostic Society
- ABRET Neurodiagnostic Credentialing and Accreditation
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine
- American Board of Sleep Medicine
- American Board of Electrodiagnostic Medicine
- American Clinical Neurophysiology Society
- American Society of Neurophysiological Monitoring
- Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists
- ASET Foundation