Perfusionist (Perf)

Work Activities/Work Locations

  • Perfusionists set up and operate equipment that controls and regulates the functions of the heart, lungs, blood circulation, body temperature during surgery or respiratory failure. They consult with surgeons and physicians to assess a patient’s needs.
  • The Perfusionist is responsible for other life support devices, such as intra-aortic balloon pumps and ventricular assist devices; veno-venous bypass for liver transplantation; isolated limb chemotherapy; cardiopulmonary bypass supported cardiac catheterization procedures; extracorporeal life support (ECLS); and blood salvaging for orthopedic or general surgery procedures.
  • Perfusionists work in hospitals, in physician’s private practices, and educational institutions as teachers or researchers.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Graduates enjoy 100% employability.
  • Perfusionists must thoroughly understand the body’s circulatory system and must be able to operate complex equipment.
  • Must be able to meet the daily demands of the operating room, adapt to new technologies and uses for the extracorporeal circuit, and be part of a profession growing beyond its traditional role in cardiovascular surgery.

Getting Started

  • High School Courses
    • Students should take a college preparatory curriculum.
    • Helpful high school courses include Health, Anatomy & Physiology, Calculus, Biochemistry, and Physics.
  • Education and Training
    • At Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) applicants must have earned a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in a medical background with an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.8. MSOE is the only perfusion education training in Wisconsin.
    • For a Master of Science in Perfusion at MSOE, 43 credits are required, including a master’s thesis, and 18 credits of didactic and supervised clinical work.
    • At MSOE, for the Master’s program, the Perfusionist is involved in cardiopulmonary bypass, patient monitoring, blood conservation (cell salvage, modified ultrafiltration and plasmapharesis), intra-aortic balloon pumping (IABP), ventricular assist devices (VAD), total artificial heart placement (TAH), selection of equipment and biomaterials, extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
    • At MSOE, for the Master’s program, a student’s case load is typically at least 100 procedures, including a strong pediatric experience. This count only includes those cases in which you are acting as the primary Perfusionist.
    • Rush University Perfusion Program in Chicago offers a BS in Perfusion Technology. Entrance into the program requires completion of 60 semester hours/90 quarter hours of undergraduate credit emphasis on science, GPA>2.90.
    • University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics offer a 20-month post-baccalaureate certificate program.

    Educational Institutions

    Milwaukee School of Engineering

  • Method of Entry
    • In the United States, only 17 schools have programs to educate students for a career in perfusion. All these schools combined graduate about 140 students per year. The programs vary in their entry requirements and in length.
    • Program graduates may earn a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree, or a Certificate in Perfusion Science.
    • Certification by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion (ABCP) is usually required for employment.
    • To be Certified one must graduate from an accredited cardiovascular perfusion education training program AND pass a 2-part exam. Prerequisites for taking Perfusion Basic Science Examination (Part 1) is to document (75) clinical perfusions performed prior to graduation. Prerequsites for taking Clinical Applications in Profusion Examination (Part 2) is to document (50) independent clinical profusions after graduation.
  • Professional Organizations

    Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting
    6 W. Dry Creek Circle, Suite 110
    Littleton, CO, 80120-8031

    Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals
    PO Box 2007
    Midlothian, VA, 23113

    American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion
    2903 Arlington Loop
    Hattiesburg, MS, 39402

    American Society of ExtraCorporeal Technology
    330 N Wabash Ave, Suite 2000
    Chicago, IL, 60611

    Cardiovascular Credentialing International and National Board of Cardiovascular Testing
    1500 Sunday Dr., Suite 102
    Raleigh, NC, 27607
    919/861-4539 or 800/326-0268

    Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
    1361 Park St.
    Clearwater, FL, 33756

    The Society for Vascular Ultrasound
    4601 Presidents Dr., Suite 260
    Lanham, MD, 20706-4831
    301/459-7550 or 800/788-8346


Career Outlook

Number Employed in 2014 (Wisconsin): 1,260
Number Employed in 2014 (U.S.): 52,000
Expected Employment in 2024 (U.S.): 63,500
Percent Employment Growth (2014-2024): 22%
Expected Annual Openings: 2,140
Median Salary in 2014 (Wisconsin): $54,519

Salary information is located at Career One Stop

Wisconsin AHEC Health Careers Information Center provides the most current salary information available from CareerOneStop. CareerOneStop will have a lapse between when the information is gathered and when it is released.

Usually work a 40-hour week. Some work part time. Can include evenings, weekends, and holidays.

  • Part of a profession growing beyond its traditional role in cardiovascular surgery. 100% employability.
  • The Perfusion Technologist’s role now encompasses other surgical and non-surgical specialties that require specific skilled knowledge of the use of extracorporeal circuits, support devices or blood salvaging capabilities.