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The complete career guide to be a Perfusionist: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $45,730
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 23.2%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Dependable Daily Workload
    Career Attribute

Perfusionists are specialized healthcare professionals that operate the heart-lung machine, that takes over the functions of the patients heart and lungs while undergoing cardiovascular surgery.  The heart-lung machine provides the patient with the necessary physiological requirements to sustain life during a surgical procedure.

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What is a Perfusionist?

The following responsibilities are common for Perfusionists:

  • Sets-up and operates the heart-lung machine during surgery to take over heart and lung functions for a patient during surgery or respiratory failure
  • Reviews patients medical history and medical charts and consults with surgeon and/or physicians to obtain pertinent patient medical information
  • Monitors and observes patient physiological variables on the heart-lung machine to maintain the patients quality of life and normal cardiovascular functions
  • Operates the heart-lung machine during surgeries to maintain and regulate the patients blood flow and composition, to administer the appropriate drugs and anesthetics and control the body temperature
  • Cleans, maintains and sets-up the heart-lung machine and all its necessary equipment and parts

A Day In The Life

A cardiac perfusionist operates external circulation equipment, called heart-lung machines, used during any medical procedure when it is necessary to artificially support a patients circulatory or respiratory functions.

They operate the heart-lung machine, which is an artificial oxygenated blood pump, which pumps blood to the tissues and lungs and heart during surgeries, typically during cardiac surgeries.  They manage the physiological demands of the patient while the surgeon operates.  They measure various parameters like blood volume and oxygen to identify the patients mechanical, pharmalogical and thermal manipulation to maintain the patients normal physiological state.

They typically spend the majority of their time in the operating room.  Within the operating room, they are responsible for the preparation of the heart-lung machine and any other necessary equipment needed for the operation.  Once the patient is properly hooked up to the machine and equipment, they constantly monitor the patient and their status.

Typical Work Schedule

This position requires shift work because patients may need surgery at any time of the day.  The majority of this job is spent in the operating room standing for 6 to 8 hours at a time.

Projected Job Growth

Employment for perfusionists is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations as the volume and demand for cardiac surgeons increases.  The need for these individuals is expected to rise as the population’s health declines and age increases

Typical Employers

Hospitals and surgical centers like the Mayo Clinic, are the main employers of perfusionists.  The majority of their time is spent in the operating room.

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How To Become a Perfusionist

Perfusionists are required to complete an undergraduate degree with coursework in a science based major, including but not limited to subjects like biology, chemistry and anatomy & physiology, as well as additional training for certification qualification purposes.  These programs are very competitive to get into.  So a student should seek to distinguish themselves during their undergraduate studies by taking part in activities like internships and volunteer opportunities. After graduation, a student must then become certified. The American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusionists (CCP) administers the certified perfusionist certification for the required credentials.  CCP applicants must complete a training program in cardiac perfusion and perform a minimum of 75 cases as the primary perfusionist during training in order to be certified.  Continuing education courses are also required on an annual basis.  Healthcare practitioners like nurses, paramedics or medical assistants can also pursue a certification program in perfusion science.  Most programs require students to have at least a minimum of 60-80 hours of coursework before they can even begin training.

Perfusionists spend most of their time in the operating room, and therefore must be able to handle stressful situations, acute stress and must be able to perform well under pressure as well as pay attention to great detail.  Some surgeries last for several hours, which requires a high level of stamina and physical endurance.

Perfusionist Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Perfusionist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Perfusionist's can make an average annual salary of $45,730, or $22 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $32,030 or $15 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #443 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Perfusionist. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Perfusionists

  • 4.8%   Doctorate
  • 7.5%   Masters
  • 21.3%   Bachelors
  • 14.4%   Associates
  • 31%   College
  • 19.3%   High School
  • 1.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Perfusionist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 23,700 jobs for a total of 125,900 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 23.2% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #36 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Perfusionists

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 39,200 2,800 3%
Offices of physicians 9,500 2,100 2%
General medical and surgical hospitals; local 4,500 -100 0%

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