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There are many pieces to becoming an Perfusionist. Use the navigation below to explore each aspect of preparing to become an Perfusionist.


  • What is a Perfusionist?
  • A perfusionist operates extracorporeal circulation and autotransfusion equipment during any medical situation where it is necessary to support or temporarily replace the patient’s circulatory or respiratory function. The perfusionist is knowledgeable concerning the variety of equipment available to perform extracorporeal circulation functions and is responsible, in consultation with the physician, for selecting the appropriate equipment and techniques to be used.

    Due to the nature of the cardiac surgery, the surgeon needs to work on a still heart, and it is necessary to temporarily replace the patient’s circulatory and respiratory function. It is the responsibility of the perfusionist, a specialized healthcare professional, to assume the function of the heart and/or lungs during these medical procedures.

    A perfusionist operates a heart-lung machine, which is an artificial blood pump, which propels oxygenated blood to the patient’s tissues while the surgeon operates on the heart. The perfusionist manages the physiological and metabolic demands of the patient while the cardiac surgeon operates on the heart. It is also the perfusionist’s responsibility to deliver the drug that stops the heart.

    A perfusionist generally spends 90% of his or her time in the OR suite for cardiac cases, but now may also find their responsibilities extending to areas such as the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CIVICU) and catheterization laboratory.

    The perfusionist measures various blood and other parameters to identify appropriate mechanical, pharmacological and thermal manipulation to maintain a physiological state. To preform these tasks, a perfusionist must have a thorough understanding of both the respiratory and circulatory system and be able to operate complex equipment.

    The perfusionist must also be knowledgeable about the equipment available to perform extracorporeal circulation function and is responsible, in consultation with the surgeon, for selecting the appropriate equipment and techniques to be used.

    Average salary range: $65,000-135,000

    More information here: 
  • Becoming a Perfusionist
  • Obtain a Bachelor's degree: Perfusionists typically complete a four-year college degree and take necessary prerequisites (4+ years). Undergraduate courses include biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, as well as additional specialized training to satisfy the requirements of certification. A background in science is not required to become a perfusionist.

    Apply to a Master's or Bachelor's program: Accredited perfusion programs offer master’s or bachelor’s degrees and some programs offer a certificate in clinical perfusion. (1-4 years)

    Pass a Certification Exam: The American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion administers the certified clinical perfusionist (CCP) credential, which is required for all practicing perfusionists.
  • Perfusionist Prerequisites
  • Perfusionist Prerequisite Courses Courses to Take at UC Davis
    General Biology with Lab BIS 2 ABC
    General Chemistry with Lab CHE 2ABC
    Human Anatomy with Lab EXB 106 & EXB 106L OR CHA 101 & CHA 101L (Lab)
    Human Physiology with Lab NPB 101 OR NPB 110C & NPB 101L (Lab)
    Biochemistry BIS 102 & BIS 103
    Physics PHY 7ABC OR PHY 9ABC
    Statistics STA 13 OR STA 100
    Mathematics MAT 16ABC, MAT 17ABC, OR MAT 21ABC
    Medical Terminology Course not offered at UC Davis
    English any combination of ENL, UWP, OR COM courses
    Social & Behavioral Sciences any combination of SOC, PSC, OR ANT courses

    * Check you major requirements before choosing classes.

    Note: The above courses are only suggested, not absolute. 

    More information about specific program prerequisites can be found here:
    Midwestern University 
    Upstate Medical University 
    Medical University of South Carolina

  • Experiences
  • Shadow or have an informational interview with perfusionists.

    Choose experiences that are meaningful to you and think outside the box!

    Here are some good places to start looking for experiences at UC Davis:
    Health Related Internships through the Internship and Career Center (ICC)
    Opportunities to publish and present research through the Undergraduate Research Center
    Global Health Internships through Study Abroad
    Health Internships through the Washington Program
    Volunteering for the UC Davis Pre-Health Conference
    Completing community service using the ICC Community Service Database
    Join or create a student organization
    Volunteer at a Student Run Clinic
  • Applying to Perfusionist Programs
  • Apply to perfusionist programs by using this search tool: