Updated: June 9th, 2017: Ultrasound technicians, also known as diagnostic medical sonographers or just sonographers, operate special equipment using sound waves, which help diagnose patients’ ailments. They work directly with physicians and patients and may specialize in many areas, including obstetric and gynecological sonography, abdominal, neurosonography, breast, vascular or cardiac.
Data from BLS as of 2014 shows there are about 112,700 ultrasound technicians, with hospitals employing more than half of them. There are also opportunities for this career at doctors’ offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories and outpatient care centers.
Typically, most technicians work full-time. Similar to most employed in heath care, they work various hours, including evenings, weekends and overnight.
We’ve wrapped up a quick guide below on how to start your career
Medical Sonographers must be highly skilled, highly trained individuals in order to perform various tasks throughout the day.
Duties include: choosing proper equipment settings and directing the patient into positions to provide the best view; operating a transducer that omits sound waves in a cone-shaped or rectangular-shaped beam; monitoring for visual clues on the screen that show differences between healthy and unhealthy areas; determining whether the images are suitable for diagnostic purposes and choosing which ones to save for the physician; conducting measurements, calculating values, as well as analyzing preliminary data for physicians, and talking to patients, letting them know the procedures.
They may also have to keep patient records; maintain quality of equipment; prepare schedules; analyze equipment purchases; and manage a diagnostic or sonography imaging department.
Based on data from 2014, ultrasound techs earned a median annual income of $65,210, with an average of about $31.35 per hour. However, the salary range for ultrasound technicians with 1-4 years of experience can vary greatly, from about $29,000 to $61,000.
According the BLS, the job outlook is very good. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics has forecasted that job growth for this field will move more rapidly than the average for all jobs through 2020. It is expected to grow faster than many other occupations that require an associates degree.
Being certified isn’t a requirement for sonographers, however most employers value ones who are certified. They may obtain a credential from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
To become credentialed, students must take an exam and fulfill prerequisite requirements that may include a combination of education and work experience.
There are many different routes to take to become an ultrasound technician. Students can either earn a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelors degree. Also, people who already have a health care occupation may enroll in a one-year program to obtain certification in diagnostic medical sonography.
On-the-job training is another option for those with health care experience, such as nursing, who wish to pursue a career as an ultrasound technician.
Students in a formal training program will likely take courses in physiology, anatomy, basic physics, instrumentation, patient care and medical ethics. Supervised clinical training is also required.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education is a popular program for students wishing to receive accreditation.
In order to strive in this profession, one has to have certain characteristics. Strong interpersonal skills are required to work one-on-one with patients. Good manual dexterity is also required. They must be detail-oriented. Good physical stamina is also an advantage because technicians will spend the majority of their day standing, lifting and moving patients.