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Cardiac Sonographer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a cardiac sonographer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job duties and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

Cardiac sonographers work alongside and with physicians, using technology to help assess patients and their conditions. A career in this field typically requires an associate's degree and sometimes certification, as well as communication skills and a strong knowledge of cardiology and scientific principles.

Essential Information

Cardiac sonographers use ultrasound technology to help doctors diagnose and treat heart patients. An associate's degree and industry certification are typically required in order to secure a job in this field.

Required Education Associate's degree
Other Requirements Professional certification may be required by employers
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 22% for cardiovascular technologists and technicians
Median Salary* (2015) $54,880 annually for cardiovascular technologists and technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Job Description

Cardiac sonographers, or echocardiographers, use non-invasive cardiovascular technology equipment to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with heart and blood vessel conditions. The ideal candidate for this career has excellent communication skills in order to convey scientific information to doctors, as well as a good bedside manner for dealing with patients.

Job Duties

Cardiac sonographers perform echocardiograms, or ultrasound imaging, to evaluate different aspects of the heart, such as chamber size, valve function and blood flow. They review patient files and must be familiar with basic cardiac conditions in order to recognize and identify any abnormalities.

While cardiac sonographers do not themselves diagnose patients, they work with physicians in doing so or may assist in other diagnostic procedures. Other duties may include scheduling appointments, explaining procedures to patients and maintaining ultrasound equipment.

Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most cardiac sonographers complete an associate's degree program, but bachelor's degree programs are also available. Relevant degree programs include cardiovascular technology and diagnostic medical sonography. There are also many schools offering certificate and degree programs specifically in in echocardiography. Prospective students may want to consider enrolling in programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Attending an accredited program is often a prerequisite for earning certification in the field.

While certification is not mandatory, many employers require it, according to the BLS. The Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) are two organizations that offer credentialing for cardiac sonographers. The CCI offers the Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS) certification and ARDMS offers the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) certification. Applicants for these credentials must either have an associate's or bachelor's degree in a related health field or have attended an accredited cardiovascular technology program; they may also need a certain amount of relevant work experience to be eligible to take the certification exams.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

As of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that cardiovascular technologists and technicians earned an annual median salary of $54,880. The BLS predicted 22% employment growth from 2014-2024 for cardiovascular technologists and technicians, which is faster than average.

Cardiac sonographers are qualified to use relevant technology to examine patient's hearts. While they do not diagnose, they are an important element within the health care team treating cardiac patients. An associate's degree as well as certification are typically the entry-level requirements for this field.

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