Should I Become a Sonography Technician?
Sonography technicians are trained in the use of medical imaging equipment that gathers sonic waves to produce an image of the body for diagnosis. They work closely with patients, often in the field of obstetrics, where they gather images of developing fetuses. However, sonography is a diagnostic tool used to detect many conditions and ailments in various areas of the body. Regular full-time work is often available for sonography technicians, and some workers will need to complete overnight or weekend shifts. The job requires a lot of standing, and workers may need to turn or lift patients to properly prepare them for imaging. The often-demanding work conditions tend to lead to strong earning potential.
|Degree Level||Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree required|
|Degree Field||Diagnostic medical sonography|
|Licensure and/or Certification||A few states require licensure; voluntary certification is preferred by employers|
|Experience||No experience required for entry-level jobs; some employers may require up to 3 years of experience|
|Key Skills||Hand-eye coordination, attention to detail, interpersonal and technical skills, physical stamina|
|Salary (May 2015)||$67,170 per year (average salary for all diagnostic medical sonographers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Online Job Postings (August 2015)
Now let's explore the steps aspiring sonography technicians take along this career path.
Step 1: Complete Post-Secondary Training
Accredited formal training programs in sonography are offered by many colleges and universities and typically consist of a combination of classroom and clinical education. You might enroll in a two-year associate's degree program, which is common for this field. However, four-year bachelor's degree programs are also available. Those already working in the medical field, such as radiation therapists, normally complete a one-year certificate program to prepare for the transition into sonography.
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Step 2: Obtain Employment
Common work settings for sonography technicians include hospitals, private physicians' offices, outpatient care centers, and diagnostic laboratories. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that as the large number of Baby Boomers continues to age and sonography becomes a more popular substitute for expensive and invasive procedures, sonography technicians will be in high demand. In fact, sonographer jobs were expected to increase 22% between 2014 and 2024.
Step 3: Become a Registered
After completing a certificate or degree program, a candidate is eligible to take an exam to become registered. Registration can help sonographers meet licensing requirements in states that regulate this practice. Professional registration is also preferred by many employers and can improve sonographers' job prospects.
The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography offers the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer credential, which requires passage of a two-part exam. The first part tests general knowledge of physical principles of sonography and instrumentation. The second part of the exam is more specific and provides registration in various specialties. Such sonography specialties include sonography of the abdomen and breast, fetal echocardiography, pediatric sonography, and obstetrics and gynecology. The registered diagnostic medical sonographer credential must be maintained by paying a yearly fee and earning 30 continuing education credits every three years. Additionally, credential holders must pass an online assessment and complete a self-evaluation survey every six years.
Becoming a sonography technician involves completion of a certificate or degree program in sonography technician, and many technicians become registered through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography to fulfill licensing requirements and improve job prospects.