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Sonogram Specialist Career and Training Program Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a sonogram specialist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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A sonogram specialist has a range of education options to choose from, each providing a different amount of training. Accredited programs are strongly recommended in order to qualify for professional certification.

Essential Information

Sonogram specialists, commonly called sonographers, are trained medical personnel who operate sonogram equipment. Sonograms provide doctors with high-quality internal images of the human body. Sonographer training programs vary in length and type, and it may include clinical experience and coursework in sonographic specialties. Students may want to look for accredited programs. Although few states require licensure for diagnostic medical sonographers, certification is very common and may be required by employers.

Required Education Certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography or cardiovascular and vascular technology
Certification Voluntary, though highly recommended; employment opportunities without certification may be significantly fewer
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 26% for diagnostic medical sonographers
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $68,970 for diagnostic medical sonographers

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information

Sonogram specialists operate equipment that directs high-frequency sound waves into a patient's body to produce images of internal structures, often for diagnostic purposes. Specialties within the field include obstetric and gynecological sonography, abdominal sonography, neurosonography and breast sonography.

Most sonographers are employed in hospital settings. Employment opportunities for sonographers in other medical facilities, such as physicians' offices and diagnostic laboratories, is expected to grow due to an evolving medical climate that favors outpatient care. In addition, new technologies that expand the use of ultrasound are emerging and will create more jobs for sonographers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that diagnostic medical sonographer job growth is expected to be 26% from 2014-2024, which is much faster than the average among all jobs. (www.bls.org).

Jobs and salary for sonographers vary with location. Sonogram specialists who are willing to relocate may find more job opportunities. Sonographers can stand out from other job seekers by specializing in multiple types of sonography. In May of 2015, the median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $68,970, according to the BLS.

Training Program Information

There are several options for sonographer training, including programs offered by vocational schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and the military. Training programs can range from 1-4 years in length, depending on the type of degree or certificate awarded. Sonography training programs offer students hands-on experience in labs and clinical settings. Courses range from basic anatomy to sonographic physics and include specific courses for each sonographic specialty, such as abdominal sonography.

Prospective students should look for a training program that follows standards recognized by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (www.caahep.org). Few states require licensure in the field of sonography but many jobs require sonographers to pass a professional certification exam after completion of a training program.

Sonographers generally work in hospitals or other medical facilities where they operate sonographic imaging equipment. They receive hands-on and in-class training through certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree programs, likely choosing one that highlights their specialty. Many employers require that sonographers be certified, which requires completing an accredited training program and passing a competency exam.

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