Sonogram technicians need an associate's degree, a certificate or on-the-job training. Certification by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs may improve job prospects in this fast-growing field.
Sonogram technicians, also known as ultrasound technicians, use high-frequency sound waves to image patients' internal organs and help in the diagnosis of illnesses and disease. Most sonogram technicians are employed in hospitals, although some work in doctors' offices and other healthcare facilities. The majority of sonographers hold a 2-year degree in sonography, and many choose to earn voluntary certification to better compete for jobs.
|Required Education||Associate's degree in sonogram technology or a similar field; certificate programs are also available for those with professional experience in healthcare|
|Other Requirements||Voluntary certifications are available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||26% for diagnostic medical sonographers*|
|Median Annual Salary (May 2015)||$68,970 for diagnostic medical sonographers*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Although aspiring sonogram techs might receive on-the-job training, they typically complete a 2-year program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Students learn to use sonography equipment and interpret the output. Some of the course topics include instrumentation, anatomy and physiology, basic echocardiography, medical terminology and ultrasound equipment.
In addition to coursework, students participate in clinicals under the supervision of sonographers. Some schools also offer 1-year programs, although these programs are geared toward professionals already working in the healthcare industry who want to change careers.
Although certification is not a state requirement for employment, many sonogram techs choose certification to improve their employment opportunities. Certification is available through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and Cardiovascular Credentialing International. Sonogram techs can choose to be certified in a sonography specialty.
To obtain certification, they must complete training and pass an examination in physics and instrumentation. Sonogram technicians must complete continuing education to maintain certification.
Sonogram techs can choose from several specialties. Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers specialize in imaging and diagnosing the female reproductive system, both during and after pregnancy. Sonographers also might focus on imaging patients' abdominal cavity to help diagnose ailments associated with such organs as the pancreas, kidneys, liver and spleen.
Neurosonographers are skilled in the examination of the brain and nervous system. Other sonographers specialize in the study of breast tissue to monitor blood supply, tumor growth and biopsy accuracy.
Career and Salary Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median annual wage of $68,970 as of 2015. Job opportunities were predicted to grow by 26% from 2014-2024, which was much greater than average. Aging patients in need of diagnostic imaging and healthcare providers choosing ultrasound imaging rather than radiologic procedures were two factors contributing to the employment growth, reported the BLS.
Most sonogram technicians receive their training through associate's degree programs, although certificate programs are available for individuals with healthcare experience. They can choose to specialize in areas such as obstetrics or neurology and may boost their careers by obtaining professional certification. Job opportunities in this field are growing much faster than average, and the median salary was nearly $70,000 in 2015.