Sonographer Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a sonographer. 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.

Essential Information

Sonographers use special medical equipment to transmit sound waves into the body to make medical diagnostic images that are used by doctors to diagnose possible problems. Potential sonographers may earn a 2- or 4-year degree. Certification in the field is not always mandatory, but many employers prefer to hire certified sonographers.

Required Education Associate's degrees are the most common; bachelor's degrees are also available
Certification American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers certification, which is required by some employers or insurance providers
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 46% for diagnostic medical sonographers*
Median Salary (2013) $66,410 for diagnostic medical sonographers*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

A medical sonographer may enter the field through on-the-job training in a sonography practice that has been accredited by AIUM (American Institution of Ultrasound in Medicine, www.aium.org). They may also train through a formal education program or a mixture of both formal and on-the-job training. Increasingly, employers are looking to hire registered sonographers who have trained through a formal education program, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Programs are available at community colleges and vocational schools, as well as through the military. High school preparation for this profession should include coursework in science, math and health.

Formal education programs award either an associate's or bachelor's degree. The most common are the 2-year programs. Coursework for sonographers includes human anatomy, medical terminology, patient care, physics and instrumentation.

Certification Requirements

Licensure by the state is not a requirement for medical sonographers. Credentials are available from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). To earn registration, an examination must be passed. Those who pass the test may call themselves a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS).

After earning registration, sonographers must maintain it through completing continuing education as required by the ARDMS. Credentials may be earned in many specialty areas, including nervous system, breast, abdomen, cardiac and vascular sonography.

Career Information

A medical sonographer uses machinery, which generates sound waves to create an image of the body used for diagnostic purposes. Sonography (or ultrasonography) is used most commonly in obstetrics to see the fetus during pregnancy. A sonographer is trained to discriminate between healthy and diseased areas. They bring any suspected abnormalities to the attention of a physician for a diagnosis. Other job duties for sonographers include maintaining patient records and equipment. Sonographers may work in a healthcare facility or travel from location to location as needed.

Advancement is available as a sonographer earns competency in a certain specialty area. Sonographers are eligible to earn multiple credentials and may advance to become a supervisor or administrative professional.

Career Outlook

BLS notes that job opportunities for sonographers should increase by 46% during the time period of 2012-2022, which is considerably faster than average. Hospitals are the main employer for sonographers, but jobs are expected to grow in doctors' offices and diagnostic laboratories. The median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $66,410 in May 2013.

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