Sonographer Schooling and Training Program Requirements

Sonographers require an associate's degree or postsecondary certificate. Learn about the education programs, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

If you are considering a career as a sonographer, you will need to complete a degree program, in which you will study anatomy, sonographic equipment, medical terminology and medical ethics. Certification is recommended in this field, and sonographers can specialize in areas such as cardiovascular or obstetric-gynecological sonography.

Essential Information

Sonography, also called ultrasound, is a technical medical procedure that uses the reflected echoes of sound waves to create images of internal organs. A diagnostic medical sonographer operates the equipment that generates, reads and displays sonographic images, which doctors then evaluate. Prospective sonographers typically receive formal training through certificate or associate's degree programs at community colleges or technical schools. Employers prefer to hire a sonographer who is certified.

Required Education Associate's degree or certificate
Other Requirements Certification recommended
Projected Job Growth 24% between 2014 and 2024*
Median Salary (2015) $68,970 annually*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Training Requirements for Sonographers

Sonographers can learn diagnostic imaging through on-the-job training at a hospital, as a medic in the armed forces or in a formal degree programs. While colleges and universities widely offer diagnostic medical sonography training at the certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree level, associate's degree programs are the most prevalent.

All programs are structured to combine classroom study and supervised clinical experience. Certificate programs offer focused coursework in such topics as sonographic physics, sonographic instruments, abdominal and pelvic anatomy, sectional anatomy and diagnostic imaging. Associate's degree programs are more comprehensive, covering more general medical knowledge, such as medical terminology, general anatomy and medical ethics, as well as the liberal arts. Some programs give students the option of focusing on general sonography or such sub-specialties as cardiovascular sonography, neurosonography or obstetric-gynecological sonography.


Although states do not license sonographers or require certification, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers several different credentials to those who pass voluntary exams. These include the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT) and Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS).

Certification may offer sonographers an employment advantage because employers generally view these credentials as a standard measure of professional standing. As of 2010, ARDMS did not have a recertification procedure but was evaluating proposals to implement one.

Career Information

According to Payscale.com, as of January 2016 entry-level sonographers earned a median wage of $25.00 per hour, and mid-level sonographers earned $30.00 per hour. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reported that in 2015 most sonographers worked for private and public hospitals, while the rest were employed in physician's offices, outpatient clinics or other health care facilities (www.bls.gov).

The BLS predicted 24% job growth for sonographers in the years 2014-2024, which is considerably faster than average. This rise was expected to be driven by the medical needs of an aging population and improvements in sonographic technology that allow its use in a wider range of medical procedures.

Sonographers operate the equipment that produces imagery, which doctors use to evaluate patients. They typically complete a certificate or associate's degree program, and it is recommended that sonographers hold certification. Demand for sonographers is high, as job opportunities are expected to rise 24% through the year 2024.

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