To get started as an ultrasound technician involves completing a specialized training program in ultrasound technology. These programs provide knowledge in physics, anatomy, and patient care, among other skills. Ultrasound technicians work with patients to take images and scans of different body areas, such as brains, hearts, or abdomens.
Ultrasound technicians, also known as diagnostic medical sonographers, operate machines called sonographic scanners that create images of patients' internal organs. Sonographers can work in physicians' offices, clinics or hospitals, and night and weekend shifts may be required. They may specialize in certain areas, such as breast, obstetric or vascular sonography. An associate's or bachelor's degree is usually required, and individuals who already hold a degree in another area of healthcare often can complete sonography training through a one-year certificate program.
|Required Education||Associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography; some healthcare workers can earn certificates|
|Other Requirements||Professional certification not mandatory but is preferred by most employers|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||26% for diagnostic medical sonographers|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$68,970 for diagnostic medical sonographers|
Sources: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
At the beginning of a session, ultrasound technicians usually explain the procedure to the patient as well as program and adjust the scanner for the specific procedure. Unless the sonographer is making a video recording of the ultrasound images, he or she decides which still images, called sonograms, to capture and show to the physician for diagnostic purposes. Although the obstetric and gynecologic ultrasound associated with developing fetuses is the most commonly known procedure in the field, the ultrasound technician may also work as a specialist in neurological (brain), breast, heart or abdominal sonography.
Education and Certification
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diagnostic medical sonographers need formal training, typically an associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography though some certificate programs are also available (www.bls.gov). These programs cover anatomy, physics, physiology, patient care, ethics and instrumentation.
The BLS also reports that employers prefer ultrasound technicians who have earned industry certification from an organization such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). ARDMS offers registration based on passing exams on physical principles and instrumentation. Ultrasound technicians who pass the ARDMS exam receive the title of Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS).
There are multiple education programs available to provide the required basics necessary for an ultrasound technician to start their career. Certificates, associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees are options that any would-be ultrasound technician can pursue. Industry certification may be preferred by employers, but it is not necessary.