A degree in ultrasound technologies teaches aspiring sonographers how to use ultrasound technology, what to look for in images, and how to work with patients and physicians. A degree in ultrasound technologies affords opportunities in a few different health care and diagnostic medical sonograph career fields including OB/GYN sonographer, vascular sonographer, or neurosonographer.
An associate's degree is required for an entry-level position as a sonographer. Many employers also prefer post-secondary and professional certification. Degree programs in ultrasound or sonograph technologies prepare students to use diagnostic equipment with formal education in the field. Some specialty certifications for sonographers include the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer, Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Registered Vascular Technologist and Registered Musculoskeletal designations. Three career options in ultrasound technologies include OB/GYN, vascular and neurosonography.
|Career||Obstetric or Gynecological Sonographer||Vascular Sonographer||Neurosonographer|
|Education Requirements||Associate's degree for entry-level||Associate's degree for entry-level||Associate's degree for entry-level|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||26% (for diagnostic medical sonographers)||24% (for cardiovascular techs)||26% (for diagnostic medical sonographers)|
|Median Income (2015)*||$68,970 annually (for diagnostic medical sonographers)||$63,630 (for cardiovascular techs)||$68,970 (for diagnostic medical sonographers)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
People with formal education in ultrasound or sonography technologies can qualify to become diagnostic medical sonographers, with the potential to specialize in a variety of areas. Graduates can work as diagnostic medical sonographers with a specialization in such areas as the following.
Obstetric and Gynecological Sonographers
Obstetric sonographers are specialists within the field of ultrasound technology who use imaging techniques to allow pregnant women to view the fetuses within their wombs. Gynecological sonographers assist in diagnosing illnesses related to the female reproductive system, such as cervical cancer or cysts. Like other medical sonographers, obstetric and gynecological sonographers use machines called transducers to project sound waves into patient's bodies, aided by a water-based gel applied to the skin above the area to be imaged.
Vascular sonographers, also called vascular technologists, use sonographic equipment to monitor the circulation of blood through the body. They record oxygen saturation levels, check blood pressure and observe circulation in the brain, abdomen and peripheral circulatory system. Vascular sonographers generally summarize their findings in reports to physicians who use the information to diagnose vascular conditions that can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Neurosonographers use ultrasound technology to image and study areas associated with the nervous system, including the brain and spine. They examine vessels that send blood to the brain and scan for clots or other potentially dangerous irregularities. They might also check for nerve damage in other areas of the body resulting from accidents or illnesses, such as Parkinson's disease. They can focus their work on neonatal patients, examining the nervous systems and brains of newborns. These professionals also operate transducers, but the frequencies and beam shapes differ from other forms of sonography.
Certification for Ultrasound and Sonograph Technicians
Ultrasound and sonograph technicians can pursue voluntary certification. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists offers a credential in sonography that requires candidates to complete formal education in the field, submit to a background check and pass a certification exam.
Professionals seeking specialized credentials could take the certification exams that lead to a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer, Registered Vascular Technologist or Registered in Musculoskeletal designation through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Sonographers can earn multiple specialty credentials in several disciplines, such as abdominal, breast, obstetric, neorosonology, pediatric or fetal sonography.
Job Outlook and Salaries
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the number of jobs for all types of diagnostic medical sonographers will increase by 24% for the years 2014-2024. Diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median annual wage of $68,970 in May 2015, according to the BLS.
A degree in ultrasound technologies allows an individual to pursue a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer. Different types of sonograpers work in different medical areas, and job duties and the types of images they look at will vary. Sonographers typically position and interact with patients, use ultrasound technology to produce images of some part of a patient's body or internal systems, and work with physicians as they diagnose and treat their patients.