How to Become an Ultrasonographer: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 05, 2020

Learn how to become an ultrasonographer. Research the education and career requirements, licensure, and experience required for starting a career as an ultrasonographer.

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Should I Become an Ultrasonographer?

Ultrasonographers, commonly referred to as diagnostic medical sonographers, create diagnostic images of the interior of a patient's body using sound waves. The images from an ultrasound are used to diagnose different types of medical conditions. These professionals prepare the patient for the procedure and operate the equipment to create quality images. The results are given to a physician who makes a diagnosis regarding any abnormalities inside the body. Sonographers may need to work standing for extended periods of time and occasionally must lift or turn patients.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree
Degree Name Diagnostic medical sonography
Certification/Licensure Certification preferred by most employers; some states require licensing, which typically requires certification first
Experience 1-3 years
Key Skills Good communication skills and ability to follow directions
Salary (2018) $72,510 (Median salary for all diagnostic medical sonographers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job postings

Steps to Become an Ultrasonographer

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree

While bachelor's degree and certificate programs are available, most of these imaging professionals earn an associate's degree in diagnostic medical sonography. A diagnostic medical sonography program at the associate's degree level is two years in length and prepares graduates to work in the field. Students in the program learn about the various ultrasound and sonography procedures, including those for the abdomen, reproductive system, breast, nervous system, and musculoskeletal system. Courses cover areas involving anatomy and patient care, imaging techniques, and abnormalities.

Ensure that any prospective program is accredited. Enrolling in a program that's accredited through the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS) in collaboration with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) ensures eligibility for certification.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Students in a diagnostic medical sonography program must complete a clinical experience in a hospital or other type of medical facility. This is an opportunity for students to apply what they've learned in the classroom to a professional environment. Students will often shadow a sonographer as they interact with patients and perform procedures.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Sonography certification is available through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, states often require that applicants pass the certification exam to obtain licensure. The examination covers topics involving patient care, principles of ultrasound, sonographic procedures, abdomen and pelvis, gynecologic structures, and obstetrics.

Additionally, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers sonography specialty certification. Like basic certification, sonographers must pass an examination. Specializations are available in breast, obstetrics and gynecology, abdomen, and more. Specializing in a specific sonographic area may enhance employment opportunities.

Aspiring ultrasonographers typically complete an associate's degree in diagnostic medical sonography, and certification might be required for licensure.

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