Career Definition for a Prenatal Ultrasonography Technician
Using sound waves, prenatal ultrasonography technicians examine unborn fetuses to make sure they are developing properly without apparent medical problems. They also inspect female reproductive organs to search for possible infertility causes. Most prenatal ultrasonography technicians work 40-hour weeks (which may include weekends and holidays) in a hospital setting, though there is a growing need in private physician's offices. Ultrasound techs will prep patients, talk patients through the exam, and explain the results, such as pointing out the sex of the child. For those who like to travel, there are contract opportunities for mobile prenatal ultrasonography technicians lasting from a few months to a year with the possibility of being asked to stay on permanently. Most techs will work through a healthcare placement agency for these temporary assignments that may take them to any state.
|Required Education||An accredited associate's and bachelor's degree; certification preferred by employers|
|Job Duties||Include prepping patients, talking to patients throughout the exam, explaining the results|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$71,410 (diagnostic medical sonographers)|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)*||23% growth (diagnostic medical sonographers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Individuals who hope to work in this field will need to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in an accredited program through a college or university. Though a few 1-year certificate programs do exist, they are only for current medical personnel and are not accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Prenatal ultrasonography technicians are not required to be licensed to practice, but there are credentialing programs in general sonography and in specialized fields, like prenatal, that are preferred by employers.
Prenatal ultrasonography technicians need good communication skills to explain the technical procedures to patients. A compassionate bedside manner and sensitivity to the patient's feelings are necessary since the exam can be emotionally charged, especially when examining potential risks to the fetus. Strong math and science abilities can be a help in this career, and ultrasound technicians should also stay abreast of changing practices and new technologies.
Career and Economic Outlook
A projected 23% increase in employment opportunities is expected for diagnostic medical sonographers, including prenatal ultrasonography technicians, between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). With expectant mothers found in every region, there are employment opportunities for prenatal ultrasound technicians throughout the country. Ultrasound techs can advance in their careers by adding other areas of sonography to their resumes or by moving into education or administration. Median earnings among diagnostic medical sonographers were reported as $71,410 per year by the BLS in May 2017, with the highest rates found in California, Hawaii, and Washington, D.C.
Alternate Career Options
Here are some examples of alternative career options:
Following the most common path of earning an associate's degree, these technologists must be licensed or certified in most states before they can perform x-rays and other diagnostic imaging examinations on patients. Faster than average job growth of 12% was predicted by the BLS from 2016-2026. In 2017, these techs earned a median annual salary of $58,440, according to the BLS.
Nuclear Medicine Technologists
Upon earning an associate's degree and licensing in some states, these techs prepare and administer radioactive drugs and use scanners to create images of patients' bodies. About as fast as average job growth of 10% was anticipated by the BLS during the 2016-2026 decade. According to the BLS in 2017, nuclear medicine technologists took home an annual median wage of $75,660.