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Sonogram Technologist: Job Description & Career Info

Learn about the type of imaging work a sonogram technologist performs. Explore academic requirements, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you.

Career Definition for a Sonogram Technologist

Sonogram technologists use non-ionizing, high frequency sound waves to create images of organs or organ systems for non-invasive diagnostics and a safer alternative to surgery or high doses of radiation. A sonographer may take images of a brain to look for a tumor, perform a cancer screening or show an expectant mother her unborn child. Typical duties include setting up equipment and ensuring exam rooms are ready, prepping patients and performing the tests, and reading and reporting findings to patients and physicians. Most sonographers work in a hospital setting and are required to walk or stand for long periods of time, so back and foot safety are essential. As opportunities for sonogram technologists increase nationwide, they can often choose where they would like to live and work. Sonographers may also work for a traveling health care agency taking contract positions across the country. They can choose general practice or specialize in specific areas, such as gynecological or abdominal screening.

Education 2 year associate programs are the most common
Job Skills Good eyesight, communication skills, ability to interact with patients
Median Salary (2017) $71,410 (for diagnostic medical sonographers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 23% (for diagnostic medical sonographers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

The most common education level for a sonogram technologist is a 2-year associate's degree that can be obtained at a vocational school, college or university; courses in these programs will include anatomy, instrumentation and medical ethics. Students can earn a 4-year bachelor's degree, but coupling a certified 2-year degree with a credentialing through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) is usually sufficient. While some 1-year sonography programs do exist, these are reserved for practicing healthcare personnel and are not accredited. Until recently, no state licensure was required in the U.S., but the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) reports that New Mexico was the first state to establish licensing requirements, and the SDMS expects more states to follow suit (www.sdms.org).

Skills Needed

Sonogram technologists must have good eyesight to read and interpret sonogram images. As the exams can be uncomfortable or emotionally charged, these healthcare workers should be able to clearly explain procedures and be sensitive to a patient's excitement or uneasiness.

Job Growth and Economic Outlook

Diagnostic medical sonographers can expect an employment increase of 23% between 2016 and 2026, as predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (www.bls.gov). Career advancement is possible by specializing in several areas of sonography or by moving into a management or education role. As of May 2017, the median salary for medical sonographers was $71,410 (www.bls.gov).

Alternative Careers

Similar career options within this field include:

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

If medical imaging and using advanced procedures to capture internal body images is of interest, becoming a nuclear medicine technologist could be a good career choice. Nuclear medicine technologists use highly technical machines to view internal structures and organs in the human body. Differing from other imaging professionals, they administer radioactive drugs to patients, enhancing disease and other abnormal masses. They are also trained to notice adverse reactions to the drugs and respond appropriately. An associate or bachelor's degree in nuclear medicine technology is usually the path to employment, and some states may require the licensing of these professionals. As stated by the BLS in May of 2017, the median salary of nuclear medicine technologists was $75,660. They also expect employment growth of 10% during the 2016-2026 decade.

Radiologic Technologist

For those desiring a job operating x-ray and CT scan machines, a career in radiologic technology should be considered. Radiologic technologists set up equipment and capture images, record patient histories, prepare patients before the procedure, administer contrast dyes, and consult doctors about what imaging they need for diagnosis. To gain a position in this field, an associate degree in radiography is generally necessary, and licensing is required in many states. Licensing usually involves passing an exam and completing specified training. The BLS projected a 13% increase in employment of MRI and radiologic technologists between 2016 and 2026 and reported the median annual salary for radiologic techs to be $58,440 in 2017.


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