Ultrasound Technologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 16, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an ultrasound technologist. Get a quick view of the requirements, as well as details about certification and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

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An associate's degree is required to be an ultrasound technologist, also known as a diagnostic medical sonographer. Ultrasound technologists create diagnostic images of patients using sound waves. Professional certification may be preferred by some employers and is necessary for specialization or advancement.

Essential Information

Ultrasound technologists are responsible for using sound waves to create diagnostic images of patients' bodies. For a career in this expanding field, ultrasound technologists must earn an associate's degree in medical sonography or a related field. A number of specialties are available to ultrasound technologists, and there are also professional certification options that can offer career advancement opportunities.

Required Education Associate's degree
Other Requirements Professional certification may be required by some employers
Projected Job Growth* (2018-2028) 7% for diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists
Median Salary* (2018) $72,510 annually for diagnostic medical sonographers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Job Description for Ultrasound Technologists

Ultrasound technologists are medical professionals who work with specialized equipment for the purpose of determining medical problems or tracking health issues. They then work with physicians to determine what the images they have created indicate regarding a patient's medical condition.

There are several different specialties that ultrasound technologists can pursue, including vascular technology, diagnostic cardiac sonography and diagnostic medical sonography. Vascular technology focuses on the use of sound waves to study human veins and arteries. Diagnostic cardiac sonography is the study of the human heart using sound waves and may be divided into the sub-disciplines of adult echocardiography, pediatric echocardiography and fetal echocardiography. Diagnostic medical sonography may involve imaging many different areas of the body using sound waves, with sub-disciplines such as neurosonology, breast sonography, obstetric and gynecologic sonography, abdominal sonography and fetal echocardiography.

Job Duties for Ultrasound Technologists

Ultrasound technologists' first duty is to prepare equipment for the imaging procedure, then explain the procedure to the patient. The technologist then positions the patient for the imaging procedure and may apply sound transmission gel to the patient's skin. Finally, the technologist uses a sound wave transmitter that creates a conical or rectangular beam of high frequency sound, which bounces off the patient's tissues to create echoes that can be received by a computer and used to form an image of the patient's tissues.

After the procedure is complete, the ultrasound technologist is responsible for determining the quality of the images that have been taken and assisting a physician in the interpretation of the images or diagnosis of medical problems.

Requirements for Ultrasound Technologists

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that completing an associate's or bachelor's degree or certificate program from related areas, such as medical sonography or ultrasound technology, are common requirements by employers. The BLS also states that a high school degree may be sufficient; however, employers may also offer on-the-job training for these employees.

There are a number of professional certifications that, while not required, can provide career advancement or increased employment opportunities. Organizations such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT) and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) all offer certifications that may be earned as measures of professional achievement by ultrasound technologists.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted faster than the average growth in employment opportunities for diagnostic medical sonographers, and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, during the 2018-2028 decade. In May 2018, the BLS reported that diagnostic medical sonographers in the 90th percentile or higher earned $100,480 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $51,430 or less per year.

Ultrasound technologists may work in hospitals, labs or outpatient care centers creating diagnostic imagery, and sometimes specializing in specific areas. In 2018, the BLS reported that ultrasound technologists working for outpatient care centers earned the highest salary, with an annual mean wage of $88,820.

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