Becoming an Ultrasound Specialist
So you think you might like to become an ultrasound specialist…
Ultrasound specialists, also known as diagnostic medical sonographers, are technicians who use ultrasound to produce images of the human body's internal systems to aid doctors and surgeons in the diagnosis and treatment of patients' ailments. They are also responsible for preparing and maintaining sonography equipment as well as documenting findings of patient visits. Specialists may focus on one specific area of ultrasound technology, such as prenatal sonography or abdominal sonography.
So what are the career requirements? Starting with the right education is important.
|Degree Level||Associate's degree or postsecondary certificate; some employers prefer a bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Diagnostic medical sonography|
|Licensure and Certification||Licensure varies by state; employers look for certified candidates (insurance may only pay for sonography done by certified specialists); optional specialty certifications available|
|Key Skills||Attention to detail, interpersonal, technical and hand-eye coordination skills, physical stamina, ability to use Doppler and echo monitors|
|Median Salary*||$63,630 (for all medical sonographers)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), O*NET OnLine
Step 1: Ultrasound Training Program
Before becoming a specialist in ultrasound technology, one must first become a trained technician. This can be done in at a postsecondary institution or through a hospital training program. Programs lasting two years are most common. Although, there are a few that last only one year but require previous experience or employment in health care. Programs typically include coursework in patient care, basic physics, medical ethics, and instrumentation. Students also learn about how human cells, tissues, and organs interact with one another.
Step 2: Earn General Certification
Certification demonstrates to employers that a technician is proficient in all essential skills required to effectively perform diagnostic medial sonography. Hospitals and private practices prefer to employ certified sonographers. Through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (or the ARDMS), individuals can earn general certification as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (or the RDMS).
Step 3: Acquire a License
Ultrasound specialists need to earn a license to work in some states. In order to obtain a license, specialists usually need to be certified. Licensed ultrasound specialists will need to acquire continuing education credits for license renewal.
Step 4: Continue Education
Ultrasound specialists should continue their education throughout their careers in order to stay current with technological advances and other innovations in the field. Continuing education is also required in order to keep certification current. Ultrasound specialists can earn continuing education credits through classes and seminars covering advanced topics such as Doppler waveforms, neck sonography, fetal circulation, and arterial vascular hemodynamics.
- Join a professional organization. Joining a professional organization, such as the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS), provides ultrasound specialists with access to continuing education opportunities and other helpful career resources. Benefits of membership can include liability, health, and casualty insurance; subscriptions to professional publications; and invitations to annual conferences.
Step 5: Specialty Certifications
In addition to the initial RDMS certification exam, the ARDMS offers corresponding specialty exams for technicians to become registered and thus become ultrasound specialists. Certified ultrasound technicians can opt to focus their skills in specific areas of sonography, such as obstetric and gynecological sonography, abdominal sonography, fetal echocardiography, and breast sonography. Ultrasound technicians may benefit from specializing in multiple areas, since this could increase job opportunities and enable them to work with a more diverse group of patients.
Completing an ultrasound training program, earning a general certification, acquiring a license, continuing education and earning specialty certifications are great steps to follow to make the most of a career as an ultrasound specialist.