Sonography Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a sonographer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Diagnostic medical sonography is one of the fastest growing occupations in the country. An associate's degree through an accredited program is all you need to enter the field, but professional certification is often required by employers.

Essential Information

A diagnostic medical sonographer uses an ultrasound machine to create medical images of patients' internal organs. These images are used by physicians to diagnose illnesses and injuries. Most sonographers work in hospitals, but there are job opportunities in several other settings, including physicians' offices and outpatient care centers.

Many education paths are available for prospective sonographers, but the most common is a 2-year degree through an accredited sonography training program. Bachelor's degrees are also available, as are 1-year certificate programs in sonography for persons already trained in another healthcare field. Professional certification is not a legal requirement to work as a sonographer, but most employers prefer it because Medicare and some insurance companies will not reimburse costs for imaging done by uncertified technicians.

Required Education Associate's degree in diagnostic medical sonography most common; bachelor's degree and certificate programs also available
Other Requirements Employers usually desire professional certification
Projected Job Growth 26% from 2014-2024*
Median Salary $68,970 (2015)*

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

Sonography Career Information

Sonographers use equipment that directs high-frequency sound waves to body organs and tissue to generate medical diagnostic images. Opportunities are available to generalize or specialize in a particular field of sonography, such as the female reproductive system, vascular system, brain or abdomen.

Career opportunities are available in hospitals, medical clinics and imaging centers. Ultrasound technology is expected to remain popular, because it doesn't use radiation and patients do not experience any side effects from this procedure. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a diagnostic medical sonographer in May 2015 was $68,970.

Education Requirements

The Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) has approved over 200 diagnostic medical sonography training programs in the country. Most of these programs are available through 2-year degree programs at technical and community colleges. This has become the standard educational route for prospective sonographers. Hospitals, vocational schools and universities also provide a range of certificate, diploma and bachelor's degree programs that are acceptable to most employers and are recognized in the industry.

Many programs prefer that applicants have a strong educational background in science and healthcare. Allied healthcare professionals interested in pursuing a sonography education may complete special 1-year certificate programs. Bachelor's degree programs may include advanced courses in science, patient care, medical ethics, fundamentals of physics, anatomy and physiology and intensive training in instrumentation. Sonography programs require students to participate in supervised clinical training in a professional setting.

Graduates of a sonography program must pass the professional certification exam offered through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).

While certification may not be required by all states, it does prove to potential employers that an applicant has the ability to work in this field.

To summarize, a 2- or 4-year degree in diagnostic medical sonography earned through a CAAHEP-approved program can start you on your way to a career in medical technology. Though it is not required, it's advisable that obtain certification through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. You may have the opportunity to specialize in a particular field of sonography.

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