Sonography Technology Career Info and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a diagnostic medical 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 sonographers utilize high-frequency ultrasound waves to diagnose medical conditions. They are often also called upon to work closely with physicians and communicate with patients. Sonographers need to obtain an educational certificate through an accredited program or an associate's or bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical sonography.

Essential Information

Sonography technology utilizes ultrasonic waves to take images of the interior of parts of the human body. Diagnostic medical sonographers learn to image various organs and work with physicians to analyze the resulting data. Such professionals may choose to earn a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in the field. Although certification is not mandatory to work as a diagnostic medical sonographer, it may be preferred by some employers.

Required Education Certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical sonography
Certification Voluntary through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 26% for diagnostic medical sonographers
Median Salary (2015)* $68,970 for diagnostic medical sonographers

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties

Diagnostic medical sonographers assess and diagnose medical conditions with the use of images produced by high-frequency ultrasound waves. Sonograpy requires a keen eye and competency with technology in order to operate imaging equipment, such as the ultrasonic transducer, and to examine the resulting computer-generated visual images.

There are several specialties within diagnostic medical sonography, which include vascular or cardiac, obstetric and gynecologic, breast, abdominal and neurosonography. Sonographers learn techniques for successfully scanning particular body parts and for assessing normal and abnormal conditions in each specialty region.

Diagnostic medical sonographer duties include communicating with patients to explain the scanning procedure, taking bodily measurements for imaging and working closely with physicians to analyze images. Ultrasound can be an attractive alternative to X-ray and other radiologic procedures because it's generally considered to be a safer, more efficient diagnostic imaging method.

Educational Requirements

Many universities, colleges and vocational schools offer associate's and bachelor's degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography. Students in these programs receive instruction in physiology, instrumentation, medical ethics, sonography physics and imaging techniques. All programs include clinical training, in which students gain hands-on experience with sonography scanning equipment, various sonography specialties and patient communication skills.

While 1-year certificate programs are available, most degree and certificate programs, including all accredited programs, are 2-years in length. Upon completion of an accredited sonography program, graduates may qualify to earn national certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography as a registered diagnostic medical sonographer or a registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer. Professional certification isn't a state requirement to obtain employment, but is typically preferred, if not required, by most employers.

After meeting the appropriate educational requirements, diagnostic medical sonographers help to diagnose patients using ultrasound technology. Job growth is expected to be at 26% for diagnostic medical sonographers from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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