Training Needed to Be a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Sep 11, 2019

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.

As indicated by the title of the occupation, diagnostic medical sonographers play an integral part in the diagnostic phase of the medical treatment of an individual, which in turn influences the ensuing treatment. There are several paths from which you can choose as you pursue a career in the field of medical sonography.

Essential Information

Diagnostic medical sonographers use ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines to create images of different parts of the human body. These machines bounce sound waves through a patient's body, creating images of organs and bones in order to aid physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions, injuries and disease. Most diagnostic medical sonographers hold associate's degrees in the field, though certificates and bachelor's degrees are offered by some schools. Certification is not mandatory in all states, but certified sonographers may have more employment opportunities available to them.

Required Education Certificates, associate's and bachelor's degree programs available; 2-year degrees are most common
Certification Available through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography; not required in all states, but often preferred by employers
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 19%* (for all diagnostic medical sonographers)
Median Salary (2018) $72,510* (for diagnostic medical sonographers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Career Information

Sonography is the practice of using imaging technology to screen, diagnose and treat patients. Sonography machines are used in many medical specializations, including obstetrics, internal medicine, neurology and cardiology. Diagnostic medical sonographers are the technicians that operate such machinery. They typically focus on a particular area of sonography, but they can hold credentials in multiple specialties.

Education Information

Prospective sonographers may complete 2- or 4-year degree programs, though 2-year programs are the most common, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).These programs typically include courses in ultrasound physics, abdominal sonography, medical terminology, anatomy and vascular sonography. Programs may also include several general education courses, such as English and mathematics.

Bachelor's degree programs in sonography offer a more traditional 4-year college experience and provide students with a mixture of general undergraduate classes and specific sonographic instruction. Laboratory and clinical experiences are usually included in a bachelor's degree program as well. Undergraduate programs may allow students to specialize their education towards the latter half of their instruction.

Year-long certificate programs in medical sonography are also available. These are usually taught at community colleges or in hospitals and are often designed for professionals who've already established themselves in the healthcare field or have a related degree and wish to increase their knowledge and marketability.

Certification Information

Though not required by any state, employers may prefer to hire diagnostic medical sonographers who are certified by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, according to the BLS. There are additional organizations that offer credentials in various sonography specialties, as well. Generally, applicants must meet education and experience prerequisites, as well as pass an examination. Certifying organizations also require sonographers to undergo hours of continuing education.

While some individuals elect to pursue a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree is the more common route taken by those wishing to pursue a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer. Healthcare professionals in another field may opt to earn a certificate in medical sonography, which is available at some hospitals and community colleges. While not required in all cases or states, certification is available through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography and can enhance one's standing in the profession and possibly benefit one's career advancement.

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