Ultrasound Technician: Career Requirements

Ultrasound technicians require some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification options to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Ultrasound technicians, also called diagnostic medical sonographers or sonographers, operate equipment that utilizes sound waves to create images of the body's internal structures. Ultrasound is commonly used in obstetrics, but it can also diagnose other medical conditions. Most ultrasound technicians train through associate's degree programs, although bachelor's degree and certificate programs are also available. Employers often prefer to hire ultrasound technicians who hold professional certification, available in various specialty areas.

Required EducationAssociate's degree is most common; certificate and bachelor's degree programs also available
Certification Professional certification may be required or preferred by some employers
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 46%
Median Salary (2013)* $66,410

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Ultrasound technicians perform duties that produce results similar to other diagnostic imaging fields, including X-rays and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines. The difference is sonography uses reflected sound waves to create an image of the inside of a patient's body. Ultrasound is commonly used during pregnancy to view a fetus.

Ultrasound technicians are trained to operate ultrasound equipment and to look for abnormal problem areas in an image. They must ensure that the image is clear enough for the doctor and other medical staff to make an accurate diagnosis. Also, the ultrasound technician may be required to obtain measurements, perform calculations and evaluate the results.

Educational Requirements

Training to become an ultrasound technician may be done through a formal education program or through military training. The most common training is an associate's degree program, although there are bachelor's degree and 1-year certificate programs available. These programs may be found at community colleges, technical/vocation schools and at some universities. Coursework typically includes human anatomy, ultrasound equipment, pathophysiology and obstetrics. In addition, students must complete clinical education at designated hospitals. Clinical education is a requirement of the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) for anyone wishing to take the registration examination for certification.

Certification

State certification or registration as an ultrasound technician is not required, although doing so provides a profession assessment of an individual's skills that employers typically prefer. Registration or certification as a diagnostic medical sonographer may be obtained by passing an ARDMS certification exam. The ARDMS offers certification in various areas of specialty, including breast, abdomen and vascular sonography. Certified sonographers must participate in continuing education to maintain their certifications.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for for diagnostic medical sonographers, which include ultrasound technicians, are projected to increase by 46% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). This growth is attributed to the fact that health care providers prefer ultrasound imaging as a safer alternative to radiology. The BLS also noted that the median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $66,410 in May 2013.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics