Ultrasound Technician: Career Requirements
Individuals interested in a medical field that uses diagnostic imaging to help determine a patient's medical condition may consider becoming an ultrasound technician or ultrasonography technician. Ultrasound is commonly used in obstetrics, but it can also diagnose other medical conditions. Read on to learn more about in-demand field, and the general requirements needed to become an ultrasound technician.
Ultrasound technicians, also called diagnostic medical sonographers or sonographers, 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.
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.
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.
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 44% between 2010 and 2020 (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 $65,860 in May 2012.
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