Sonographer Schooling and Training Program Requirements

Sonography, also called ultrasound, is a technical medical procedure that uses the reflected echoes of sound waves to create images of internal organs. A diagnostic medical sonographer operates the equipment that generates, reads and displays sonographic images, which doctors then evaluate. Prospective sonographers typically receive formal training through certificate or associate's degree programs at community colleges or technical schools.

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Education and Training Requirements for Sonographers

Sonographers can learn diagnostic imaging through on-the-job training at a hospital, as a medic in the armed forces or in a formal degree programs. While colleges and universities widely offer diagnostic medical sonography training at the certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree level, associate's degree programs are the most prevalent.

All programs are structured to combine classroom study and supervised clinical experience. Certificate programs offer focused coursework in such topics as sonographic physics, sonographic instruments, abdominal and pelvic anatomy, sectional anatomy and diagnostic imaging. Associate's degree programs are more comprehensive, covering more general medical knowledge, such as medical terminology, general anatomy and medical ethics, as well as the liberal arts. Some programs give students the option of focusing on general sonography or such sub-specialties as cardiovascular sonography, neurosonography or obstetric-gynecological sonography.

Certification

Although states do not license sonographers or require certification, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers several different credentials to those who pass voluntary exams. These include the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT) and Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS).

Certification may offer sonographers an employment advantage because employers generally view these credentials as a standard measure of professional standing. As of 2010, ARDMS did not have a recertification procedure but was evaluating proposals to implement one.

Career Information

According to Payscale.com, as of February 2010 sonographers with 1-4 years of experience earned a median wage of $23.76 per hour and those with 5-9 years of experience earned $29.19 per hour. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reported that in 2008 nearly 60% of sonographers worked for private and public hospitals, while the rest were employed in physician's offices, outpatient clinics or other health care facilities (www.bls.gov).

The BLS predicted an 18% job growth for sonographers in the years 2008-2018. This rise was expected to be driven by the medical needs of an aging population and improvements in sonographic technology that allow its use in a wider range of medical procedures.

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