Ultrasound Tech Education Requirements and Career Information
Ultrasound technicians scan patients' bodies with sound waves, creating images that doctors use to diagnose and monitor medical conditions or assess fetal health in pregnant women. Ultrasound techs, also called sonographers, need a certificate or associate's degree in sonography to work in the field. Most are employed in hospitals; others work in private clinics and medical centers.
Ultrasound technicians may obtain education through programs offered by community colleges, the U.S. military, hospitals and universities. Most programs take 1-2 years to finish. Admission usually requires some background in natural sciences, algebra and basic physics. Typical coursework includes anatomy, physiology, medical ethics, physics and patient care. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) has accredited 176 training programs for ultrasound technicians around the country (www.caahep.org).
Skills Needed for the Job
Ultrasound technicians assist doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of medical ailments. They often act as communicators between the doctor and patients. Ultrasound techs must be able to explain complicated technical procedures and ultrasound results to their patients while describing possible methods of treatment. Frequent advancements in the medical field require ultrasound techs to maintain knowledge of current medical trends and procedures in diagnostic medicine and technology.
Due to the increased availability of specialized ultrasound equipment in private clinics and medical centers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that demand for ultrasound techs is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, in 2010, the median annual income for ultrasound technicians was $64,380.
Certification and Specialties
The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers certification exams that allow an ultrasound tech to demonstrate expertise in visualizing certain parts of the body (www.ardms.org). Sonographers with a wide range of specializations and credentials may have the best job prospects or chances for promotion, notes the BLS.
The Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer certification from ARDMS offers specialty concentrations in obstetric and gynecologic sonography, abdominal ultrasound or neurosonology, among others. A separate credential, the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer designation, is for heart ultrasound specialists. To get certified, an ultrasound tech must pass two exams. The general exam includes physics, sonography principles and equipment, while the specialty exam is about the normal or diseased anatomy of the organs.
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