Years of School
Ultrasound technicians – also known as diagnostic medical sonographers – operate and maintain ultrasound equipment. They use this specialized imaging equipment to assess a patient’s body, aiding physicians in monitoring and diagnosing various medical conditions.
Ultrasound Technician Salary
The median salary for ultrasound technician (diagnostic medical sonographers) is $64,380 per year, or $30.95 per hour. Salaries for the highest earning tier of ultrasound technicians (top 10%) exceeds $88,490. The lowest 10% can expect to earn less than $45,000.
This is a position that staffs primarily full-time employees. In addition to working their normal schedule, ultrasound technicians should also expect to be asked to fill in during emergency shifts, such as evenings, weekends and possibly holidays. To earn the higher salary level, medical sonographers should become certified by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
Ultrasound Technician Job Description
Ultrasound technicians – also known as diagnostic medical sonographers – specialize in working with ultrasound equipment to better inform a physician about what is occurring inside a patient’s body. Ultrasound technicians use specialized imaging equipment which transmits high-frequency sound waves into the patient’s body. These sound waves are reflected back to the equipment, which processes the signals and displays the resulting image on a screen. Ultrasound images can be used for anything from checking for abnormalities within one’s body such as a tumor to examining a fetus.
Ultrasound technicians can work for doctor’s offices or hospitals. Those working in hospitals will generally deal with a broader range of medical issues, while those who work directly for physicians will work primarily within the physician’s area of specialization. Some common specializations include:
- Abdominal sonographers
- Breast sonographers
- Musculoskeletal sonographers
- Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers
Ultrasound Technician Duties
- Use and maintain sonography equipment associated with ultrasound procedures
- Multitasking between using the equipment and being able to examine changes that are occurring during the process
- Communicating ultrasound results to the physician or nurse in charge of patient care
- Patient communication before, during and after the procedure
- Ultrasound room sterilization
- Apply gel to area that is to be sonographed before the treatment
- Patient record tracking and maintenance
Alternative Job Titles
- Diagnostic medical sonographer
How To Become An Ultrasound Technician
Education & Training Requirements
Those who are interested in becoming an ultrasound technician should get an associates or bachelor’s degree in the field. A 1-year certificate program is also available to those already working in healthcare jobs such as nursing.
Both an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree will give students the practice and experience they need to prepare for the certification exam and use diagnostic medical sonography in real-life applications. An associate’s degree in this field is generally sufficient for those who want to practice ultrasound technology while those who are looking to start in this field and work into management positions will want to obtain a bachelor’s degree.
Associate’s Degree Sample Courses
- Principles of Ultrasound
- Concepts of Ultrasound
- Abdominal sonography
- Concepts and equipment used in ultrasound field
- Vascular sonography
- Sectional anatomy
Bachelor’s Degree Sample Courses
- Courses offered in associate’s degree and:
- Physics relating to ultrasound
- Imaging diagnostics
- Health science management
- Specialty sonography
Schools & Programs
There are several schools for ultrasound technicians. The majority of them are based out of a community college or university; however, there are also numerous online ultrasound technician school, and a few of them are listed below.
Online Ultrasound Technician Schools
- Keiser University
- Virginia College
Certification & Licensing
Some states only allow licensed ultrasound technicians to practice. Typically, certification is required in order to qualify for licensure, though these requirements will vary from state to state. While certification and licensing is not required in every state, most employers in the field will only hire sonographers who have obtained professional certification. Certification can be obtained through ARDMS.
The ARDMS has a base exam, which consists of 110 multiple-choice and situational-based questions. Test takers will be allowed two hours to complete it. In addition to this test, students will also need to choose a specialty in the radiology field, which can include abdomen, breast, fetal echocardiography, obstetrics and gynecology. The specialty exams will include 170 multiple-choice questions, and individuals will be allotted three hours to complete the test. The test costs and additional $250.
The job outlook for ultrasound technicians is excellent, with a projected job growth of 44% over the next decade. Because ultrasound is a relatively safe imaging technology, it will be used as a substitute for more invasive/dangerous procedures as the technology advances.
Job growth is also expected in private physician’s offices and medical/diagnostic laboratories, as the relatively low costs of ultrasound imaging technology allows more procedures to be performed outside of hospitals. As the baby-boomer population continues to advance in age over the next decade, more ultrasound technicians will be required in the field.