Education and Training: Associate’s preferred
Average Salary: $61,900
Job Outlook: Good
An ultrasound technician is also known as a diagnostic medical sonographer. These highly trained individuals learn to use ultrasound, or sonography, to diagnose medical conditions. While some of the most well-known ultrasound tech positions involve working in an obstetrical position and viewing and measuring the babies of pregnant women, this is a widespread medical field. Sonographers and ultrasound techs can work in specialties like abdominal sonography, where they’ll take images of organs like the liver and kidneys, neurosonography, where they’ll work with images of the brain and nervous system, or cardiac and vascular sonography, where they’ll work to diagnose potential heart problems.
Most ultrasound techs do need to develop a specialty, as these technicians have very detailed knowledge of certain parts of the body. Although ultrasound imagery has advanced rapidly in the past few years, it can still be difficult to see the difference between healthy tissue and unhealthy tissue, for instance, which means that the more experience an ultrasound tech has with certain areas of the body and organs, the more accurate their assessments will be.
Education and Training Requirements
An ultrasound technician may be able to get into an ultrasound tech training program right out of high school, so long as he or she has taken a variety of math and science classes in high school. Some programs, though, are beginning to require associate’s or bachelor’s degrees before they will start training an ultrasound technician.
Training can take place in a hospital, in a vocational college, or at a formal college. Many ultrasound techs earn their degrees from a community college. These technicians are required to take a heavy load of science classes, including physiology and anatomy, as well as classes on patient care and medical ethics. Licensure is not required for those in this field, but many employers prefer that an ultrasound technician pass a test to become registered and continue to take continuing education classes to maintain registration.
Getting the Job
Ultrasound technicians can be hired by a hospital or medical facility right out of their training program. Some hospitals will train and hire from in-house candidates that apply from an associate’s program or even straight from high school. Those who are most concerned about getting a job as an ultrasound tech after a training program should consider schools and universities with excellent placement programs that can help them improve their chances of getting a desirable position.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development
As with many other medical professions, the job outlook for ultrasound techs is looking great over the next few years. An aging population makes diagnostic medicine, especially non-invasive diagnostics like sonography, more important than ever. Job opportunities will vary around the country, and those who specialize in more than one area will have the best job opportunities.
Those who wish to advance further in this field would do well to specialize in multiple areas. Some ultrasound technicians advance by taking on supervisory or administrative roles, especially in large medical facilities that have multiple sonographers on staff.
Working Conditions and Environment
Ultrasound technicians can work in a variety of areas. Some work in doctor’s offices, particularly obstetrical offices, but many work in hospital or general care settings, depending on their specialties. Because their role is primarily diagnostic rather than emergency-based, ultrasound techs are more likely than many other medical professionals to work regular daytime hours when patients are likely to make appointments for diagnostic procedures.
This is generally not a stressful job. However, it does require excellent people skills, as ultrasound techs must be in close quarters with patients. In some facilities, as well, ultrasound techs directly present their findings to the patient, which means they may have to be the bearers of bad news at times.
Salary and Benefits
The average salary for an ultrasound technician is about $61,900 per year, though they can earn anywhere from $43,600 to over $83,000 per year, depending on level of experience and where they work. These full time jobs generally come with benefits and paid time off.
Where to Go for More Information
For more information on becoming an ultrasound technician, check out the following resources:
American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine
14750 Sweitzer Ln., Ste. 100
Laurel, MD 20707
American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography
51 Monroe St., Plaza East One
Rockville, MD 20850
Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
2745 Dallas Pkwy., Ste. 350
Plano, TX 75093