Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for diagnostic cardiac sonographers. Get the facts about education requirements, certification, salary and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer?

Diagnostic cardiac sonographers (DCSs), also known as echocardiographers or noninvasive cardiovascular technicians, use ultrasound technology, or high-frequency sound waves, to create images of internal body structures having to do with the heart. They meet with the patient before the procedure, operate the ultrasound equipment while it is taking place and summarize the content of the resulting images for doctors. Doctors use these images to diagnose diseases and conditions of the heart and cardiovascular system. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this profession.

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Diagnostic medical sonography; optional specialization in cardiac sonography
Licensure/Certification Required License required in several states; certification optional but preferred by some employers & medical insurance companies
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 22% (for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians)*
Average Salary (2015) $56,100 (for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Education Do I Need?

Though some diagnostic cardiac sonographers enter the profession without formal training, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most employers prefer sonographers with some formal training (www.bls.gov). The Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs accredits 2-year associate's and 4-year bachelor's degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography (www.caahep.org). You could choose a general sonography program or one that offers a specialization in cardiac sonography. You would study anatomy and physiology as well as sonography and echocardiography techniques.

How Could I Advance My Career?

Though DCSs are not required to be licensed or certified, you may choose to seek a professional credential in order to demonstrate your abilities. The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers offers the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) designation, for which you may test after you have fulfilled the education and experience requirements (www.ardms.org). Cardiac Credentialing International offers the Registered Cardiac Sonographer designation, for which you are eligible to test after two years of full-time experience or after completing your cardiac sonography training program (www.cci-online.org).

What Salary Could I Earn?

The BLS reported in May 2015 that DCSs made an average annual wage of $56,100, and that about 51,400 of these workers were employed in the U.S. About 75% had jobs in hospitals, where they averaged a salary of about $55,350. The highest-paying employer was non-physician health practitioner offices, at an average of $67,420 per year; however, the number of workers in this industry was small.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another diagnostic imaging option is a job as a radiologic or MRI technologist. These professionals use radiation-based equipment to generate images that can lead to medical diagnoses. They need at least an associate's degree in order to practice. Another related option is a job as a radiation therapist. Therapists operate the machinery that is used to apply radiation as part of a treatment for cancer or another disease. Like technologists, they must hold an associate's degree and sometimes a license or certification.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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