Ultrasound Technician: Career Definition, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements
As an ultrasound technician, you'll help assess a patient's health using medical equipment that captures images using sound waves. Whether you want to work in obstetrics or vascular care, you'll find a degree and certification that prepare you for this career. Read on about the training options, job outlook and salary potential for ultrasound technicians. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Does an Ultrasound Technician Do?
Ultrasound technicians, also known as diagnostic medical sonographers, use high-frequency sound waves to create images of soft tissue in a patient's body. Physicians use these images to diagnose abnormalities and diseases in a patient. While taking a patient's medical history, you'll explain to the patient what you will be doing while moving the patient's body to capture the images. As an ultrasound technician, you may specialize in a specific area of the body, such as the abdomen, breast or brain.
The table below contains important details about becoming an ultrasound technician.
|Degree Required||Associate's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Sonography, cardiovascular and vascular technology|
|Certification||Optional certifications available and preferred by some employers|
|Key Duties||Operate special imaging equipment|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)||26%*|
|Mean Salary (2015)||$70,880*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Is the Job Outlook?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts the average annual salary around $70,880 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). You will likely find employment opportunities in hospitals; however, more physician's offices and labs are expected to take on additional ultrasound technicians. The BLS estimated that this career will see an 26% increase in employment between 2014 and 2024.
What Can I Study?
Most ultrasound technicians have, at minimum, an associate's degree, according to the BLS. Choosing a college accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs, also known as the CAAHEP may help you to better meet certification requirements (www.caahep.org). You'll complete studies in physics, ethics, patient assessment, cross-section anatomy and physiology. An emphasis on instrumentation and ultrasound equipment will be present in your studies. To complete your education, you'll likely need to undergo a clinical, which allows you to get practice with real patients.
Can I Be Certified?
Once you've completed your degree, you can consider certification. While credentials are not required to become a sonographer, there are nationally recognized certifications that prove your skills and knowledge to future employers. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) provides three credentials for ultrasound technicians (www.ardms.org).
The Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) examination must be taken prior to the specialty examinations. Depending on the exam you take, you'll earn certification as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) or a Registered Vascular Technician (RVT). You may complete all three specialty exams if you wish to obtain all three credentials.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
A few similar careers that require at least an associate's degree include radiation therapists, radiologic and MRI technologists and nuclear medicine technologists. Radiation therapists provide radiation treatments for cancer patients. Radiologic technologists run diagnostic tests on patients with imaging equipment like x-rays. MRI technologists do the same things, but with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. Nuclear medicine technologists also use equipment to produce images of a patient, but then use radioactive drugs to cause various areas of the body to stand out from normal areas.
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: