Certified Ultrasound Technician: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a certified ultrasound technician. Learn about job duties, education requirements, certification and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Ultrasound Technician?

Ultrasound technicians, also known as diagnostic medical sonographers, use high-frequency sound waves to create images of internal body structures. These images can then be used by doctors to detect medical issues. Diagnostic medical sonographers are also responsible for notating the results of ultrasounds on patients' charts and reporting these results to doctors. Although certification is not mandated by the state, many employers prefer to hire sonographers that have obtained voluntary certification. In addition, sonographers can gain certifications in particular subfields, such as cardiovascular or abdominal sonography, which can highlight their specialized skills to potential employers.

The following chart gives an overview of what you need to know to enter this profession.

Degree Required Associate's degree at minimum; bachelor's degrees also available; postsecondary certificates available to those with previous healthcare work experience
Education Field of Study Diagnostic medical sonography; optional specializations
Key Responsibilities Perform patient ultrasound procedures; summarize findings for physician; maintain equipment; keep patient records
Certification Required by some employers
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 26%*
Average Salary (2015) $70,880*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Certified Ultrasound Technician?

As an ultrasound technician, you would prepare the patient for the procedure, use a tool called a transducer to transmit the sound waves and analyze the images on the screen. You would capture certain images and relay them to a doctor for diagnostic purposes. While career opportunities are available as a general diagnostic medical sonographer, you could specialize in an area such as obstetrics or vascular technology.

What Education Do I Need?

Most sonographers have at least an associate's degree, and the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs accredits training programs for diagnostic medical sonography at the certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree levels (www.caahep.org). In a training program, you would study anatomy, physiology and biology as well as learn the techniques of medical sonography in a supervised clinical setting. Some programs focus on one area of specialization, so if you want to work as a cardiac or vascular sonography technician, you should enroll in a training program specifically for those fields.

How Do I Become Certified?

The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography offers three credentials for allied health professionals (www.ardms.org). To earn the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) and Registered Vascular Sonographer (RVS) credentials, you must first take the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation examination for which you are eligible after completing certain combinations of education and experience requirements. Then you must take a specialty exam in abdomen, breast, fetal echocardiography, neurosonology, or obstetrics and gynecology for the RDMS credential; in fetal, adult or pediatric echocardiography for the RDCS; or in vascular technology for the RVS.

Other credentialing organizations include the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, which offers sonography certification, and the Cardiovascular Credentialing International, which offers the Registered Cardiac Sonographer, Registered Congenital Cardiac Sonographer, Registered Phlebology Sonographer and Registered Vascular Specialist credentials.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in May 2015, diagnostic medical sonographers made an average wage of $70,880 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projects employment for ultrasound technicians to increase by 26% from 2014-2024, which is much faster than the average, and notes that job prospects will be good for candidates with credentials in multiple sonography specialties.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in diagnostic imaging, you might also want to consider a job as a radiologic technologist or MRI technologist. These professionals operate x-rays and other radiation-based machinery to create images that doctors can evaluate to identify injuries and illnesses. You could also become a technologist or technician specializing in an invasive diagnostic procedure, like cardiac catheterization, which involves the insertion of a tube into the heart for testing and treatment purposes. To get any of these jobs, you usually need to complete an associate's degree program, and professional certification may be available.

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