Become an Echo Cardiac Sonographer in 5 Steps
Echo cardiac sonographers operate ultrasound machinery to create images of the heart. Read about the degree requirements, certification options and career advancement opportunities in this field, and see how to become an echo cardiac sonographer.
What Does An Echo Cardiac Sonographer Do?
Echo cardiac sonographers use specialized equipment to perform medical tests and produce images of a patient's heart. Prior to conducting the tests they may take a medical history from the patient and then explain the procedure. Echo cardiac sonographers then proceed with the tests and discuss the results with physicians to determine if they have sufficient data for a diagnosis or need more images. They are also responsible for maintaining the equipment that they use, and will keep files with records of the tests conducted for each patient. They are usually required to have an associate's degree or comparable postsecondary training in a relevant field. Below, the table provides more details about this career:
|Education Field of Study||Echocardiography, Diagnostic Cardiac Sonography|
|Key Responsibilities||Use specialized equipment to obtain diagnostic images, explain procedures to patients, deliver images to physicians, maintain patient records|
|Licensure Requirements||Certification not required but may be preferred by employers|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)*||14% (for all diagnostic medical sonographers)|
|Mean Salary (2018)*||$73,860 (for all diagnostic medical sonographers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Is an Echo Cardiac Sonographer?
An echo cardiac sonographer is a medical technician who uses ultrasound scanning equipment to generate images of the human heart, which physicians use to make diagnosis and treatment decisions. Before and during a procedure, they obtain patient medical histories, explain the procedures to patients, transfer patients to and position them on the exam table, adjust the sonogram's controls, maneuver the probe to obtain clear images and assure that patients are safe and comfortable throughout the exam. After a procedure, they choose the best images for diagnostic purposes, evaluate the dimensions and functioning of hearts, identify diseased or damaged tissue, confer with physicians and compile and maintain patient records.
Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma
While a diploma or GED is a prerequisite to enroll in a cardiac sonography program, the classes you choose can also prepare you for your technical studies. Biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics provide useful baseline knowledge. English and speech courses can help develop your communication skills.
Step 2: Earn an Associate's Degree
You can obtain formal training by enrolling in a community college's or technical school's associate's degree program in echocardiography or diagnostic cardiac sonography. Programs train you to examine the heart and its valves, vessels and chambers using sonography equipment. Preparatory courses may include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and cardiovascular concepts. Sonography courses touch on sound physics, echocardiography techniques and image evaluation. Most programs are structured to include an internship or practicum in a medical facility.
Step 3: Obtain Certification
As of July 2011, no states required certification for echo cardiac sonographers, but many employers see such a credential as a valuable asset. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) certification to professionals who've completed two years of education. The RDCS consists of a general principles and instrumentation exam as well as a specialty exam. Specialty exams are available in adult, fetal and pediatric sonography.
Step 4: Find Employment
Specific facts and figures for echo cardiac sonographers weren't available, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), hospitals were the leading employers of diagnostic medical sonographers. Physicians offices provide a significant share of jobs as well (www.bls.gov). You could also find employment in medical and diagnostic labs, outpatient care centers and postsecondary institutions. Employment of diagnostic medical sonographers was projected to grow 14% from 72,900 in 2018 to 87,100 in 2029. As of May 2019, the average salary for a diagnostic medical sonographer was $73,860.
Step 5: Advance Your Career
Taking on supervisory positions or acquiring competency in more areas of sonography are two possible ways of advancing. Supervising other sonographers may be a matter of accumulating enough experience, but for higher-level managerial and administrative positions, you'll probably have a better chance if you earn a bachelor's degree in sonography followed by a master's degree in health administration.
If you wish to specialize, you could seek additional training in such areas as abdominal sonography, neurosonology or obstetric and gynecologic sonography. Training could take place either on the job or through a certificate program. You could then consider obtaining certification as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer from the ARDMS.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians perform tests on tissue and fluid samples from patients. They are usually required to have a bachelor's degree, and the results of their tests may help diagnose a patient's illness. Nuclear medicine technologists and radiologic and MRI technologists also use specialized equipment to produce images from inside a patient's body, and physicians use this data to help diagnose patients. Like echo cardiac sonographers, they are also required to have an associate's degree.