Become an Echocardiographer in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become an echocardiographer. Learn about job duties, education and licensure requirements, employment outlook and average wages to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Echocardiographer?

Echocardiographers use their knowledge of specialized equipment to image the heart and vascular system. The types of information that an echocardiographer gathers and studies includes the dimensions (i.e. size and shape) of a patient's heart as well as the patterns of motion between the chambers and valves and the blood flow into and out of the heart muscle. This noninvasive analysis can be vital in diagnosing a variety of anomalies and illnesses, including heart disease, coronary artery disease, regurgitation or other unusual blood flow patterns, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition caused by a weak heart which leads to thickening of the heart's walls.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Most positions require an associate or bachelor's degree
Licensure Requirements Most employers require certification and licensure
Key Responsibilities Knowledge of current medical technology; physical stamina; interpersonal skills
Job Growth (2014-24) 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

Step 1: Complete an Education Program

Aspiring echocardiographers can complete associate or bachelor's degree programs in sonography from colleges and universities. These programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Professionals and include coursework in anatomy, physics, sonography, health care technology and cardiovascular principles. During these programs, students are given intensive technology training.

Step 2: Get Certified

Certification is available from Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It is sometimes necessary to be certified before obtaining licensure, but even in states where this is not the case, it is beneficial to be certified when seeking employment as an echocardiographer.

Step 3: Obtain a License

It is a requirement in some states that echocardiographers be licensed before practicing. Those intending to enter the profession should check with their state medical board to determine if licensure is necessary.

Step 4: Explore Career Opportunities

Echocardiographers can work in medical imaging centers, hospitals, physician's offices and clinics, but hospitals are the most common employer. According to the BLS, the job market for cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including echocardiographers, is projected to grow by 22% from 2014 to 2024. This is much faster than the average of 7% growth projected for all occupations during that period. In May 2015, the BLS reported that cardiovascular technologists and technicians earned a mean annual salary of $56,100.

Step 5: Continue Your Education

If you earn a 2-year degree in cardiovascular sonography, you may want to complete a 4-year degree. Additionally, in order to maintain certification, you must complete continuing education units.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

While echocardiographers specialize in using ultrasound to diagram, test, and diagnose the heart, ultrasound is used for noninvasive study of several other parts of internal human anatomy as well. There are sonographers who specialize in examining abdominal organs, breast tissue, muscles and joints, and reproductive organs. In addition, there are pediatric and obstetric sonographers, who do not have an organ or tissue specialty but instead are trained to analyze the developing internal system in children and fetal infants, respectively.

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