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How Can I Become a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS)?

Find out what kind of education and clinical training you need and what eligibility requirements to meet for registration to become a diagnostic cardiac sonographer. Read more about the job duties, career outlook and earning potential for these sonographers.

What Is a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer?

A Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) is a specialized kind of cardiovascular technologist who focuses on using ultrasound equipment to image a patient's heart. The images they create, called echocardiograms, can be used by physicians to diagnose functional cardiac conditions. They can be taken while the patient is exercising or at rest, and the tests can be conducted on adults, children or even fetuses in the womb. After the test is complete, cardiac sonographers may evaluate and summarize the echocardiogram for physicians.

The following chart tells you what to expect in pursuing a career as a RDCS.

Degree Required Associate's, bachelor's or certificate
Education Field of Study Diagnostic cardiac sonography
Training Required Clinical training, equipment training
Certification For the RDCS credential, pass two exams through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Job Growth (2018-2028) 7% for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians*
Median Salary (2018) $56,850 for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) Job Overview

A RDCS uses echocardiography or ultrasound equipment to evaluate the cardiac system. As an RDCS, you use specialized equipment to collect data for physicians to use to make a diagnosis regarding a patient's cardiac functioning. Registered diagnostic cardiac sonographers record patient histories, analyze technical information and provide summaries of findings to physicians. RDCSs can find career opportunities in clinics, hospitals, labs and private offices.

Educational Requirements

Registered diagnostic cardiac sonographers typically complete a certificate or undergraduate program in diagnostic cardiac sonography. These programs are available through colleges, universities, community colleges and technical schools. Within a program, you complete coursework in anatomy, patient care, medical terminology, ultrasound principles and hemodynamics. In addition to coursework, you complete clinical training to gain hands-on experience working with sonography equipment.

Additionally, sonographers can train in various healthcare facilities without an educational background, but employers usually select individuals who have worked in the healthcare field. Since you would be working directly with patients and doctors using detailed equipment and capturing information, good communication skills, strong manual dexterity and keen attention to details would be beneficial qualities in this field.

How Can I Become Registered?

To become a registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer, you must pass two exams offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). In order to qualify for the exams, you must meet the prerequisite requirements, which include documented formal education and clinical experience. The ARDMS exams you must pass include the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation exam, as well as a specialty examination in adult echocardiography, fetal echocardiography or pediatric echocardiography (www.ardms.org).

Salary and Job Outlook

As of May 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that the median salary for all cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $56,850. According to the BLS, cardiovascular technologists and technicians are projected to see faster than average job growth of 7% between 2018 and 2028.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several other cardiac technologist specialization areas that you can pursue. For instance, you could become a cardiac catheterization technologist or an EKG technician. Alternatively, you could choose a career in a different type of diagnostic medical sonography, such as musculoskeletal sonography, breast sonography, pediatric sonography or obstetric/gynecological sonography. All of these jobs require at least a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree, and professional certifications are required by many employers.