How Can I Become an Echocardiographer?

Explore the career requirements for echocardiographers. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, certification and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Echocardiographer Do?

Echocardiographers, also called cardiac sonographers, use ultrasound equipment to create diagnostic images of the heart that can help physicians diagnose medical conditions and/or diseases. They begin by explaining the procedure and the process and taking their medical history. They must also prepare and operate the imaging equipment. Echocardiographers review images and check for abnormalities. They provide information for physicians and report it in the patients file. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Associate's degree or postsecondary certificate
Education Field of Study Sonography, cardiovascular technology
Key Responsibilities Prepare patients for cardiac ultrasound tests, including administering any medications; conduct tests on resting or active patients; analyze results with physician; maintain patient records
Licensure/Certification Required License/professional certification requirements vary by state; many employers, insurance providers & Medicare require certification
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 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.

What is an Echocardiographer?

An echocardiographer performs a noninvasive diagnostic procedure for the heart. In this profession, you would be responsible for operating specialized ultrasound equipment to examine and create images of the heart. An echocardiogram is created as high frequency sound waves echo off the heart chambers, valves and blood vessels. This noninvasive diagnostic process may take place while the patient is at rest or during physical activity that stresses the heart. Your responsibilities may include administering medications that reveal the quality of the patient's heart function or assist a cardiac physician with related tests and procedures.

What Kind of Education or Training Would I Need?

To become a fully credentialed echocardiographer, you must complete formal education and gain clinical experience; you may also obtain Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS) status. The minimum requirement is an associate's degree or equivalent education credits with appropriate coursework, plus one year of full-time clinical experience. With a bachelor's degree in health science, natural science, nursing, engineering or primary science, you would be required to have six months full-time clinical experience.

Another pathway would be to complete an accredited program resulting in an associate's degree in applied health and specializing in echocardiography. In this program, you would obtain the clinical experience necessary to take the credentialing exam.

How Do I Obtain the Necessary Credential?

Once you have completed the degree program, you would obtain the RCS designation through Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). Although the credential is not legally required, it is preferred by most employers to assure reimbursement for the procedure by healthcare insurance providers. Additional credentials are available through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). Contact that organization if you wish to obtain a credential for specialization in adult, pediatric or fetal cardiac sonography.

What Job Opportunities Could I Expect?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including echocardiographers, are expected to increase by 22% between 2014 and 2024. You might expand your employment opportunities by obtaining credentials in related procedures. The BLS also reports that in May 2015, cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including echocardiographers, earned an average salary of about $56,100. About 75% of the group as a whole worked in hospitals at that time (www.bls.gov). Other major employers included physician offices and medical/diagnostic labs.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Nuclear medicine technologists and radiation therapists are alternative career options that also require an associate's degree. Nuclear medicine technologists take images of a patient's body with imaging equipment and then give patients radioactive drugs to identify normal and abnormal areas. Radiation therapists use radiation to help treat cancer and diseases.

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:

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