How Do I Become a Sonographer?

Explore the career requirements to become a sonographer. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, salary, and certification requirements. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Sonographer?

Sonographers use their training to create digital images of the human body that help physicians diagnose different medical conditions. These images are created via high-frequency sound waves and are typically of various organs and body tissues; the images are called sonograms or ultrasounds. Sonographers usually specialize in a particular part of the body, like the breasts or abdomen, or with a particular population, such as pediatric or obstetric sonographers. These professionals work closely with doctors to discuss the procedures and results. Often, sonograms are the first diagnostic image taken when a doctor thinks a patient may have a disease. Take a look at the following table for a quick glance at the career requirements.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Diagnostic Medical Sonography or Radiologic Science
Licensure Required No national licensing required, though voluntary certification is often preferred by employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 26%*
Average Salary (2015) $70,880*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Sonographer?

Sonography is the science of using sound waves to create digital images of the inside of the body. As a sonographer, you'd use state-of-the-art equipment to take these images, which can then be used for diagnosing abnormalities and medical conditions. You could gather patient history, perform routine sonographic procedures and record all pertinent data before consulting with a physician about your findings.

What Education Do I Need?

You can obtain an Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography to prepare for a career as a medical sonographer. Such programs generally take two years to complete and combine general educational courses with instruction specifically designed for the sonography profession. Programs combine coursework with practical experience in lab and clinical settings, and you could be required to complete a clinical practicum or internship. During the program, you'll get a chance to study and practice a variety of areas of sonography, such as abdominal, vascular and obstetric imaging. Some of the essential topics covered in these programs include anatomy, sonography instrumentation and patient care.

You can also earn a Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography or a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science with an emphasis in diagnostic medical sonography. To enroll in a bachelor's degree completion program, you must typically have an associate's degree, and you might need professional credentials. Bachelor's degree completion programs usually take an additional 1-2 years after earning your associate's degree and could help advance your career in sonography.

What Kind of License or Certification Do I Need?

There are no state or national licensing requirements for diagnostic medical sonographers, though you can demonstrate your skills with voluntary certification. Common credentials include either the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer or the Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer designations available through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) as well as the Registered Technologist designation offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technicians (ARRT). The ARDMS also includes specializations, such as obstetric and gynecologic, abdomen, breast, or vascular sonography.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

MRI technologists, nuclear medicine technologists and radiation therapists are a few of the related careers found in the medical field that require an associate's degree. MRI technologists and nuclear medicine technologists also create diagnostic images of patients. However, MRI technologists specifically use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, while nuclear medicine technologists use radioactive drugs to highlight abnormal areas of the body. Radiation therapists work with patients suffering from diseases, such as cancer, that require radiation as part of their treatment.

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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