How to Become a Sonogram Technician in 5 Steps

Sonogram technicians work with sound waves to produce images of fetuses, soft tissues and organs. They also help doctors diagnose abnormalities in the body, including the brain, chest, abdomen and heart. Read on about required training and certification, and learn about the career prospects in this field. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Sonogram Technician Do?

Sonogram technicians, commonly known as medical sonographers, are responsible for using sonographic technology to record ultrasonic images of internal organs, and to relay these recordings to physicians. They also discuss a patient's medical history and explain the procedures you'll perform. You'll need to position the patient to provide the best view of the area in need of diagnosis and use a transducer to look for problems. Many sonogram techs also keep patient records and maintain the sonogram equipment.They are usually expected to work full time schedules doing various tasks from maintaining the sonogram technology to being able to distinguish between normal and abnormal results in the images obtained. You can learn some important details about this career in the table below:

Degree Required Certificate or Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Sonography technology
Key Responsibilities Use specialized equipment to create ultrasounds, explain procedures to patients, work with physicians, keep track of patient records
Licensure Requirements Certification is optional
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 26% (for all diagnostic medical sonographers)
Median Salary (2015)* $68,970 (for all diagnostic medical sonographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Consider a Specialty

Sonogram technicians use a number of diagnostic tests to find problems within a patient's body. Most sonographers specialize in one or multiple sections of the body. You may want to first consider the area you want to work with and focus your studies in that area. Some possible specialties available include obstetric, neurological, abdominal and breast imaging.

Step 2: Get the Proper Training

If you already work in the healthcare field or you're in the Armed Forces, you might be able to get training through your job or a school's certificate program in ultrasound technology. If you have no previous medical experience, you'll generally need formal training found in an associate or bachelor's degree program. These programs introduce you to patient care, equipment use, anatomy and terminology. After earning an associate degree, some schools allow you to transfer your credits to an online bachelor's degree completion program. Many of these programs include courses in the various specializations, such as gynecology, cardiology and neurology.

Step 3: Become Certified

The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers optional certification in all sonography specialties (www.ardms.org.). You'll need to pass a Sonography Principles and Instrumentation test in addition to an exam within your chosen specialty. Specialty areas include abdomen, obstetrics and gynecology, echocardiography (adult, pediatric or fetal), vascular technology, neurosonology and breast. Completion of the exams allows you to use the titles Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) or Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT).

Step 4: Find Employment

Like many professions in the medical industry, you might be on call during evenings and weekends. You could work in one or more sonography laboratories for multiple physicians. You can usually find work in various industries such as hospitals, physicians' offices and outpatient centers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that hospitals employed about 68% of the 112,700 sonogram technicians in the U.S. as of May 2014 (www.bls.gov). Additionally, the BLS reported that an increasing demand for sonography and ultrasound as a non-invasive alternative to surgery was expected to contribute to a 26% increase in employment for sonogram technicians between 2014 and 2024.

Step 5: Advance in Your Career

Having multiple specialty certifications can lead to improved job opportunities. The ARDMS listed non-technical career options you could consider, such as sales, management, teaching and consulting. After a few years of experience, you might also seek advancement as a director of the ultrasound department.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in operating machinery or technology in a medical setting, there are other options besides being a sonogram technician. MRI technologists use magnetic resonance imaging to obtain a larger scaled image of internal structures. Another option would be pursuing radiation therapy, where you would be treating diseases such as cancer using radiation treatments on patients. Also, becoming a nuclear medicine technologist is a related, viable option, in which you will administer radioactive drugs to patients in order to observe whether or not certain areas in the patient's body are abnormal. All of these possible careers also require an associate's degree.

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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