Sonographers, also known as Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, are specialized health care workers who are experienced in performing diagnostic medical sonographies, also referred to as diagnostic ultrasounds.
Although these professionals are more widely known to take ultrasounds of pregnancies and fetuses, their work also expands to other diagnostic procedures including organs and tissues.
Their work is integral in observing and diagnosing several different conditions and ailments.
Education Requirements to Become a Sonographer
Individuals who would like to become a Sonographer will need to pursue certification and additional school in order to enter this field.
A postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree is the preferred level of education.
In addition, many employers seek candidates with a professional certification in the field.
Individuals who want to become a Sonographer may pursue a one year certification from an accredited Sonography program.
However, these individuals typically have experience working in the health care field.
For example, an individual with experience, such as a Radiation Therapist, can pursue this one year certification program in order to become a Sonographer.
Otherwise, individuals will need to complete a two year associate’s program in order to enter this profession.
Some programs also offer clinical experience which counts as credit towards a degree.
Individuals in this type of program will work in a clinical setting under the supervision of an experienced Sonographer.
Programs that prepare individuals to become a Sonographer will include classroom instruction in: anatomy, applied sciences and medical terminology.
Some Sonography programs also provide focused courses for individuals pursuing a specialization.
Some specializations can include, breast or abdominal sonography.
The last step to enter a profession as a Sonographer is to seek professional certification.
Although this step is not needed to pursue a job in this profession, many employers prefer candidates who are certified because of the technicalities implemented by some insurance providers such as Medicare.
Medicare, as well as other private insurance providers, will only provide coverage for these procedures if a certified Sonographer completed the sonography.
Sonographer Job Description
Sonographers are responsible for using specialized imaging equipment to take internal images of their patients.
These images and test results are used by doctors and physicians to diagnose and treat patients.
When meeting with a patient, a Sonographer will take a brief history of their health, overview what the procedure will look like and answer any questions that a patient may have.
They will then prepare the diagnostic imaging equipment and operate it to begin taking images of a patient’s internal organs.
They will analyze the information gathered to determine if it is of high quality so that other professionals are able to read the information as well.
Sonographers are able to determine whether normal or abnormal images are being presented and take notes of any observations so other health professionals have access to that information as well.
In addition, Sonographers can be specialized in performing imaging of different body parts.
The following list is that of common specializations:
- Abdominal Sonographers
- Breast Sonographers
- Musculoskeletal Sonographers
- Obstetric and gynecological sonographer
These individuals’ duties will depend on their specialization.
Sonographer Salary and Career Path
The median annual salary for Sonographers was approximately $65,860 in 2012.
Exact wages will depend on the level of experience and type of facility an individual works in.
Some Sonographers can expect to earn up to $91,070 per year.
Job projections for Sonographers are expected to grow tremendously by 46 percent through the year 2022.
This growth is considered faster than the average occupational growth.
Some factors contributing to this growth include advancements in technology requiring less invasive procedures for preventative care.
Other factors include the fast growing baby boomer generation and health care legislation that has made it easier for individuals to seek preventative medical care.
Potential Sonographers can enter this profession through a handful of paths.
Some Sonographers enter this field through a one year certification if already experienced in the health care field.
Others choose to complete a two year associates program.
No matter the path one takes to become a Sonographer, individuals can assure themselves that they are entering a healthy field that is expected to experience fast growth in the coming years.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a sonographer?
Sonographers are healthcare professionals specialized in diagnosing tests that use ultrasound technology to create images of tissues and organs.
Physicians and patients prefer ultrasound imaging because these techniques use sound waves instead of radiation.
Sonographers need solid knowledge of anatomy and physiology and training in using sonography devices.
They also have to prepare and maintain the equipment, review the results, test the image quality and analyze the results in order to prepare a summary report for physicians.
Ultrasound technology can be used to diagnose a variety of conditions, such as cysts, cancer or gallstones.
As a sonographer, you can choose to specialize in one subspecialty, such as cardiac sonography, musculoskeletal sonography, or pediatric sonography.
Sonographers may work in hospitals, physician’s offices, diagnostic laboratories or outpatient care centers.
Most sonographers work full time but those who work for healthcare facilities that are always open may work in shifts that include night and weekend schedules.
How much does a sonographer make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for cardiovascular technicians and sonographers was $56,850 as of May 2018.
Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors, including experience, employer, specialty, and region.
Sonographers can earn anywhere between less than $30,000 and more than $100,000 a year.
How much does it cost to become a sonographer?
Sonographers typically need a few years of training beyond high school.
If you want to become a sonographer, you can choose between a certificate, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree program.
There are many post-secondary educational programs in sonography and costs vary widely depending on the school you choose and the program itself.
Two-year associate’s degree programs cost, on average, around $20,000 a year.
What is the demand for sonographers?
According to BLS, employment for diagnostic medical sonographers is projected to grow 19 percent.
The demand for ultrasound technicians is expected to grow as more physicians and patients prefer to use sonography instead of imaging techniques that involve radiation.
However, competition may be strong in some regions and holding a professional certification may give you better job prospects.
Choosing to certify in more than one specialty may also improve your employment opportunities.
How long does it take to become a sonographer?
Training programs for sonographers can take anywhere between 18 months and four years, depending on the degree you are seeking.
These types of programs typically cover a variety of topics, including abdominal sonography, breast, neuro sonography and more.
Most employers prefer sonographers who hold a professional certification; credentialing institutions such as American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers usually require candidates to hold a degree or diploma from an accrediting institution but you may also qualify if you have education in a different field as long as you have professional experience as a sonographer.