Diagnostic medical sonographers only need a two-year degree, the pay is great, and there’s a huge demand for these healthcare professionals. Many diagnostic medical sonographers enjoy the challenge of figuring things out and making a difference in peoples’ lives.
Diagnostic medical sonographers are an integral part of medical teams as they provide vital services to patients and doctors. They are highly-skilled healthcare professionals who utilize specialized equipment to produce visual images of tissues, organs, and blood flow inside a person’s body. Sonography is used to evaluate gallbladders, hearts, livers, kidneys, pelvic organs, and unborn babies.
As a diagnostic medical sonographer, you’ll use your training from school to produce accurate ultrasound images. You’ll explain procedures to patients and take their medical histories. You’ll need to deal with patients professionally and compassionately. Patient examinations can last anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour. You’re the one who decides which images will be shown to doctors.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a 44 percent employment growth from 2010 to 2020 for diagnostic medical sonographers, much faster than the average for all occupations. As ultrasound technology evolves, the equipment will be used by medical facilities instead of expensive, invasive procedures and instead of procedures exposing patients to radiation.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects hospitals to remain the main employer of diagnostic medical sonographers. However, stronger employment growth is expected in physicians’ offices and medical and diagnostic laboratories.
In 2011, the median annual salary for diagnostic medical sonographers was $65,210.
Some ultrasound technicians specialize in fields like abdominal sonography, obstetrics and gynecological sonography, cardiac sonography, neurosonography, breast sonography, or echocardiology.
Hospitals, colleges, and vocational schools offer training in diagnostic medical sonography. However, most employers seek candidates that completed formal training programs at a college, especially for individuals without any experience working in healthcare.
Colleges typically offer associate’s degrees in diagnostic medical sonography, however some schools also provide bachelor’s degrees. People already working in the healthcare industry may enroll in a one-year certificate program provided by vocational schools. Some sonographers obtain degrees in radiologic technology or nursing and then receive on-the-job training from their employers.
Most diagnostic medical sonography programs are divided into specialized fields that correspond to the appropriate certification exams.
Some schools offer online associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs as well as certificate programs in diagnostic medical sonography, with the bachelor’s degree completion program for current diagnostic medical sonographers being the most widely available online program. Online programs may require students to gain hands-on training at contracted local hospitals or training facilities.
Being a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer is not required to get a job, however to many employers it makes you a more attractive candidate. After you complete your training or gain experience working in the field of sonography, you’re eligible to take the exam provided by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) to become a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer in your area of specialization.
Most employers seek diagnostic medical sonographers with professional certification. Professional certification is typically required for licensure.
Diagnostic medical sonographers make a good income, they have the satisfaction of helping people, and the career field is in demand. If you’re considering working in the healthcare industry, a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer might be perfect for you.
Brian Jenkins writes about careers in diagnostic medical sonography, as well as other careers in the healthcare field, for the Riley Guide.