Are you interested in working in the healthcare field? Then consider becoming an ultrasound technician (also called sonographers or diagnostic medical sonographers). It is a unique job where you will capture images of patients’ blood flow, organs, and tissues using equipment that depends on sound wave technology.
Ultrasound technicians have several responsibilities. Some are based on specialty while others are more general. They include:
- Preparing patients for the exam and answering questions
- Physically moving patients into position to ensure the best possible scan
- Taking measurements
- Calibrating the equipment after each patient and sterilizing it
- Analyzing ultrasound data to identify expected and unexpected outcomes
- Storing data on a computer
- Notifying the prescribing physician of the findings, either orally or by written report
Diagnostic Medical Sonography Specialties
Ultrasound technicians can choose a specialty such as:
Abdominal Sonography – This means taking images of the organs and soft tissue in the abdominal region including the gallbladder, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. The images help physicians diagnose conditions such as gallstones, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney stones, or pancreatic cancer.
Breast Sonography – Breast ultrasounds are generally used to assess findings found from a mammogram or from a clinical exam.
Neurosonography – Neurosongraphers obtain images of the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Patients range in age from infants to senior citizens, and physicians use the images to diagnose or monitor conditions such as arterial dissections, hemorrhages, or Sickle cell disease.
Obstetric and Gynecology Sonography – Obstetric ultrasound technicians perform scans to determine the development, health, and growth of a fetus, while gynecology sonography entails taking ultrasound images of a female patient’s pelvic region.
Before you begin your ultrasound technician career, you will need to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree at a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. This guarantees a program meets quality standards, and you can find them at community colleges, teaching hospitals, trade schools, and universities. Not all programs offer the same courses, but you can expect to take classes similar to the following:
- Abdominal Sonography
- Cardiac Diagnostic Procedures
- Clinical Practicum (all accredited programs require this training)
- Concepts of Physics in Diagnostic Sonography
- Doppler Principles and Instrumentation
- Equipment Use and Maintenance
- Ultrasound Physics and Instrumentation
Ultrasound technicians are not required to obtain certification unless they live in one of the few states that require licensure. There is more than one certifying organization, and the largest and most widely recognized is the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Applicants must pass the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) exam along with a specialty exam.
Career Outlook and Salary
Most ultrasound technicians work in hospitals, though employment in outpatient facilities is becoming more common. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for this profession is expected to rise 46 percent until 2022.
In 2013, the average yearly salary for ultrasound technicians was $66,410. You’ll find your wages are largely based on location, education, and certification. Those who have a bachelor’s degree and hold a credential will earn more than those who do not. As for location, if you work in a major city, you’ll earn more than if you work in a rural setting.
Like other careers, you’ll have an interview with a potential employer before being hired. It’s best to prepare ahead of time with a mock interview with a family member or friend. Questions you are likely to be asked are:
- What makes you passionate about being an ultrasound technician?
- Have you ever had difficulty with a supervisor?
- Do you enjoy socializing with patients?
- What procedures do you follow to maintain equipment?
- Are you certified by the ARDMS?
- Why did you choose a career as an ultrasound technician?
- How would your friends describe you?
- Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
- Can you cope with stressful situations?
- What do you feel is the most important skill an ultrasound technician should possess?
To learn more about this career that’s in high demand, contact us. We can help you decide if it’s the right path for you.