When you think of an Ultrasound Technician or Sonographer, you probably envision someone in a lab coat pressing lots of buttons. Easy job, right? Here’s the scoop on the realities of a career in Ultrasound.
Ultrasound Technicians, also called Sonographers, use ultrasound to make pictures of what’s going on inside soft tissue, like breasts, the heart, and reproductive systems, and is radiation-free (unlike X-rays). Some choose to specialize in specific body parts, like the abdomen, obstetrics/gynecology, vascular technology, neurosonology (brain and spine), or ophthalmology. Diagnostic medical sonographers have a lot of contact with patients which may even include performing invasive procedures. People skills are a must!
Salaries are high for sonographers, but vary by location. More expensive areas pay better, but the cost of living is higher. The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of diagnostic medical sonographers in 2008 was $61,980, with the lowest 10% earning less than $43,600. Even the low range isn’t bad, but when you consider that the high range is over $83,950 per year, a career in sonography looks very promising indeed. Diagnostic Medical Sonography programs last from one to four years, depending on the degree. Some programs prefer applicants with experience in other healthcare professions, such as nurse practitioners, but others require no experience at all.
No states require licensure in diagnostic medical sonography, but most employers prefer registered sonographers. Registration requires becoming eligible to take the examination by completing education, training, or work experience. Exams usually include a test in one specialty, such as laboratory technology, radiology, or surgical technology; but sonographers can advance in their careers by having more than one specialty or multiple credentials in related areas, like obstetrics and abdominal sonography. There are many ways to get training, like through the military medical corps, vocational schools, or continuing education courses for medical care workers.