Being an ultrasound technician is a career unto itself, but many ultrasound technicians are also medical assistants with other duties besides operating ultrasound machinery. There are also various uses of ultrasound machinery that ultrasound technicians may choose to gain expertise in. Ultrasound technicians, also called diagnostic medical sonographers, can provide either diagnostic or treatment services, depending on the field of sonography they specialize in. Possible specialties include:
The different specialties within diagnostic sonography require different types of equipment, and different anatomical and medical knowledge, so choosing a specialty before you head to school can help you develop niche expertise which will get you a better job after graduation.
Both radiology and sonography are used for medical diagnosis and treatment, but a radiologist and an ultrasound technician are not the same thing, and being trained in one field will not qualify you to work in the other. Below are brief descriptions to help you tell the difference between radiology and sonography, and decide which appeals more to you.
Though the majority of ultrasound technicians are employed in hospitals, there are also ample job opportunities in private clinics and smaller family practices. The U.S. government expects significant growth in the diagnostic sonography job market in the next several years, so it is likely that jobs will be increasingly available in both public hospitals and private firms in the near future.
With an increase in jobs in the field, there may also come an increase in the need for qualified teachers of ultrasound sonography. If you already have experience in the field, and are interested in teaching instead of, or in addition to, practicing, going back to school for an education certificate may be in your interests.
Diagnostic medical sonography is a burgeoning field in the medical support industry, but it is not a stepping stone towards becoming a doctor. If you are interested in becoming a physician, surgeon, or other high level, highly paid medical professional, you will need a decade or more of postsecondary education, including a bachelor’s degree, several years of medical school, and a residency. If you are interested in the supporting role of a diagnostic sonographer, your education and career trajectory might go something like this:
The table below indicates the industrial settings with highest employment ratings for diagnostic medical sonographers.
Medical machine repair and maintenance is another burgeoning career possibility that deals with the functionality of the equipment itself, rather than its application to medical purposes. Medical machine repairers work on all sorts of contraptions, from ultrasound machines to CAT scanners, MRI machines, and x-ray equipment.
Jobs in the medical machine repair industry will grow much faster than most industries according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, so if you are technically minded, with a strong aptitude for engineering, circuitry, and mechanical systems, then pursuing this career could prove lucrative. If you like working with heavy duty medical equipment, but interacting with patients and filling out medical paperwork isn’t your thing, medical machine repair is a career option to look at.
While there are no legal requirements for sonographer credentialing in the United States, employers are much more likely to hire candidates with a degree, certificate, or other proof that they have training and experience as an ultrasound technician. A degree or certificate from a 1-4 year program can serve as a testament to your skills and commitment, but even if you can prove you’re educated, getting registered with the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) will go a long way toward getting you a job. The combination of a certificate or degree and ARDMS registry is the best endorsement an ultrasound tech can have.
Diagnostic medical sonographers earn between $43,000-$80,000 annually, and usually work a standard, 40-hour week, although some night and weekend work may be required for technicians working at a facility that is always open, such as a hospital’s emergency room. Wages are slightly higher, on average, for ultrasound techs in private doctors’ offices than public hospitals, but both settings offer a median wage that is well above the national median wage across all professions.
A peripheral benefit to working as an ultrasound technician is career mobility. Anywhere that has a hospital or doctor’s office needs at least one ultrasound technician, and probably more. California had the most jobs for ultrasound techs as of 2008, but jobs are available and growing in the field all over the U.S., especially in metropolitan areas with dense populations and many medical facilities. Being able to choose where you work, and pick up and move to another place if you so desire, is a perk that should not be undervalued.
Now you know the basics of how to start and succeed in a career as an ultrasound technician. You know that a degree isn’t absolutely required, but it will definitely help you get a job, and you know that the pay and career mobility afforded to ultrasound technicians is well worth the time and expense of getting educated. To get started toward your own career as an ultrasound technician, explore some of the links to top accredited online schools for diagnostic medical sonographers listed below to find a program that is right for you.
||Herzing University — With a 45 year history, Herzing University is an accredited university that offers associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees as well as diplomas in over 45 different programs. The AS in Medical Assisting program builds on the online diploma program by incorporating the general education requirements required for this level of degree. Herzing University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.|