Patients’ bodies are scanned by ultrasound technicians who use sound waves to produce images that doctors can engage in diagnosing and monitoring medical conditions or in assessing pregnant women’s fetal health. In order to practice their profession, ultrasound techs, commonly referred to as sonographers, have to complete an associate degree or certificate program. Majority of these professionals work in hospital settings while some are employed in medical centers and private clinics.
Universities, hospitals, the U.S. military and community colleges offer training programs for ultrasound techs, most of which take one to two years to complete. A background in basic physics, algebra and natural sciences is usually required for admission to such programs. Coursework typically includes patient care, physics, medical ethics, physiology, and anatomy. There are 176 training programs for these professionals in the country that carry accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP – www.caahep.org).
Required Job Skills
Doctors rely on assistance from ultrasound technicians in diagnosing and treating medical ailments. Communication between doctors and patients is often transmitted through ultrasound techs. Ultrasound techs must have the ability to explain ultrasound results and complicated technical procedures to patients when they consider possible treatment methods. These professionals are required to stay abreast of developments in a dynamic field of diagnostic medicine and technology with frequent changes in medical procedures and trends.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS – www.bls.gov) projected enormous demand for ultrasound technicians with an expected growth that is faster than the average for all occupations due to the increased availability of specialized ultrasound equipment in medical centers and private clinics. During 2010, the average annual salary for ultrasound technicians was $64,380 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Certification and Specialties
Certification examinations are offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography; an ultrasound tech can showcase their expertise in visualizing specific parts of the human body (www.ardms.org). A range of credentials and specializations will improve a sonographer’s employment and promotion prospects. The Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer certification from the American Registry for Diagnositc Medical Sonography offers specialty concentrations in neurosonology or abdominal ultrasound, gynecologic and obstetric sonography, among others. The Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer designation is for heart ultrasound specialists, which is a separate credential. An ultrasound tech needs to pass two examinations in order to become certified. The general examination includes equipment, sonography principles, and physics, while the specialty examination is about the diseased or normal anatomy of the organs.