How Do I Become an Ultrasound Technician?

If you have technical skills and an interest in the healthcare field, you might wonder how to become an ultrasound technician. Healthcare is a dynamic field with a constant need for services, but many prospective healthcare professionals may not want to commit to the extensive schooling necessary to become a doctor or nurse. If this sounds like you, a career as an ultrasound technician could be a great fit. You will get to assist patients and doctors by performing important diagnostic tests.

Ultrasound technicians go by several different job titles, including sonographer, ultrasonographer and diagnostic medical sonographer. An ultrasound technician’s primary duty is to conduct diagnostic imaging tests called sonograms, ultrasounds or, when they involve the heart, echocardiograms. These techniques use specialized equipment to produce images of regions inside the body based on the echoes of high-frequency sound waves. Sonograms of babies in the womb during pregnancy are probably the most well-known examples of how this technology is used. Ultrasound technology is also used to help diagnose heart conditions, cancerous tumors, and conditions impacting the internal organs, muscles and other body parts. In some cases, sonograms are used as part of medical procedures, including biopsies and surgeries.

Because sonograms are used in such varied capacities, ultrasound technicians typically specialize in obstetric and gynecologic sonography, breast sonography, musculoskeletal sonography, abdominal sonography, neurosonography or cardiovascular sonography. Specialization allows these professionals to focus on sharpening their skills in performing ultrasounds on the relevant region of the body. In hospitals, doctors’ offices and diagnostic centers, ultrasound technicians work directly with patients, from explaining the process to spreading the gel used in the procedure on the body part to be imaged and using the transducer and other pieces of equipment. A sonographer must have enough medical knowledge to notice indications of conditions in the tissues being imaged and note these abnormalities.

Aspiring ultrasound technicians should begin preparing for their career by pursuing higher education. Accredited schools offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in sonography, though the actual educational requirements for this position vary by employer. Having a bachelor’s degree may provide candidates with more opportunities and the chance to earn a higher salary. Additionally, candidates should develop the hand-eye coordination to understand how to move an ultrasound transducer over the body in order to acquire the best possible diagnostic image. They should also have the people skills to interact well with patients, especially those who may be nervous about the test or the results. Upon completing their education, aspiring ultrasound technicians should seek certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

Diagnostic medical sonongraphers earned a median annual salary of $64,380 in 2010, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. They also enjoy a highly positive job outlook, with 44 percent job growth expected by 2020. If you want to work with patients and equipment and help make important diagnoses, knowing how to become an ultrasound technician could be the start of a rewarding new career.

Featured Degree Programs