In this Career Spotlight we’re going to focus on a growing and fairly lucrative job in the medical industry – ultrasound technician. Keep reading to see all about this exciting and lucrative career. If you like what you see, leave a comment or send us an email. If you finish up and still have questions, by all means let us know. Now, on to the show…
Ultrasound technician is a simpler way to say diagnostic medical sonographer, often just called a sonographer. It’s easier to say and most people understand what it probably means. But we’re not here to just explain what an ultrasound technician is, we’re also here to lay out all the information for you so you can see if it’s something you’re interested in spending your time and hard earned (or borrowed) money on. So let’s get to it.
Why Become An Ultrasound Technician?
A good question with honestly a variety of answers. First up is for the money. As you’ll see later, an ultrasound technician can make decent money. Next is because the work itself, while requiring technical expertise, can be nice and one of the less icky jobs in a medical center. Finally is because of the rewarding nature of the work. Like many jobs in the medical field, you are helping people. That itself is rather rewarding.
Things You Will Do As An Ultrasound Technician
Ultrasound imaging equipment was developed over 50 years ago to provide an image of the internal organs of a body. Although the most visible and memorable use of diagnostic ultrasound is during pregnancy, the use of ultrasound extends to many different fields of medicine, for example
- Breast Imaging
- Head and Neck Surgery
Keep in mind that an ultrasound technician will not be required to perform work in each of these fields. What they will be required to do, among other things is:
- Prepare patients who are about to undergo the procedure
- Explain all aspects of the procedure to the patient before and during the procedure
- Record and update patient information in a patient’s records
- Care for and maintain ultrasound equipment
- Follow the prescribed orders of physicians to perform the diagnostic procedures
- Be able to notice small details on the screen that are required for diagnosis
- Take measurements, calculate values and analyze results and be able to provide these to the physician
- Help patients during the procedure
- Coordinate with other healthcare professionals in the hospital or office
Truthfully if working with other people in a medical setting as well as taking care of patients and kindly guiding them through the often stressful experience is not something you think you can do then you might want to look for other work in the medical field. If, however, you feel you can do these things and are interested in the work, then by all means, continue.
Salary For Ultrasound Technicians
Ahhh, the big question. How much can an ultrasound technician make? Well, as in all things, it varies. People working in smaller markets with less experience and in smaller clinics or offices will make less. People working in larger areas with more experience in larger settings such as major hospitals will of course make much more. That being said, the median annual income for this job is around 65,000 per year. It can be as much as 80,000-85,000 at the high end and down around 40,000 or so on the lower end. Of course some places will pay less based on a number of factors. The BLS believes there will be an increasing need for this job over the next 10 years or so.
Here’s the tricky part. Education requirements for this job basically fall into three different tracks:
- 4 year degree
- 2-year degree
- 1-year certificate
Now hold on, there. We know what you’re thinking. “Heck, I’ll just get the 1-year certificate.” While attractive, that is for people who are already employed in the healthcare field. And we don’t mean janitors or desk jockeys. We’re talking nurses or the like here. If that’s not you, you’ll be looking at least at the 2-year associate degree if not the 4-year bachelor degree. Once you have these done, you’ll need to get certified, likely by the ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography). This requires an exam that will focus on your chosen sub-field (gynecology, neonatal, abdominal, etc.) as well as a certain number of hours of clinical experience, often gained at a teaching hospital as part of the course enrolled in.
This is not a field you can just jump into with a few weeks of instruction. It takes time and effort. You’ll need to learn about anatomy, medical terminology, computer technology, imaging and diagnostics and a whole slew of other things. Not for the faint of heart.
One thing to keep in mind is that you attend a CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) accredited school and course. We cannot stress this enough. Far too many people sign up for a program before checking it out only to find out 2 years down the road that their time and money is wasted because the place they studied at wasn’t accredited. And if a place says they are accredited – check it out no matter how big of a school or how honest they seem to be. Some places lie.
Every state has different requirements and over time those requirements can change. We highly recommend you look into the requirements for your particular state and any state close to you that you may be willing to commute to work in. Like most things, those who get out and hustle to chase down information and a job will likely go further than those who don’t. What does that mean for this field? It means figuring out a bunch of questions that you can’t find the answers for online or that you want to find out more about. Contacting the schools you are looking at and asking them hard questions and not putting up with any BS. It means tracking down any connection to an ultrasound technician you might already know and talking to them about their job. Don’t know any? Fine, go down to the closest hospital or medical center and track them down. Ask them out for a cup of coffee. Heck, offer to buy them lunch. Then be an attentive and interested listener and ask them all kinds of things about their job. You’ll likely find out far more about the career, field and education requirements this way than any other.
I can still remember the first time we saw the ultrasound image of our tiny little daughter as she was growing inside my wife’s belly. There are a lot of technical things to balance when considering this career. There is also good money to be made. But at the end of the day, keep in mind that you’ll be working with people. If that interests you, then maybe being an ultrasound technician is something to look into further.