Medical Sonographer Salary

The medical procedure sonography, or ultrasonography, has advanced from its early and still common ultrasound application of examining the health of a developing fetus in the womb. The many technological advances over recent decades have not only reduced the size and cost of sonographic equipment, these advances have also expanded the number and breadth of applications possible to sonography. Many diagnostic and therapeutic procedures can be performed in rural clinics or physician offices as well as in hospitals, laboratories, and public health facilities.

In this environment, career opportunities have grown significantly for sonographers, the medical professionals who perform sonography. Performing sonography requires specialized training; doctors and nurses rarely have the time to wade through large, technical manuals in order to use the increasingly sophisticated equipment properly and then to interpret the results. Skilled sonographers today have the potential to earn high salaries and advance their careers.

Salary Overview

The average hourly wage for a diagnostic medical sonographer was $30.60 per hour or $63,640 annually in May 2009, the most recent month for which the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has sonographer occupational information. At least 10% of the 51,360 sonographers earned more than $41.00 per hour or over $85,000 annually while 10% earned less than $21.15 per hour or under $44,000 annually.*

*According to the BLS,

Among the factors affecting the wages of an individual medical sonographer are:

  • experience
  • specializations
  • hours worked – part-time or overtime
  • geographical location
  • type of facility

Regarding the facility, sonographers working in universities or outpatient care centers earn more on average than do those working in laboratories, hospitals, or physicians’ offices. In addition, sonographers in management are the highest paid while sonographers working in home care or in emergency services earn the least.

Concerning location, the top five states, where sonographers earn average annual wages above $75,000, are:*

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Oregon
  3. Colorado
  4. Washington
  5. Alaska

*According to the BLS,

Job Description and Outlook

The outlook is bright with a predicted 18% growth in the need for diagnostic medical sonographers through 2018. Even such rapid growth would be less than the nearly 20% growth over the five years after May 2004, when there were 41,280 sonographers averaging $53,620 per year. One reason for the increased need is that safe, non-invasive sonographic procedures are replacing other diagnostic procedures, such as the radiation-based x-ray.*

*According to the BLS,

A medical sonographer works with high-tech instruments that use sound waves to produce computer images of a body’s internal organs or features. During this procedure, the sonographer typically guides a small instrument, called a transducer, over the patient’s skin. This procedure necessarily has a high level of one on one contact with the patient who is usually wide awake. For this reason and others, the sonographer must be able to communicate clearly and compassionately with patients who could be healthy or very ill.

The sonographic images can be used to examine the health of various parts of the body or aid in the diagnosis many potential health problems. Some important tasks of the sonographer include accurately analyzing the progressive sonographic images, independently assessing the need for further sonographic procedures, clearly communicating key image information to the physician, and effectively working with an entire health care team. Additionally, the sonographer will need organizational skills for the managerial and clerical tasks that are often a part of the job description.

Training and Education Requirements

Although no certification is mandated in order to work as a sonographer, the technical nature of the job leads most employers to require adequate education and training. The prospective diagnostic medical sonographer can be trained in one-year, two-year, or four-year programs. The military and some medical facilities also offer training in sonography. The education organization itself may offer a certificate or degree in sonography, but often the trained students are prepared to pass more widely recognized registration or certification examinations. Passing certification examinations for one or more areas of specialization will boost the employment and salary possibilities for the sonographer.

Prerequisites for sonographic education programs could include GED or a minimum proficiency in math, science, or the health profession. People looking to become sonographers should choose a reputable program offering sufficient curriculum and clinical education. Students can expect study in the sciences, math, anatomy, physiology, patient care, and specific training in sonographic equipment, applications, and analysis of readings.


The American Registry for of Diagnostic Medical Sonography or ARDMS administers national certifying examinations that offers the following globally recognized credentials:

  • RDMS – Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer with specializations available in abdomen, breast, fetal echocardiography, neurosonology, and obstetrics/gynecology.
  • RDCS – Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer with specializations available in adult echocardiography, fetal echocardiography, and pediatric echocardiography.
  • RVT – Registered Vascular Technologist
  • RPVI – Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation is available only to physicians.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists or ARRT offers a recognized general, not specialized, certification requiring broad sonographic proficiencies.

Professional Associations

ARDMS and ARRT are both professional associations for sonographers.

Other associations are the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, which publishes the Journal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, which publishes the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine.

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