An ultrasound technician may also be known as a diagnostic medical sonographer or simply a sonographer.
They use equipment that uses sound waves to create images of internal body structures. An ultrasound machine is often used in obstetrics, but it can also be used to diagnose various health conditions.
Becoming an Ultrasound tech is a good way to get started in the healthcare industry. It doesn’t require as much training as a physician, yet you still receive a respectable salary and have the opportunity to move up the ladder.
What Is an Ultrasound Technician?
An ultrasound technician or diagnostic medical sonographer operate special imaging equipment so that they can create images for physicians to view and conduct tests. These images help to diagnose serious health conditions or allow doctors to see exactly what is going on inside their patient’s body.
The most common use for ultrasounds is to view an unborn baby during pregnancy. Advancements in this science and technology allow parents to see and hear their baby’s heartbeat early on. And the imaging equipment helps OB/GYNs find out about the baby’s development and if there are any concerns all throughout the nine months of pregnancy.
But, ultrasounds are used for many more tests and diagnostics. They can be used to view any internal organs such as the heart, stomach or glands. There is a great need in the healthcare industry for skilled ultrasound technicians and that makes this job an excellent choice for anyone searching for a solid career.
How Much Is the Average Ultrasound Technician Salary?
The average annual ultrasound technician salary according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2017 was $71,410. The lower 10% of all ultrasound technicians received an average of less than $50,760. The higher 10% of all ultrasound techs received an average of more than $99,840.
The average annual salaries for ultrasound technicians in the top industries were as follows:
The majority of all ultrasound technicians works full time. Some may work on weekends, evenings and late at night.
What Are the Duties of an Ultrasound Technician?
An ultrasound technician’s main duties are to use an imaging machine to college images which are used for diagnostics and test results. These techs help doctors and specialists diagnose serious medical conditions or rule them out. They work closely with the patients as well as their doctors before, during and after each procedure.
The common everyday duties of an ultrasound tech include:
An ultrasound technician will use high-frequency sound waves to record images of a patient’s internal organs, tissue and any problems. They use the machine to take several images of the area in question, and also take measurements as needed to check for issues.
There are many areas aside from obstetrics where an ultrasound tech can be beneficial. They can specialize in taking images of certain areas of the body.
There are abdominal ultrasound techs, breast ultrasound techs, those that specialize in cardiac imagery, musculoskeletal images, obstetric and gynecologic images, vascular images and pediatric ultrasound techs who work exclusively with small children and infants.
What Is the Work Environment for an Ultrasound Technician?
Most ultrasound technicians work inside a state, local or private hospital setting. This is true for both general ultrasound techs and for cardiovascular technologists. The amount of ultrasound techs who work in this type of environment is 60%. 21% work inside of physician offices. Many of these include OB/GYN offices where women can have an ultrasound scheduled during their routine pregnancy visit with their OB doctor.
Ultrasound technicians complete most of their work inside of dimly lit exam rooms. They usually perform the procedure while at the patient’s bedside. These technicians are on their feet for the majority of their workday. They may also need to have the strength to lift or turn any patient who is ill disabled or has difficulty turning over on their own.
How Do You Become an Ultrasound Technician?
One reason why the role of an ultrasound technician is so desirable is that it doesn’t take very long to train for this position and you can receive a respectable ultrasound technician salary.
Ultrasound techs can include cardiovascular technicians and vascular technicians. For all of these positions, you will need a formal education that can consist of an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. There are many employers who look for a professional certification when they are hiring ultrasound technicians.
Most colleges and universities offer associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in sonography as well as cardiovascular and vascular tech. You can also take a one-year certification program at many community colleges as well as some hospitals.
Most employers will prefer that the ultrasound technicians they hire are graduates of a degree program that is accredited by the CAAHEP or Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
Sonography degree programs typically include classes that focus on anatomy, applied sciences, and medical terminology. Most degree programs in this area are divided up into specialized fields that correspond with certification exams. These can include breast sonography obstetrics sonography or abdomen sonography.
Sonography related to cardiovascular and vascular health have their own programs as well. These degree programs include coursework that involves either invasive or noninvasive cardiovascular procedures.
Along with extensive classroom study, a majority of the degree programs for ultrasound technicians also require a clinical component where all students earn credits while they work under the supervision of an experienced technologist inside a hospital, imaging lab or a physician’s office.
Licenses and Certifications
It is suggested that all sonographers have a professional certification so that they may have more job opportunities available to them. There are many insurance providers that will only pay for a procedure if it is performed by a certified ultrasound technician. You can receive your certification from one of the following:
An ultrasound technician can earn their certification by graduating from an accredited program, or they can qualify through alternative sources with a combination of experience and educational training. All candidates will need to pass an exam to be certified.
Most of the certifications are for specialties in ultrasound technology such as abdominal or breast imaging. A large percentage of sonographers will have at least one certification while others will have multiple allowing them to work in various environments.
Employers also like to hire ultrasound technicians who also have a basic life support certification. This ensures that they are able to perform CPR if needed.
There are very few U.S. states that require an ultrasound technician to be licensed. Usually, a certification will be enough. If you are not sure, you will need to get in touch with your state medical board for more details.
Important Qualities Ultrasound Technologists Should Have
There are several important qualities that all employers will look for when hiring an ultrasound technician.
Ultrasound technicians need to follow precise instructions to get the images needed by the patient’s physician. They must be able to pay attention to what is on the screen while they are also scanning the patient’s body, and identify any obvious issues throughout the process.
Ultrasound techs work very closely with their patients. Sometimes they may have to explain the procedure to the patient or make them feel comfortable before the scan begins. They will also have to communicate with various types of physicians and members of the patient’s healthcare team.
Excellent Hand-Eye Coordination
To obtain high-quality images, the ultrasound tech will need to have great hand-eye coordination and must move the equipment accurately on the body to get the images requested.
What Is the Job Outlook for Ultrasound Technicians?
The job outlook for ultrasound techs is very good. Employment opportunities are expected to grow by as much as 23% between 2016 and 2026. Employment for cardiovascular and vascular technicians is also expected to grow by as much as 10%.
The positive job outlook for this career is thanks in part to the baby boom generation. As this large generation ages and more medical diagnosis are needed in their senior years, there will be a greater need for ultrasound technicians who are trained and qualified to work with the latest equipment and technology in the industry.