innerbody

Guide to Becoming an Ultrasound Technologist

What Does an Ultrasound Technologist Do?

ultrasound transducer on abdomen of a patient

Ultrasound technologists (also known as diagnostic medical sonographers) have the knowledge and responsibility to perform ultrasound examinations utilizing a technology that creates detailed and dynamic images of the body’s internal organs using high frequency sound waves. Technologists create live, real-time images of organs and blood vessels in action, which would otherwise be virtually impossible to detect and document with X-ray or other imaging techniques.

Because ultrasound is non-invasive and uses no radiation or dangerous dyes, it is safe to use on everyone including children, the elderly and expectant mothers. It is well known that ultrasound is an indispensable tool used to monitor pregnancies, but physicians in many other fields rely on the images captured by these skilled professionals to diagnose and treat their patients.

To perform an ultrasound, a technologist transmits high frequency sound waves via a handheld device called a transducer, viewing the live images it produces on a display screen. This professional uses his or her detailed knowledge of anatomy and pathology to discern the most appropriate and representative images to record for review by a physician. A tech may perform a variety of ultrasounds depending upon the examination’s purpose, from visualizing the direction and flow of blood through a vessel to determining a baby’s gender.

Ultrasound’s applications are vast and continue to expand. The newest technologies enable operators to use transducers attached to smart phones, allowing them to perform examinations outside of traditional hospitals and offices, even in remote or undeveloped areas of the world. Ultrasound technologists are at the forefront of this increasingly effective modality that will continue to transform the practice of medicine.

Workplace Details

Hospitals employ the majority of these professionals, but ultrasound techs also work in outpatient diagnostic clinics and physicians’ offices. Low lighting is required for most ultrasound procedures, so technologists often work in dim rooms. Most ultrasound procedures are prescheduled during regular business hours, but a technologist’s expertise is sometimes needed for an emergency during off hours, weekends or holidays.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
California
$93350
Texas
$77370
Florida
$62650
New York
$71570
Pennsylvania
$66010

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0 AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$54,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $73,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$45,610$58,890$76,050
Huntsville$37,190$54,730$71,620

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$82,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $48,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $100,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$49,180$79,950$98,270

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$83,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $60,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $100,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$61,580$84,340$101,270
Tuscon$64,050$77,980$98,440

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$58,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$29,430$58,830$78,230
Fort Smith$46,610$67,530$79,080

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$96,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $60,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $135,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 250

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$63,090$87,270$123,430
San Francisco Bay$82,490$118,620$154,220
San Diego$60,510$92,250$122,060
Sacramento$80,270$110,610$129,130

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$79,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $63,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $101,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 61%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$64,430$81,050$102,690

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$74,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $99,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$39,820$74,170$100,820
Bridgeport$53,990$64,750$94,340
New Haven$58,050$78,610$100,650

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$71,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $56,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $91,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$55,740$71,370$91,440

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$89,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $66,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $113,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$53,000$77,810$100,630

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$61,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 40%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 280

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$45,700$62,490$79,490
Orlando$44,670$62,700$82,110
Tampa$44,110$63,370$79,830
Jacksonville$50,410$60,520$77,850

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$61,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 35%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$48,440$63,340$80,300
Augusta$51,240$65,560$78,050

HAWAII

Median Salary: 
$79,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $100,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$54,070$86,840$102,900

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$67,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 150

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$51,920$65,000$79,380

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$75,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $53,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $97,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$55,600$77,730$99,580
Rockford$55,780$74,920$95,770

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$63,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $81,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$52,290$68,260$85,370
South Bend$38,280$58,800$75,880
Fort Wayne$51,620$62,350$77,290

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$61,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$50,040$64,160$78,960
Cedar Rapids$51,570$61,820$81,110

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$66,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $90,300

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$52,680$66,570$90,620
Kansas City$54,290$71,280$93,470

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$60,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 43%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$42,950$58,920$76,890
Lexington$43,350$61,460$79,530

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$58,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$44,010$60,640$77,600
Baton Rouge$43,170$58,740$83,130
Lafayette$33,930$51,660$71,190

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$73,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $103,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$53,600$79,960$141,320

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$72,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $95,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 40%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$55,790$72,060$94,300
Frederick$64,710$76,230$97,320

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$83,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $105,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$51,720$85,280$110,780
Worcester$63,320$76,090$105,520
Springfield$54,590$73,110$93,530

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$59,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$45,990$61,470$77,020
Grand Rapids$45,100$57,900$74,800

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$75,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $57,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $96,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$57,270$75,150$95,780
Rochester$64,390$78,900$99,020

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$61,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$50,120$64,110$78,280
Gulfport$43,680$61,560$78,420

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$66,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $86,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$44,460$63,960$84,900
Kansas City$54,290$71,280$93,470

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$69,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $51,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $93,900

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$52,190$65,700$81,850
Missoula$29,310$69,210$96,040

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$63,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$51,820$64,780$79,240

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$75,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $57,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $97,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 43%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$56,930$75,620$97,570
Reno$62,450$74,700$96,120

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$76,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $56,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $96,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$58,380$80,380$97,450

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$73,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $96,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$55,400$73,720$97,130
Trenton$52,760$74,080$96,650

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$65,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $48,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $83,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$52,870$67,020$80,550
Las Cruces$44,100$58,370$79,480

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$69,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $93,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 240

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$51,190$71,800$95,330
Buffalo$52,330$66,860$79,160
Rochester$51,680$68,510$88,550
Albany$52,200$68,070$89,000

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$64,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $51,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $81,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 34%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$51,370$62,680$79,290
Raleigh$52,470$65,170$79,720
Greensboro$52,450$66,400$83,400
Winston - Salem$52,350$66,220$81,170

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$66,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 34%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Bismarck$47,330$65,690$77,630

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$62,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $48,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$49,800$62,800$81,120
Columbus$49,640$62,470$78,200
Cincinnati$51,720$68,550$81,720
Dayton$50,360$63,500$77,260

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$65,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $48,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $90,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$47,270$65,460$93,830
Tulsa$51,710$65,350$79,880

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$88,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $67,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $103,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$70,900$89,940$105,390
Salem$67,060$84,320$110,930

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$63,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $45,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $89,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$52,610$72,610$95,120
Pittsburgh$42,860$55,810$73,620
Harrisburg$51,780$64,560$78,860
Allentown$45,140$62,130$86,180

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$70,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $48,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $95,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$49,540$71,580$96,270

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$59,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$47,350$64,360$79,910
Columbia$29,870$57,850$80,090
Charleston$52,450$63,690$84,390

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$60,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Sioux Falls$42,910$57,510$77,350
Rapid City$52,020$65,230$76,080

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$59,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 52%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$44,950$64,280$80,790
Memphis$43,060$60,080$82,080
Knoxville$43,440$58,240$77,470
Chattanooga$45,070$64,580$178,120

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$68,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $99,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 46%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 290

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$51,990$70,660$97,370
Houston$53,120$71,380$175,860
San Antonio$45,070$64,580$178,120
Austin$53,600$69,310$97,120

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$73,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $97,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 44%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$53,540$73,480$96,250
Ogden$49,740$77,250$105,170

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$72,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $51,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $94,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$69,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $95,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 32%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$49,250$65,550$80,250
Richmond$50,570$67,450$87,290

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$85,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $64,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $103,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 31%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$66,850$86,870$109,160
Spokane$60,900$84,160$99,750

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$56,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$43,960$62,180$78,520
Charleston$42,780$55,200$70,950

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$75,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $96,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$41,740$81,370$100,030
Madison$64,360$80,710$96,120

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$61,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $51,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

The annual median salary for ultrasound technologists is $68,970, with a range of $48,720 to $97,390, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Technologists working in outpatient centers and specialty hospitals generally have slightly higher salaries than those working in other settings.

Ultrasound technologists should have no problem finding jobs in coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an astounding employment growth of 26 percent (much higher than average growth) from 2014 to 2024. Improving technology, reliability, and affordability (compared to other diagnostic procedures) ensure the continued use of ultrasound as a first-line diagnostic tool. A technologist with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and several specialty certifications will be the most highly desired in the industry.

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$71800 Per Year

$34.51 Per Hour

Houston TX Median Pay

$71380 Per Year

$34.31 Per Hour

Steps to Become an Ultrasound Technologist

1

Earn an undergraduate degree.

Ultrasound technologists must earn at least an associate degree. Accredited ultrasound programs can be found at community colleges (a two-year associate’s degree) or four-year institutions (either an associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree).

Show Me Schools »

If you have already earned at least an associate degree in a healthcare field or have earned a bachelor’s degree, accredited certificate programs are also available. These usually require 12 to 15 months to complete.

An education in sonography includes multiple classroom courses in anatomy and physiology, pathology, physics, ethics and protocols, and ultrasound imaging. Additionally, there is significant clinical time in a medical setting where students learn, observe, and eventually perform ultrasound examinations under the guidance of experienced sonographers and physicians. Accredited programs should provide over 1000 clinical hours for their students.

2

Make sure a program is accredited prior to enrolling.

Accredited programs are listed online at the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography or the Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. If your school is not on this list, find a different program! Graduates from non-accredited programs are not eligible to take the qualifying exams and as such, they are not going to be considered for hire by most employers.

3

Pursue certification.

Passing the Registry examinations means you are a “registered diagnostic medical sonographer,” or RDMS. Being RDMS or RDMS-eligible is considered the industry standard for employment. The exams are given by the ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) or the ARRT (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists). There are multiple sub-specialty exams in which techs can become registered based on their interests and experience, including OB/GYN, abdomen, vascular, echocardiography, breast, ophthalmology, and fetal neurosonology.

4

Get licensed, depending on your geographic location.

Some states require that ultrasound technologists become licensed at the state level. Requirements for licensure vary, unfortunately, so you should consult the health board in your state to find out the details where you live.

5

Consider all of your career opportunities as they present themselves.

With their educational background and experience, ultrasound technologists can expand their skills into other medical imaging specialties. They can also grow into departmental management or administrative roles. Others may prefer to share their knowledge by becoming educators. There is also plenty of room for growth and advancement at the corporate level with ultrasound equipment manufacturers or related businesses doing sales, applications, customer training, or administrative work.

Exploring Degree Paths

CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

1-2 years, depending on educational background

The certificate program (also called a diploma program at some schools) is a sequence of core ultrasound technology courses for students who have either taken the prerequisites or already hold a degree. Many certificate programs require either an associate degree in a health-related field or a bachelor’s degree for admission.

Hospitals, health systems, career colleges, technical schools, community colleges, and universities all offer certificate programs in ultrasound technology (which is more commonly called sonography in the academic world). The curriculum may be general or geared toward a specific modality like echocardiography (cardiac sonography) or OB/GYN sonography.

It’s important to choose a program accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Otherwise you could have difficulty becoming certified, which is required for most jobs and mandatory in some states.

Certificate-level students must first complete prerequisites in anatomy and physiology, college algebra, physics, communications, medical terminology, medical ethics, and patient care. In some cases, healthcare clinical experience and professional certifications can be substituted for prerequisites. (For example, a certified nurse assistant can often waive the class in patient care.)

The certificate-level curriculum covers core ultrasound technology courses, including:

Sectional anatomy

Study the structure of the human body as it’s visualized by computer imaging applications.

Sonography fundamentals

Learn about screening protocols, normal anatomy, and basic pathology.

Sonography physics and instrumentation

Explore how ultrasonic waves are generated and how they interact with body structures.

Intro to clinical practicum

Gain supervised, hands-on practice with basic patient assessment, communication, instrumentation, and scanning protocols.

In addition to lectures and laboratories, certificate students complete clinical rotations in hospitals and imaging facilities.

ASSOCIATE DEGREE

2 years

This is a good option for students who are entering the ultrasound technology field with no previous coursework or healthcare experience. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) programs typically cover both the prerequisites and core ultrasound classes required to complete the certificate program.

An advantage of going the AAS route is that you’ll emerge with a recognized degree that’s preferred by many employers. This also makes it easier to earn a bachelor’s degree if you decide to continue your education.

While it’s not absolutely necessary to attend a CAAHEP-accredited AAS program, doing so will allow you to take your certification exams immediately after graduation.

AAS programs in ultrasound technology can be found at 2-year colleges, 4-year colleges, and career and technical colleges. Most follow a general curriculum, but some specialize in vascular and cardiac ultrasound.

Show Me Schools »

In addition to the topics listed in the certificate program section, associate-level students typically take courses in:

Vascular anatomy and pathology

Study the structure, normal appearance, and common disorders of the circulatory system.

Cardiac anatomy and pathology

Practice assessing heart function and identifying abnormalities through different imaging techniques.

Abdominal anatomy and pathology

Learn about diseases and conditions of the abdominal organs and how to recognize them on ultrasound.

Diagnostic imaging

Explore how other diagnostic imaging tests (x-ray, CT, MRI) correlate with ultrasound.

AAS students also complete supervised clinical rotations to gain hands-on experience in scanning and patient care.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE

4 years

A bachelor’s degree (BS, BSRS) isn’t necessary to practice as an ultrasound tech, but it can definitely make you more attractive to employers. It’s also a good idea if you’re interested in teaching, leadership, graduate school, research, or simply rounding out your education.

Bachelor’s level students usually spend about 2-3 years completing their ultrasound technology prerequisites and general education courses. Topics studied include the humanities, communications, ethics, psychology, and healthcare business and finance.

The sequence of ultrasound technology core courses is very similar at the certificate, associate, and bachelor’s levels. However, bachelor’s students may have some extra time for advanced offerings like:

Advanced cardiac pathology

Learn correlate echocardiography results with other diagnostics like the stress test and ECG.

Congenital heart

Study the development of heart function in the human fetus and learn to identify abnormalities.

Research methods

Practice evaluating the strengths and limitations of ultrasound research.

Pediatric sonography

Gain familiarity with normal anatomy and common health conditions of babies, children, and teens.

Like their certificate- and associate-level counterparts, bachelor’s students complete extensive clinical rotations. The program also includes classes that prepare graduating students for certification and clinical practice.

Keys to Success as an Ultrasound Technologist

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Attention to detail

Ultrasound technologists must be able to focus on subtle details while working quickly, especially in busy departments.

Good physical health

Stamina and strength are important, as being a sonographer can be a very physical job.

Friendly professionalism

Along with proficient technical skills, techs must have good interpersonal skills since they work intimately with patients, many of whom may be anxious or in distress. Since they shouldn’t advise patients on their diagnosis or treatments, they must be able to maintain a neutral, yet friendly demeanor while performing procedures.

Additional Credentials

Most ultrasound technologists hold one or more certifications. Certification is strongly preferred by employers and required in some states.

The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) administers the following credentials. Available modalities are listed afterward in bullet points, where applicable. Certificants must choose at lease one modality.

Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS):

  • Breast
  • Pediatrics
  • Fetal echocardiography
  • OB/GYN
  • Abdomen

Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS):

  • Fetal echocardiography
  • Pediatric echocardiography
  • Adult echocardiography

Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT)

For ultrasound technologists, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists offers a credential called Registered Radiologic Technologist, Sonography Certified (RT(S)). Advanced certifications are available in breast and vascular sonography.

The Cardiovascular Credentialing International offers the following credentials for ultrasound technologists:

  • Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Sonographer (ACS)
  • Registered Phlebology Sonographer (RPhS)
  • Registered Vascular Specialist (RVS)
  • Registered Congenital Cardiac Sonographer (RCCS)
Elizabeth Burton, RDMS, RVT

Elizabeth Burton is a registered diagnostic sonographer (RDMS) in the Abdomen/Small Parts and OB/GYN specialties. She also is a Registered Vascular Tech (RVT). Elizabeth has 24 years of practice in diagnostic medical sonography and 18 years of experience specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. She is currently chief/staff sonographer for two private, busy OB/GYN practices in New Jersey. Additionally, Elizabeth is an experienced medical writer with published peer-reviewed articles in the Journal of Diagnostic Medical Sonography as well as co-authoring a book on Prenatal Tests and Ultrasound: The Facts, published by the Oxford University Press.

Elizabeth is married with 3 daughters, and is an amateur triathlete in her spare time.

x