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How to Become an Ultrasound Technician

What Does an Ultrasound Technician Do?

ultrasound technician during fetal ultrasound

When people think of ultrasound technicians (also known as sonographers or ultrasound technologists), they often visualize the TV shows, movies, or ads they’ve seen where ultrasound is used during pregnancy to give parents a peek inside the womb to view the moving and growing baby. This is probably the most famous utilization of ultrasound, but there are so many other uses for this powerful technology as well. Sonographers play a vital role in evaluating and diagnosing a huge range of medical conditions among pre-born, newborn, child, adult, and elderly patients.

The field of ultrasound has many different specialties: cardiac, OB/GYN, ophthalmic, vascular, abdominal, breast, interventional, and more. A sonographer’s skills are highly specialized and valued, and most students are able to find a niche within the specialty that fits them best. Not many careers can lay claim to such a breadth of opportunity for personal satisfaction as well as opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of patients.

Ultrasound relies on sound waves to produce images of internal organs, soft tissue, and blood vessels, as well as to observe developing fetuses in the womb. Since it is non-invasive and does not use radiation, it is perfectly safe and harmless in trained hands. Ultrasound also has the benefit of being less expensive to utilize than many other imaging techniques (such as MRI or CT scan), so ultrasound is often the preferred, first-option exam.

Ultrasound hinges on the skill of the operator, which means that ultrasound technicians must arm themselves with a strong knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, as well as mastery of the technology itself. Performing a quality ultrasound requires a well-trained operator who can correctly position the patient and record accurate images, distinguishing the normal anatomy from the abnormal. These professionals must know how to take medical histories in order to guide their ultrasound examinations. Last but not least, they must be able to do all those tasks while directly interacting with the patient.

During examinations, ultrasound technicians enjoy a variety of crucial duties. They must select and capture the best images, take measurements, make calculations and even evaluate the preliminary results. All of this work during their examination directly aids doctors in making the correct diagnosis so that successful treatment can begin.

Workplace Details

Approximately 60% of ultrasound technicians work in hospitals, either at a stationary location in a diagnostics area or by conducting mobile ultrasounds at the bedside of patients who cannot be transported. Hospital-based sonographers often take on-call hours one or two times a week and must be able to show up any time of day or night if there is need for an emergency ultrasound.

Outside of the hospital, there are plenty of opportunities for experienced ultrasound techs to work in private physician offices and/or outpatient diagnostic imaging clinics. There are plenty of full-time opportunities, but one of the benefits of being a specialized medical provider is the ability to find part-time and flexible work hours.

Ultrasound technicians spend a lot of time on their feet and on the move, a relief for those who do not want a job sitting behind a desk.

Ultrasound Technician 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.

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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

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median pay of ultrasound technicians is $69,650. The lowest ten percent of earners make a median salary of $48,660 while the highest ten percent make a median of $99,100. Higher salaries are generally available to ultrasound technicians who have more years of experience; earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees; take on administrative or supervisory roles; or complete advanced specializations. Some technicians also increase their salaries by working for private industry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job growth for ultrasound technicians from 2014-2024 will be 26%, which is much higher than average. Many different fields of medicine increasingly rely on ultrasound as a diagnostic imaging tool. Sonography is irreplaceable by any other imaging technique. As medicine continues to place increased emphasis on less invasive diagnostic techniques and cost-effective care, the demand for ultrasound exams and the sonographers who can perform them will continue to increase. Positions can be found nationwide.

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 Technician

1

Do some planning and homework before enrolling in an ultrasound program.

High school students interested in applying to an ultrasound technologist training program should pursue a curriculum rich in science, computer, and math courses. Familiarity with computers is important, since most ultrasound equipment is computer-based. Physics courses are helpful as well, since you will be required to learn and master ultrasound-based physics courses and exams. These subjects should also be enjoyable for you.

Once you’re ready to explore school options, it is crucially important to make sure that the school you plan to attend is accredited. Ultrasound schools are poorly regulated compared to X-ray and other medical professions, so do your research. To find out if a school is accredited, check with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRCDMS). Some (but not all) hospitals, community colleges, universities, vocational schools, and the Armed Forces provide accredited sonographer training programs.

Online ultrasound training programs do exist, but it is important to verify that these programs are accredited and that they will provide you with clinical hours. While the classroom work can be done online, the extensive clinical time that will be required cannot.

2

Complete the educational requirements of an accredited ultrasound program.

Sonography students need to complete an associate’s degree or postgraduate certificate program from an accredited program in order to be eligible to take the qualifying exams. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees are also available. People who are already in a related allied health profession may be candidates for one-year certificate programs.

Ultrasound technologist programs require both classroom and clinical time. Clinical internships are where students observe, learn, and practice ultrasound skills in a healthcare setting on live patients under the direct guidance of experienced sonographers and physicians. Reputable ultrasound schools should provide the clinical sites for students to obtain these hours. Over 1000 hours of clinical training are required before you can take your qualifying examinations.

Show Me Schools »

3

Get certified as a registered diagnostic medical sonographer.

Many employers prefer to hire ultrasound technicians who have completed their certifying exams to become ‘registered’, earning the credential RDMS (Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer). In order to become registered, students who have graduated from an accredited program must pass exams offered either by the ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) or by the ARRT (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists).

4

Get licensed in your state, if necessary.

Not many states require licensure, but some do. In cases where state licensure is necessary, certification is often a prerequisite for getting your license, but requirements are not consistent from state to state. Your best bet is to contact your state’s medical board for specifics.

5

Advance your career.

Ultrasound technicians enjoy opportunities to specialize in an exciting variety of areas such as the following:

  • Breast ultrasound
  • Obstetrics and gynecology ultrasound
  • Vascular ultrasound
  • Cardiac ultrasound (Echocardiography)
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Neurosonography
  • Ophthalmologic ultrasonography

Ultrasound technologists can also progress to supervisory and management roles, such as senior technologist, department supervisor, clinical instructor, or program director. Further opportunities exist outside of patient care working for ultrasound manufacturers in more business-based roles such as sales, applications, or client relations.

Exploring Degree Paths

ASSOCIATE DEGREE

2 years

Earning an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in ultrasound technology or diagnostic medical sonography is a great way to start your career as an ultrasound technician.

One advantage of this pathway: most employers prefer to hire candidates with an associate degree at minimum. Also, if you graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), you can take the certification exam immediately after graduation.

Associate degree programs can be found at many 2- and 4-year colleges (see CAAHEP’s website for a useful listing.) Some are generalist in focus while others emphasize a modality like vascular or cardiac ultrasound. (The latter is also known as echocardiography.)

Show Me Schools »

The associate degree curriculum combines general allied health classes, ultrasound technology classes, and hands-on clinical experience. Expect to learn about:

Anatomy and physiology

Explore the structure and function of the body, from the cellular to the organ system levels.

College algebra

Learn to solve a variety of problems using equations, graphing, and functions.

Foundations of sonography

Practice applying imaging protocols and differentiating normal and abnormal anatomy during scanning.

Clinical sonography

Gain the skills you need to function in the imaging lab, including patient assessment, communication, instrumentation, and documentation.

In addition, expect to spend many hours practicing your skills under supervision during clinical rotations.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE

4 years

Having a bachelor’s (BS, BSRS) in sonography, radiologic science, or ultrasound technology won’t necessarily earn you more money - especially right out of the gate. But it can be quite attractive to employers, particularly if you’re in a competitive job market.

Completing a four-year degree can also open doors to career advancement, especially if you’re interested in healthcare management, teaching or research. And of course, the longer course of study gives you some room to explore your clinical and personal interests.

Most bachelor’s-level ultrasound tech programs are found at 4-year universities. However, many of these have articulation agreements with 2-year colleges that allow you to easily transfer a certain number of credits.

Expect to spend 2-3 years taking general education, science, and patient care classes before progressing to the ultrasound technology portion of the curriculum. The final sequence of classes is very close to year two of an associate degree, with options like:

Vascular anatomy and pathology

Learn to diagnose and evaluate the progression of diseases affecting the blood vessels.

Genitourinary anatomy and pathology

Practice identifying abnormalities of the pelvis, including the kidneys, prostate, scrotum, and female reproductive system.

Abdominal anatomy and pathology

Use ultrasound to scan the organs and superficial structures of the torso area, including the liver, breast, gallbladder, thyroid, and abdominal blood vessels.

Obstetrical anatomy and pathology

Explore common maternal diseases and abnormalities of the developing fetus.

CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

1-2 years

Got a degree in another health-related field? If so, you can train as an ultrasound technician by completing a certificate program.

Hospitals, health systems, universities, community colleges, technical and career colleges all sponsor one-year certificate programs in ultrasound technology. Some programs emphasize a specific modality like cardiac or vascular ultrasound.

Admission to a certificate program in ultrasound technology usually requires:

  • An associate degree in an allied health major (e.g., radiologic technology, respiratory therapy, nursing), or
  • A bachelor’s degree (acceptable majors vary by program).

There are a few certificate programs that admit students with no previous degree, so long as they’ve met certain coursework prerequisites. If you choose this route, it’s essential to enroll in a program with CAAHEP accreditation. Graduates of non-accredited certificate programs can have difficulty getting certified.

The certificate curriculum is very similar to the final year of an associate or bachelor’s degree program in ultrasound technology, covering topics like:

Ultrasound physics

Introduces students to the science and equipment used in scanning.

Small parts sonography

Practice scanning structures like the breast, scrotum, thyroid, and prostate.

Obstetrical sonography

Learn to identify normal and abnormal anatomy of the fetus and pelvic structures in pregnant women.

Vascular sonography

Gain experience scanning the upper and lower extremities and carotid artery area.

Certificate programs also include extensive clinical rotations at imaging centers, clinics, and hospitals.

Keys to Success as an Ultrasound Technician

Necessary Skills and Qualities

People skills

Sonographers rely on excellent verbal and interpersonal relationship skills in order to work effectively with patients and colleagues.

Manual dexterity and physical strength

Sometimes a tech needs to reposition or transfer patients, which may require a lot of upper body strength and consequently brings the risk of muscle strains and repetitive use injuries.

Good safety skills and awareness

As with most healthcare professions, ultrasound technicians can also be exposed to various health risks, including infectious agents such as HIV and hepatitis.

Critical thinking

Sonographers must have excellent critical thinking skills in order to understand the anatomy any pathology, selecting the images that will be most useful for physicians.

Additional Credentials

Certification of ultrasound technicians is strongly preferred by employers and required for licensure in some states. The following organizations offer primary and advanced certifications for sonographers:

Generalist ultrasound certifications:

  • Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS). Offered in several modalities, including breast (BR), abdomen (AB), OB/GYN, fetal echocardiography (FE), and pediatric ultrasound (PS). Administered by ARDMS.
  • Registered Radiologic Technologist, Sonography Certified (RT(S)). After primary RT(S) certification, ultrasound technicians can seek advanced certifications in breast and vascular ultrasound. Administered by ARRT.

Cardiac ultrasound and echocardiography certifications:

  • Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS). Offered in several modalities, including adult echocardiography (AE), fetal echocardiography (FE), and pediatric echocardiography (PE). Administered by ARDMS.
  • Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS). Administered by CCI.
  • Advanced Cardiac Sonographer (ACS). Administered by CCI
  • Registered Congenital Cardiac Sonographer (RCCS). Administered by CCI.

Vascular ultrasound certifications:

  • Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT). Administered by ARDMS.
  • Registered Phlebology Sonographer (RPhS). Administered by CCI.
  • Registered Vascular Specialist (RVS). Administered by CCI.
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.

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