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Become an Ultrasound Technician

Published on January 13, 2010.

In this article, you can learn about what it takes to become an ultrasound technician as well as an overview of job responsibilities, necessary training, educational requirements, salary expectations, and more.

Ultrasound technicians may choose to specialize in obstetric and gynecological sonography, abdominal sonography or other areas.

Ultrasound Technician Job Duties

Ultrasound technicians are medical practitioners who use diagnostic imaging (sonography) to diagnose medical conditions. They operate special equipment which generates sound waves to make images that are useful in understanding what is happening in the body. Ultrasound technology is used frequently for obstetric issues (to observe a growing fetus for health issues, for example) as well as to help diagnose other medical conditions.

Sonography, also known as ultrasonography, directs high-frequency sound waves into an individual's body. These sound waves produce an image from the reflected sound echoes. In turn, ultrasound technicians can photograph, record, and transmit these images for review and diagnosis by a physisican.

Ultrasound Technicians can perform the following job duties:

  • Setting the patient at ease and explaining the procedure
  • Taking down and recording medical history of the patient
  • Operating and maintaining the equipment
  • Helping the patient position her/himself for the most accurate image
  • Picking the best images to pass along to the physician for review

Ultrasound Job Skills

To begin, ultrasound technicians typically need a good understanding of anatomy and physiology. In addition, ultrasound technicians should also possess the following job skills:

  • An ability to pay attention to detail in order to record patient information accurately
  • Good communication skills to build a rapport with the patient
  • Physical strength and stamina need to assist, turn, or lift a patient
  • The ability to understand, operate, and maintain complex diagnostic equipment
  • The ability to assess which images are most useful to a physician

Ultrasound Technician Income

In 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for ultrasound technicians was $61,980 with the top 10 percent earning $83,950 per year. Depending on industry, location, and experience, annual earnings for ultrasound technicians may vary.

Hospitals and physicians' offices had the highest rate of employment for ultrasound technicians in 2008. Ultrasound technicians earned the following mean wages in 2008:

  • Hospital: $62,690
  • Physician's Office: $62,870

Training and Education Requirements to Become an Ultrasound Technician

To become a ultrasound sonographer, it is usually best to get a two- to four-year degree at an accredited college. Studies may include anatomy, physiology, patient care, medical ethics, and more. Sometimes someone with medical experience can get a one-year certificate instead. Rarely is someone hired with a high school degree only, although one might get training through the armed forces. Training can happen in a hospital, diagnostic imaging center, or physician's office.

Although no state requires licensure, the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) certifies the competence of ultrasound technicians. To be registered one must pass the exam (both general and specialty).

Ultra Sound Technician Employment

According to the 2008 Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 48,920 ultrasound technicians in the United States. More than half work in hospitals, while numerous others are employed in physician's offices or diagnostic imaging centers.

Ultrasound Technician Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for ultrasound technicians looks favorable. The need for professionals with these skills is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations over the next decade.

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