A sonographer is an integral part of the healthcare industry because of the important role he or she plays in diagnosing illnesses and injuries. While working alongside of surgeons and physicians, sonographers create tests and images of the body using special imagining equipment. Sonographers are also referred to as diagnostic medical sonographers or diagnostic imaging workers. Here is an overview of sonographers, including what they do, educational requirements and career outlook.
What is a Sonographer?
A sonographer is a trained medical professional who works in the X-ray or imaging department of a hospital, clinic or healthcare facility. Sonographers work alongside vascular and cardiovascular technologists and technicians in taking and developing images used to help patients and assess the patient’s condition. They prepare the patients for the test, explain the procedure, operate the imaging equipment, review and analyze the test results, provide a summary for the physician and document test results and monitor patient health records. Although sonographers do not directly give results to the patient, the sonographer does have the knowledge to recognize the difference between a normal and abnormal test.
How to Become a Sonographer
Becoming a sonographer requires completing an approved sonography program, which is usually offered at community colleges and technical schools. Most sonography programs are associate degree programs, but some students may choose to earn bachelor’s degrees in sonography. For a program to be approved, it should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
Sonography students will take courses in medical terminology, anatomy, applied sciences and various sonography classes. They also complete lab studies and clinical education. The clinical component typically is an internship where the students obtain hands-on training. Certification may not also be required but is required in some areas of employment. Most employers prefer hiring candidates who are certified.
Sonography graduates can obtain certification by completing formal training and passing an exam through agencies like the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists or American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. Certification can also be earned through the Cardiovascular Credentialing International. A sonographer can specialize in a specific type of sonography by completing a sonography program and obtaining certification in the specialized area. Below are some of the possibilities.
- Abdominal sonography
- Breast sonography
- Cardiac sonography
- Musculoskeletal sonography
- Pediatric sonography
- Obstetric and gynecologic sonography
- Vascular sonography
Career Outlook for Sonographers
Diagnostic medical sonographers are predicted to see an employment growth of 23 percent during the decade of 2016-2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The aging population is consistently in need of diagnostic imaging tests to help diagnose illnesses, which puts sonographers highly in demand. The BLS reports that sonographers earn an average annual wage of $71,410, with wages ranging from $50,760 to $99,840 or more. Factors like experience, years of training, certifications, employee and geographical location can all play a role in determining wages.
While the highest number of sonographers are employed in general medical and surgical hospitals, sonographers may also find positions working in physicians’ offices; medical and diagnostic laboratories; outpatient care centers and specialty hospitals. Here are the states that pay the highest wages for sonographers.
- California – $91,700
- Hawaii – $90,250
- District of Columbia – $89,140
- Washington – $87,440
- Oregon – $86,140
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Imaging technology is often a necessity in diagnosing and treating illnesses and diseases. It’s also a safer alternative to radiation treatments, which makes sonographers a valued member of the healthcare industry. A career in sonography can be lucrative, challenging and very rewarding.