Sonographer Career Guide

Overview & Job Duties

Sonography is an advanced diagnostic medical technique in which ultrasound technology directs sound waves to a particular body part in order to create a two- or three-dimensional image of muscles, vessels, tendons, or other internal organs. In obstetrics, sonograms are used to monitor the development of a fetus without risk of injury to either the fetus or the mother.

A working sonographer understands the basic and advanced technical practices required of them to provide the best possible care to his or her patients. If you have a genuine desire to help others and the technical ability to operate an intricate piece of machinery, continue to read through this career guide to learn how you can enter and succeed in this fulfilling and exciting career.

Sonographers use special equipment and procedures to analyze illnesses, diseases, injuries, and other medical issues for diagnostic and treatment purposes. By doing so, many conditions are caught early enough to benefit from proper treatment, while other conditions might be prevented from occurring at all. All of this is accomplished through a piece of equipment known as a sonogram machine, which directs sound waves at a certain body part. The ultrasound equipment then converts these sound waves into a visual image.

Medical sonographers also prepare the sonogram equipment for use. While the sonogram technician gets the patient seated, the practitioner applies a special gel on the body part or parts to be examined and assures that the patient is ready for imaging. Because many people are unfamiliar with the ultrasound process, sonographers must communicate with their patients and help prepare them mentally and physically for the procedure. This includes educating them about the equipment used, the application of gel, and simply alleviating any fears or addressing any concerns the patient might have.

Finally, if the sonographer finds anything troubling with the ultrasound, he or she must prepare a report detailing his or her findings. This report then goes to the patient’s physician so that the patient can receive any necessary treatment or additional tests.

Career Outlook

There is a great demand for sonographers in many different settings, including hospitals, clinics, care centers, diagnostic laboratories, and medical colleges and universities. In May 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 54,760 practicing sonographers in the United States. This field will continue to grow as the larger healthcare industry becomes more complex and more demanding.

Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average sonographer’s annual salary in 2012 was $65,800.

Education Requirements

Although there is no hard and fast rule for minimum education requirements, nearly all employers seek candidates who hold at least an associate’s degree or certificate in sonography. Certification requirements vary from one state to another; few require professionals to be licensed through specific national or regional bodies, but attaining certification is an excellent way to showcase your skills and make you stand out from other job seekers. Be sure to check with your state’s licensing board so that you are aware of all local requirements before beginning to seek work.

For the ambitious, professionals might opt for a more involved training program, such as a four-year bachelor’s degree or a degree in radiologic technology to improve employment and salary prospects.

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