Sonogram technicians (also called diagnostic medical sonographers) produce images of patients’ body structures in order to help physicians diagnose and monitor a variety of medical conditions.
How to Become a Sonogram Technician
In order to work in this field, you must obtain either an Associate of Applied Science degree or a Bachelor of Science degree. The associate’s program takes two years to complete while the bachelor’s requires four years of schooling. Courses vary by school, but you are likely to take:
Physiology – This course gives students an understanding of how internal organs work and what their proper functions are.
Equipment Use and Maintenance – Students learn how to operate transducers (probes), scan converters, and other equipment. They also learn how to maintain the machines and how to determine if there is a technical problem.
Medical Terminology – In order to properly communicate with physicians and other medical personnel, sonogram technicians need to have a good understanding of medical terminology. This includes anything related to human anatomy, diseases, medical devices, and medicine.
Patient Care – This course teaches students how to interact with patients, how prepare them for procedures, and how to record their medical history.
Ultrasound Principles – Students will complete several courses that cover the principles of ultrasound technology. The courses explain how sonography works and other aspects of the field.
Specialized Courses – There are many specialized courses that students can take in order to apply for an advanced job in the ultrasound field. They include abdominal sonography, breast sonography, and cardiac sonography.
Once students complete the curriculum, the final step to completing their education is attending an externship program. Students work in a hospital, physician’s office, or laboratory where they receive hands-on training under the close supervision of a medical professional. Externships vary, but usually they last six months and involve a full work schedule. During the program, students are evaluated in order to keep track of their progress. Once the externship is successfully completed, students can find an entry-level job.
Those who already work in the medical field such as CT and MRI technicians, registered nurses, and physician assistants, can spend one year completing a certificate program that focuses solely on sonography.
Certification and Licensure
While no states specifically require sonogram technicians to earn certification, some do require licensure. Generally, certification is a requirement in order to obtain a license. Even if you do not have to sit for the exam, you should still take it since most employers will only hire those who have professional certification.
There are several organizations which offer certification, and one of the most common is the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Their exam is known as the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer certification, and it consists of 110 multiple choice and situational-based questions. Test takers are given two hours to complete the test.
What are the Job Duties?
The day-to-day responsibilities of sonogram technicians differ based on their specialty. But there are several duties that nearly every technician’s job description includes:
- Analyzing imaging data to ensure sufficient coverage of the testing site
- Greeting patients and preparing them for their exam
- Maintaining and operating the ultrasound equipment
- Preparing preliminary findings for the physician
Job Outlook and Salary
If you are wondering if spending two to four years in school to become a sonogram technician is worth it, the answer is yes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states the number of sonography jobs is projected to rise 46 percent nationally until 2022. The average yearly salary is $66,410, and location, education, and certification are large factors in determining wages.
This is a general overview on how to become a sonogram technician. If you have any questions, contact us for more information.