Learn about the field of medical sonography, the basic duties you’ll be responsible for, and the educational path toward becoming a sonographer.
What is a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?
A diagnostic medical sonographer is a healthcare professional working primarily with ultrasound equipment to diagnose and help treat medical conditions.
Sonographers work with ultrasound technology to take images, assess them, and relay their findings to doctors. They play a crucial role in identifying diseases/conditions and developing next steps including a patient’s treatment options.
Other responsibilities medical sonographers may have include but are not limited to:
- Operate imaging equipment
- Correctly identify normal and abnormal test results
- Promptly communicate imaging results to doctors
- Prepare patients for procedures and guide them as needed throughout exam
- Ensure images are high quality
- Both review and update patient records based on test results
- Coordinate care/next steps with doctors and other respective departments
What Medical Sonographers Do
Again, the imaging medical sonographers carry out is critical in patient diagnosis and treatment. A good sonographer will be able to work well with patients, take high-quality images, and be able to identify any abnormalities as they appear on these images.
Not only do diagnostic sonographers need to be able to work with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare personnel, but also with their patients. Patients tend to be of all ages, ranging from infants, children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly.
Diagnostic sonographers may work evenings, weekends, and holidays, depending on their employer. Many sonographers work in hospitals, but others may be employed in doctors’ offices, diagnostic laboratories, and other clinical healthcare settings.
How to Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
The most typical paths toward becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer are either earning a bachelor’s or associate degree from a university, or receiving a certificate from an accredited certificate program.
Let’s explore both options.
Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Sonography
Enrolling in an associate or bachelor’s degree sonography program at a university can take years to complete. An associate degree program in diagnostic medical sonography tends to take around 2 years to complete. Whereas earning a bachelor’s degree will generally take closer to 4 years.
It is also likely a university curriculum will include other prerequisite classes unrelated to sonography; these could include but are not limited to: English, math, unrelated sciences, history, etc. Some sonography students may choose the route of university education if they wish for a more well-rounded curriculum. Generally, university sonography programs will require a combination of classroom learning and hands-on clinical experience.
However, university education tends to take longer than certificate programs do to complete. In addition, university students are more likely to accrue a larger amount of student debt than students in certificate programs.
Certificate Programs in Medical Sonography
The time it takes for students to complete medical sonography certificate programs tends to range from a year to 18 months, depending on state requirements and the program you are in.
Classes in certificate programs are specific to medical sonography and may include: anatomy, applied sciences, medical terminology, vascular scanning, principles of general sonography, ultrasound, patient care, OB/GYN, abdominal scanning and pathology, clinical internship and labs, and more. Certificate programs will require a combination of classroom learning and hands-on clinical experience.
Also, it is important to verify that the program you are applying to is accredited by The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If your school or program is not an accredited institution, you may not be eligible for future certifications, or even employment.
Medical Sonography Certifications
Getting certification in medical sonography is generally encouraged. In some states, it is required to work as a sonographer, and some employers may prefer sonographers who are certified as opposed to those who are not.
To earn your certification, you must take a certification exam that is offered by a medical board administration. One of the most recognized boards for diagnostic medical sonographers is the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
A common certification ARDMS administers for medical sonographers is the RDMS, or Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer certification. The RDMS certification can give you a critical edge against any competing candidates in the hiring pool.
Medical Sonography Pay and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2021, diagnostic medical sonographers earned an average of $80,680 per year, with the top 10 percent earning closer to $101,650. The BLS also reported that demand for medical sonographers is set to increase 10 percent by 2031, which is faster than the national average for all occupations.
Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Today!
With great pay and a high industry demand, becoming a medical sonographer can lead to an excellent career. Search for a diagnostic medical sonography program now.