How to Become an Ultrasound Technician

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Ultrasonography is an important part of the medical field that uses diagnostic medical imaging to create images of internal organs, muscles, and tissues. Specially trained medical professionals are required to perform ultrasounds on a variety of patients to diagnose many different conditions. This is the job of ultrasound technicians.


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What does an ultrasound technician do?

Ultrasound technicians use special equipment that creates high frequency sound waves to portray images of a particular area of the body to diagnose many different conditions such as the physical health of unborn babies. The images are transmitted, photographed, or videotaped so doctors and other medical professionals can interpret them and make a diagnosis. Ultrasound technicians explain procedures to patients and record their medical history. Throughout the procedures they direct patients into different positions and they create a variety of images. They take measurements, determine values, and analyze the images and present the information to physicians. Ultrasound technicians often specialize in a specific area such as obstetric, neurological, abdominal, cardiac, and breast sonography. Most ultrasound technicians work in hospitals and medical diagnostic centers.

What kind of training does an ultrasound technician need?

Ultrasound technicians need at least a high school diploma and most employers prefer applicants who have formal education. Ultrasound technicians usually complete training programs at vocational and technical schools, community colleges, universities, hospitals, and the military. Coursework often includes courses in anatomy and physiology, patient care, basic physics, medical ethics, and instrumentation. Ultrasound technologists must stay up to date on the advancements in the diagnostic medicine field.

Ultrasound technicians can earn voluntary certification and registration from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) to remain competitive in the field. Requirements include passing a series of examinations. Registered ultrasound technicians must complete continuing education credits to maintain their registration.

What are the prospects for a career as an ultrasound technician?

Employment of ultrasound technicians is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 19% from 2006 to 2016 (1). An aging and growing population will create an increased demand for diagnostic imaging and drive job growth.

Job prospects should be favorable especially for ultrasound technicians with extensive experience. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace ultrasound technicians that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do ultrasound technicians make?

As of October 2009, ultrasound technicians with less than 1 year experience earned average hourly rates between $17.12 and $24.07. Those with 1 to 4 years experience earned average hourly rates between $20.11 and $27.53 (2).

A career as an ultrasound technician is a great choice for people interested in diagnostic imaging. Ultrasound technologists must have good eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are essential because ultrasound technicians interact with a variety of patients and medical personnel. They must be able to explain technical procedures to patients and make them feel more comfortable.

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