Essential Career Information
- Cardiac/Vascular Sonographer
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
- Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
- Ultrasound Technician
- Ultrasound Technologist
What is a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?
Diagnostic medical sonographers operate imaging equipment in medical settings. Also called cardiovascular technologists or ultrasound technicians, diagnostic medical sonographers complete specialized training to use machines that create images of patients' bodies with high frequency sound waves. These images help doctors diagnose and treat medical conditions.
Diagnostic medical sonographers earn above-average salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average diagnostic medical sonographer salary exceeds $67,000 per year.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to be a diagnostic medical sonographer?
Most entry-level positions require an associate degree, which diagnostic medical sonographers can complete in two years. Many positions also require a professional certificate.
How much does a diagnostic medical sonographer make an hour?
Diagnostic medical sonographers earn over $32 an hour or an annual salary of over $67,000 on average, according to the BLS.
How do I become a diagnostic medical sonographer?
Prospective diagnostic medical sonographers can pursue an associate degree, bachelor's degree, or certificate from a college or university to qualify for employment.
Are sonographers in high demand?
Yes, the BLS projects jobs for diagnostic medical sonographers to grow 14% by 2028, which is faster than the national average for all occupations.
What Does a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Do?
Diagnostic medical sonographers specialize in creating medical images. Medical professionals use these images to diagnose medical conditions. For example, ultrasound technology can detect kidney stones, abnormal growths, and inflammatory conditions, like appendicitis. Unlike radiology, which relies on X-rays for medical imaging, sonography uses sound waves.
Diagnostic medical sonographers operate imaging equipment, identify abnormalities in images, provide diagnostic information to physicians, and answer patient questions about the procedure. Most diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals, doctors' offices, or diagnostic laboratories.
During their training, diagnostic medical sonographers can specialize to prepare for a career path after graduation. Sonographers may specialize in imaging the abdominal area, breast tissues, the heart, or the musculoskeletal system. Sonographers may also work in obstetrics and gynecology, imaging the female reproductive system.
Become a Sonographer
A diagnostic medical sonography certificate program provides specialized training for careers in radiology and sonography. A certificate program emphasizes transferable skills that lead to career opportunities and prepare graduates for a bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical sonography. Most certificate programs require previous college-level coursework in a healthcare field.
During a certificate program, students complete courses in ultrasound physics, vascular sonography, and abdominal sonography. Students also complete clinical experiences to build hands-on professional experience. Most programs take 12-18 months to complete and may include specializations like cardiac sonography, pediatric sonography, or vascular sonography.
Applicants must meet admission requirements before enrolling in a diagnostic medical sonography certificate program. Many programs set prerequisite courses for admission, such as anatomy, medical terminology, and physiology. Some programs require an associate degree for admission.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits diagnostic sonography certificate and degree-granting programs. CAAHEP measures student learning outcomes, assesses faculty qualifications, and evaluates graduation requirements. Many employers prefer to hire job candidates from CAAHEP-accredited institutions.
Associate Degree Programs
According to the BLS, most diagnostic medical sonographers need an associate degree for entry-level positions. During an associate program, sonography students take classes on topics like human anatomy, abdominal scanning, and ultrasound technology. Associate programs also incorporate general education courses in English, math, and science. Associate degrees typically comprise 60 credits and take two years of full-time study to complete.
In addition to meeting coursework requirements, associate degree students must complete clinical hours to strengthen their training. During a practicum, students work under the supervision of an approved mentor to build the skills required for diagnostic medical sonography careers. Many associate programs offer concentrations in areas like vascular sonography or echocardiography ultrasound. Students who choose a concentration complete advanced classes and clinical requirements, such as specialized labs.
Applicants may need to meet prerequisite requirements, hold a minimum GPA, and demonstrate professional experience in a healthcare setting. Some programs conduct interviews during the admission process. As with certificate programs, prospective students considering an associate degree in diagnostic medical sonography should choose CAAHEP-accredited programs, which benefit graduates in the job market.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
A bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical sonography helps graduates stand out in the job market and prepare for graduate study. During a bachelor's program, diagnostic medical sonographers complete general education and major-specific classes. Most programs take four years to complete, though transfer students with an associate degree often complete their bachelor's degree in two years.
Diagnostic medical sonography majors take classes on topics like medical imaging, anatomical cross-sections, and ultrasound science. Students often spend several months to a year completing clinical requirements through a supervised internship. During the internship, students work in hospitals and diagnostic laboratories to gain hands-on experience.
A bachelor's degree may offer several specialties, such as vascular sonography, OB/GYN sonography, and cardiac sonography. With a bachelor's degree and experience, diagnostic medical sonographers can assume leadership roles.
Bachelor's programs in diagnostic medical sonography are slightly less common than certificate and associate programs. Prospective diagnostic medical sonographers considering bachelor's programs can use the CAAHEP accreditation database to identify accredited programs.
Many employers prefer candidates with a professional license or certificate. Diagnostic medical sonographers can earn these credentials while completing their degree requirements or after gaining professional experience.
The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, and Cardiovascular Credentialing International all license diagnostic imaging workers. Candidates for licensure must hold an accredited degree or meet alternative qualification requirements.
During the licensure process, candidates must pass an examination. Depending on the license, candidates may take a general sonography exam, a specialized exam, or a combination of the two. Certified diagnostic medical sonographers must maintain their credentials by meeting continuing education requirements and paying a renewal fee.