Ultrasound Career: How To Become an Ultrasound Technician

sonographer examining a baby in womb using machine

While most people don't consider doctors' appointments to be fun, an ultrasound appointment is often one of the most joyous moments in a person's life. After all, what could be more exciting than seeing your baby for the first time?

If you like the idea of being a part of this significant moment in a person's life, you might want to consider a career as an ultrasound technician. 

How do you become an ultrasound technician?

Check out this ultrasound career guide to learn how to become an ultrasound technician. 

What Is an Ultrasound Technician? 

First things first, what exactly is an ultrasound technician?

An ultrasound technician, also known as a sonographer, works with special equipment that helps inform physicians more about what's going on in the patient's body. The equipment you use in this job transmits high-frequency sound waves into the patient's body. 

These waves are then reflected back into the equipment, which then processes the signals and displays them as an image on the screen. 

As you probably already know, ultrasounds are used for examining fetuses. But, they're also used for checking for abnormalities like tumors. 

As an ultrasound technician, you'll either work in a hospital or doctor's office. If you work in a hospital, you'll likely deal with a wider range of medical issues. Those who work in a doctor's office will primarily work under the doctor's area of specialization. 

Some specializations may include:

  • Breast sonographers
  • Abdominal sonographers
  • Neurosonographers
  • Musculoskeletal sonographers
  • Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers

Additionally, here are what your duties will include as an ultrasound technician:

  • Using and maintaining ultrasound equipment
  • Communicating the results of ultrasounds to nurses and physicians in charge
  • Communicating with patients before, during, and after their procedure
  • Sterilizing the ultrasound room
  • Tracking and maintaining patient records
  • Applying gel to the area that's to receive an ultrasound
  • Examining changes that are occurring in the patient's body

As an ultrasound technician, you can expect to make a pretty decent salary. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median ultrasound technician salary as of 2018 is $67,080, or $32.25 per hour. Job outlook through 2028 is at 14 percent, which is much faster than the national average. 

How to Become an Ultrasound Technician 

Now that you know a bit more about what an ultrasound technician does, let's discuss how to launch an ultrasound career. 

Education and Training 

The first step to becoming an ultrasound technician is earning a high school diploma or GED. After this, you have a few education options. You can either earn a certificate, an associate's degree, or a bachelor's degree. 

Certificate Program 

If you're looking to start your career as soon as possible, a certificate program is the way to go, as these programs only last one year. With a certificate program, you won't need to take any non-related classes in writing, language, etc. Instead, you'll solely focus on learning the practical skills it takes to become an ultrasound technician. 

Associate's Degree

An associate's degree will typically take two years to complete. Here are some courses you might take during an associate's degree program:

  • Concepts of Ultrasound
  • Principles of Ultrasound
  • Abdominal sonography
  • Physics
  • Pathophysiology
  • Sectional anatomy
  • Vascular sonography
  • Equipment and concepts used in the ultrasound field

Bachelor's Degree 

While earning an associate's degree is certainly sufficient to become an ultrasound technician, if you'd like to eventually transition into a management role, we'd suggest earning a bachelor's degree. 

Keep in mind, however, that most schools don't offer any type of ultrasound major. For this reason, it's best to choose a science major and then complete an ultrasound course after you finish your bachelor's degree. 

Schools and Programs 

There are ultrasound programs available throughout the nation. The majority of programs are based out of community colleges or universities.

However, you can also attend ultrasound school online. This is a great option for those who need to keep working full-time while attending school.

Certification and Licensing  

After you finish school, it's time for certification and licensing. While certification and licensing aren't required by every state, most clinics and hospitals will only hire certified ultrasound technicians. 

Professional certification can be earned through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). The ARDMS exam consists of 110 multiple-choice questions as well as situational-based questions. You'll be given two hours to complete the exam. 

In addition to the exam, you'll also need to choose a specialty from the list above. The specialty exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions, and you'll be given three hours to complete the test. 

Once you pass the exam, you can apply for licensure within your state. Keep in mind that if you ever move states, you'll need to reapply for licensure. 

Continuing Education 

Learning doesn't stop once you obtain your license. Through continuing medical education courses, ultrasound technicians can gain more expertise in the field. 

This won't just make you more successful in your current position, but it'll also increase your chances of receiving a promotion. Additionally, continuing education courses are required to maintain your certification.

For example, the ADRMS requires that certified ultrasound technicians complete 30 credits of continuing education courses in a 3-year period. To ensure compliance, a randomly selected group of technicians are audited each year. 

It's very important that you take continuing education courses through an accredited body. In addition to taking courses through the ADRMS, you may also take courses through the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS). 

Are You Ready to Launch Your Ultrasound Career?

Now that you've read this guide, it's time to launch your ultrasound career.  Before you know it, you'll be helping patients while enjoying a fulfilling career. 

For more healthcare career guides, be sure to check back in with our blog. 


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