The medical field has a variety of options when it comes to career choice. Being an ultrasound technician is one of such options. If you want to pursue a career in the health profession that is constantly in demand and very rewarding, then this profession may be the right choice.
Thousands of men and women choose a career as ultrasound technicians. However, many steer clear of medical professions because they fear that it takes too much time to get an education and begin working. This is true for certain specializations but you can study to be an ultrasound technician in no time.
Ultrasound technicians also referred to as diagnostic medical sonographers, operate equipment that utilize sound waves to create images of internal body structures. Reflected sound waves are used to create an image of the inside of a patient’s body.
It is commonly used in obstetrics but can also be used to diagnose other medical conditions. Sonographers get to experience firsthand the satisfaction from diagnosing a patient’s medical condition. They also get to share in the joy of participating in one of the most thrilling moments of an expecting mother’s pregnancy, viewing a fetus.
Not so many careers can be associated with such a positive impact on the life of patients and claim such a breadth of experience. Since ultrasound is non-invasive and does not require any injection of dyes or use of radiation, it’s considered one of the safest diagnostic imaging tools, especially for pregnant women and children.
The central importance of an ultrasound technician’s diagnostic work requires technicians to arm themselves with a strong knowledge of physiology and human anatomy as well as a masterly of how to use the technology.
Performing a quality ultrasound requires a skilled operator who can record accurate images by correctly positioning the patient. These professionals must also know how to take medical histories to guide them in ultrasound examinations and have the ability to distinguish normal anatomy from the abnormal.
There are plenty of crucial duties technicians enjoy as they carry out examinations. This includes capturing and selecting the best images, taking measurements, making calculations and even evaluating the preliminary results. All of this work during examination helps physicians makes correct diagnosis before treatment can begin.
Ultrasound technician salary range
As of May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has it that the ultrasound technician average salary is about USD 67000. Pay ranges from about $45000-$92000. Ultrasound technicians with more years of experience, supervisory or administrative roles, or those who have completed advanced specializations generally have higher salaries. Some technicians in the private industry also earn higher salaries.
Technicians operate ultrasound equipment to record and produce images according to physician directives. They also observe the screen during the scan and make necessary adjustments to ensure satisfactory images for diagnostic purposes.
Another task is to explain the procedure to patients and prepare them for an ultrasound exam. The technician is also responsible for processing and coding film, images, videotapes or print and completely documenting them for interpretation by the physician.
Most Sonographers work in hospitals, either in a diagnostic area, a stationary location or by conducting mobile ultrasounds at the bedside of patients who cannot be transported. Some technicians work in outpatient diagnostic imaging clinics or in physician offices. Part time work and flexible hours are possible but most employers hire technicians to work 40 hour weeks.
There is also the option to work as a travelling tech who moves around the country or abroad. Another alternative is to work as a mobile sonographer. This involves operating mobile sonography machines that are transported in vans and used for patients who are unable to travel to clinics or hospitals for their exams. Mobile sonography is widely used for wounded soldiers in the battle field.
If you don’t want a job sitting behind a desk, it’s a great career choice. Sometimes techs need to transfer or reposition patients while performing ultrasound, which requires spending a great deal of time on your feet.
Ultrasound technician education
There are plenty of ultrasound technician schools to choose from. To qualify in the field, you need to complete an associate degree or postgraduate certificate program from an accredited institution. If you are interested in the career, you should attend a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
If you are a high school student interested in applying to a sonography training program, it is important to pursue a curriculum rich in science, math and computer studies. Since most ultrasound equipment is computer based, familiarity with computers is important. Hospitals, universities, community colleges, vocational schools and even the armed forces all provide sonography training programs.
Professionals in other related health fields can also obtain training through 1 year sonography programs which award vocational certificates. Online training programs also exist, but it is important to ensure the program is accredited by the American Registry in Radiology Technologists (ARRT). Be sure that the online programs also provide for clinical training internships.
Ultrasound technician training
Clinical internships are a requirement for Sonographic training programs. This is where students get to learn essential ultrasound skills in a healthcare setting. On the job training also occurs after training through continuing education opportunities and professional conferences.
Many employers prefer to hire technicians with professional certifications. After completing your training program, you are eligible to become professionally certified by taking examinations offered by ARRT and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). If you opt to pursue specialization, passing additional examination is usually a requirement with exams varying with specialty.
Qualities and skills
Ultrasound technicians rely on excellent interpersonal relationships and verbal skills as well as good manual dexterity. It is also essential to have excellent critical thinking skills in order to select images that will be most useful to physicians.
Ultrasound technician jobs
Some of the exciting variety of specialization opportunities as an ultrasound technician include: breast ultrasound, vascular ultrasound, obstetrics and gynecology ultrasound, neurosonography, cardiac ultrasound and ophthalmologic ultrasonography. Technicians can also progress to supervisory roles such as assistant chief technologist, senior technologist, supervisor, chief technologist, program director or instructor. An additional bachelor’s or master’s degree enables one to be an educator.
The estimated job growth for ultrasound technicians from 2012-2022 is estimated at 46% (Bureau of Labor statistics). The demand for such professionals is increasing by the day as modern medicine continues to emphasize on cost effective care and less invasive diagnostic techniques. Positions can be found nationwide as more fields of medicine make use of ultrasound technology as a diagnostic imaging tool.
A great thing about working in the medical field is that there’s very high job security. We will always need people working in medicine. If you just graduated high school or you are looking for a great long term career, consider looking into this profession.
Learn what you need to know in order to get started as a ultrasound specialist.