A diagnostic medical procedure, Sonography makes use of high frequency sound waves known as "ultrasound" to capture dynamic images of different organs and tissues. Sonograms are used by doctors for diagnostic purposes to examine abdomen, prostate, breasts, female reproductive organs, blood vessels, heart and other areas.
Sonographers work directly with the patient and their responsibilities include preparing the patients for the procedure. They are also required to operate and maintain the Sonography equipment for optimal images, and for analyzing the results produced from imaging. A Diagnostic Medical Sonographer has a sound understanding of anatomy and recognizes anatomical variants and pathological conditions found during the exam. They then write down their observations in the form of a detailed report for other physicians.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018)
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers require formal education such as an associate’s degree or a bachelor's degree. Some employers even require professional certification and the requirement of licensure varies from one state to the other. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 an employment of 71,130 was seen in the country for this occupation, with Diagnostic Medical Sonographers earning an annual mean salary of $73,860. As per the latest stats, there's a positive job outlook as a 14% increase is estimated between 2018 and 2028.
To become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, an associate’s or a bachelor's degree is required. Students can also opt to graduate with a degree in some related field and later pursue a certification program. As part of an associate’s or a bachelor's degree program, students can choose a specialty like Abdominal Sonography, Echocardiography, Obstetrics/Gynecology and Vascular Sonography. Program credits include supervised training and clinical experience.
Steps to Become a Sonographer
Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree
While there's an option for a bachelor's degree and certificate programs, most students prefer to earn associate's degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. An extensive two-year program, an associate’s degree prepares the student to work in the field as they study different courses on Ultrasound and Sonography procedures. The degree covers various areas like anatomy - reproductive system, abdomen, nervous system, breasts and musculoskeletal system etc.
They are also taught skills like imaging techniques, abnormalities and patient care. It's important to earn degree from a school that's accredited with JRC-DMS, (Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography) along with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Step 2: Gain Experience
It's mandatory for Diagnostic Medical Sonography students to complete a clinical experience course by training in a hospital or some other medical facility. It gives the students the opportunity to apply their learning in a practical situation.
Step 3: Obtain Certification
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most states in American require certification which can be obtained through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Certification is offered in different specialties like Radiography, Radiation Therapy, Sonography, Nuclear Medicine Technology and Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
Certifications can also be obtained from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Sonographers are required to pass an exam if they want to be certified in any area like obstetrics and gynecology, breast and abdomen, among others. Certifications lead to better job prospects and BLS has projected a 14% growth from 2018 to 2028 in the employment of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.