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Ultrasound Technician Career Guide

A career as an ultrasound technician is a healthcare career that is growing fast, offering a wide range of development opportunities. To become an ultrasound technician, you must complete an associates or bachelors degree program in sonography from a college or universities. Alternatively, you can complete a one-year certificate program from colleges and some hospitals.

Sonography is not just my career, it is my superpower.

Katherine Tineo

Ultrasound Technician Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Ultrasound Technician Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Ultrasound Technician field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33187 Echocardiographer Male 25 $65,000 Austin, TX 01/01/2010
33021 Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Female 52 $22,000 Farmington Hills, MI 01/01/2010

Overview

What a ultrasound technician actually does

An ultrasound technician, also referred to as a sonographer or diagnostic medical sonographer, uses ultrasound transducers to create images that other medical professionals will then use to diagnose and assess medical conditions.

There are many different types of ultrasound technicians. Some specialize in obstetric or gynecological ultrasounds, which provide images of the female reproductive system. Others may specialize in abdominal, breast, musculoskeletal or vascular sonography. Regardless of which area an ultrasound technician decided to specialize in, their typical daily duties and responsibilities include:

  • Preparing the examination room and ultrasound equipment to conduct examinations
  • Assisting radiologists and other healthcare professionals as needed
  • Recognizing and recording the appropriate anatomy and pathology using sonographic equipment
  • Writing patient reports based on the results of the scan
  • Alerting the appropriate medical staff of any abnormalities that need immediate attention
  • Maintaining the strictest levels of confidentiality
Why they are needed

An ultrasound is often one of the first tests requested when trying to diagnose a pregnancy, disease or condition. Ultrasound technicians are uniquely trained to operate complex ultrasound transducers and recognize the types of organs and tissues in the images. They are also trained to identify abnormal images, analyze diagnostic information, and record their findings. These unique skills make ultrasound technicians very valuable medical professionals – they play a huge role in the early detection and prevention of illness and disease.

Pros and cons of a career as an ultrasound technician:

Pros:

  • To become an ultrasound technician, the education required is not particularly lengthy. It is possible to be an ultrasound technician in as little as two years
  • It is a fast growing career, meaning there are lots of job opportunities
  • There are lots of diverse opportunities to specialize and there is the option to work in a variety of work settings (e.g., in hospitals, outpatient care centers, clinics of doctors offices)
  • It is a very rewarding career as an ultrasound is often the first step to detecting disease and saving lives

Cons:

  • Depending on where you work, the hours that an ultrasound technician work can be erratic and long
  • Ultrasound technicians spend a lot of time on their feet and may have to lift patients or equipment, so it is crucial that they maintain physical stamina, strength and fitness
  • It can be an emotionally draining career as the results of an ultrasound are not always favourable
  • Like most healthcare professions, there is an exposure to diseases, viruses and hazardous materials which can pose a health risk

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to grow 17% percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.

This employment growth, and therefore promising job prospects, is expected due to the need to diagnose many medical conditions in the large baby-boom population. This is expected to increase as the population ages.

Career paths

To become an ultrasound technician, you can complete an associates or bachelors degree program in sonography for a college or universities. One-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals. In order to have the best employment opportunities, it is best to enrol in programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Diagnostic imaging personnel who are certified are expected to have the best job opportunities as most employers prefer to hire diagnostic imaging workers with professional certification, or they may expect applicants to earn certification shortly after being hired. Many insurance providers and Medicare pay for procedures only if a certified sonographer, technologist, or technician performed the work.

Most of the certifications are for specialties in diagnostic imaging, for example, an ultrasound technician can earn a certification in abdominal sonography. Most ultrasounds technicians have at least one certification, but many earn multiple certifications. Certification is available from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical SonographersCardiovascular Credentialing International, and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Typically, ultrasound technicians can earn certification by graduating from an accredited program and passing an exam. It is also possible to qualify through alternative combinations of education and experience and then passing an exam.

Example Job Titles for Ultrasound Technician

Below is a list of common job titles in the Ultrasound Technician field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics,  the median annual wage for cardiovascular technologists and technicians in the United States $57,720 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,370.

The median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $74,320 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,770, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,060.

Autonomy and Flexibility

Ultrasound technicians have to follow the instructions of other medical professionals, such as physicians, to find what is wrong with patients and what sort of imaging is required. They also have to report all problems to physicians, meaning that the autonomy and flexibility may not be too high.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be an Ultrasound technician in the United States, best on average annual salary and average number of jobs, were:

  1. New Hampshire, where the average annual salary is $87,866
  2. Pennsylvania, where the average annual salary is $88,226
  3. West Virginia, where the average annual salary is $85,969
  4. Rhode Island, where the average annual salary is $89,520
  5. Maine, where the average annual salary is $85,565

The worst states, based on salary and job opportunity are Washington, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Montana.

Work environment

79% of all cardiovascular technologists and technicians in the United States were employed by hospitals, 12% were employed by office of physicians, 3% by outpatient care centers and 2% by medical and diagnostic laboratories. 61% of diagnostic medical sonographers in the United States were employed by hospitals. 21% were employed by offices of physicians, 11% by medical and diagnostic laboratories and 4% by outpatient care centers.

Ultrasound technicians, from any specialization, will spend lots of their day on their feet and may have to lift or turn ill or disabled patients. They tend to work as part of medical teams and work full time, sometimes having to work evening, weekends or overnight.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Ultrasound Technician careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Ultrasound Technician career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Ultrasound Technician.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

Investigative, social and realistic are considered to be the Holland Code types that correspond most to  those of an ultrasound technician. This is because these traits tend to be people who are practical, logical and data-driven but are also friendly, outgoing and empathetic.

Accomplishment and mastery

As ultrasound technicians can train to become an ultrasound technician relatively quickly, there is a high sense of skill mastery. On top of this, accomplishment can be high as ultrasound technicians continue to develop their skills and experience and become more knowledgable at detecting illness and disease.

The meaning and contribution of the work of an ultrasound technician is high. This is because their unique skills and training allow them to detect illnesses and disease and aid patients on their journey to recovery.

Life fit

Ultrasound technicians normally work full time. They may have to work evening, weekends or overnight depending on who they are employed by. Based on this, it can be a career that offers a difficult life fit due to antisocial hours. However, it is possible to seek opportunities that offer fixed and sociable working hours, which offers a better life fit.

Who will thrive in this career?

To thrive as an ultrasound technician, you will need to have excellent mental strength as they will face extreme illness and patients in distress and will need to deal with this. Similarly, those with physical strength will thrive, as ultrasound technicians will be on their feet all day and may have to lift or turn patients.

Those with a natural eye for detail will thrive, as successful ultrasound technicians must be able to spot the smallest abnormalities in the human body in order to detect the early stages of disease. Similarly, excellent hand eye coordination is likely to help someone to thrive in this career as ultrasound technicians must delicately handle ultrasound equipment.

Who will struggle in this career?

Those who have no interest in working with the ill will, obviously, struggle as an ultrasound technician. Similarly, those who are unable to keep up with the physical demands of the job may struggle to thrive in this career. Also, those who do not have a strong stomach for extreme illnesses will struggle to thrive as an ultrasound technician as the purpose of the job is to detect illness and disease.

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as physical stamina, ultrasound technicians will need skills such as:

  • Attention to detail as ultrasound technicians must follow precise instructions to obtain the images needed to diagnose and treat patients and pay close attention to the parts of the body
  • Dexterity, as ultrasound technicians must work accurately
  • Communication and interpersonal skills, as ultrasound technicians must work closely with patients and other healthcare professionals. They will need to reassure patients and clearly discuss the ultrasound results with other healthcare professionals
  • Technical skills, as ultrasound technicians must understand how to operate complex machinery and computerized instruments.
  • Organization and time management skills, as ultrasound technicians will often have busy schedules filled with multiple appointments that they must adhere to

Education

To become an ultrasound technician, you can complete an associates or bachelors degree program in sonography for a college or universities. One-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals. In order to have the best employment opportunities, it is best to enrol in programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Sonography, cardiovascular, and vascular programs usually include courses in anatomy, medical terminology, and applied sciences. Most sonography programs are divided into the specialized fields listed earlier that correspond to the relevant certification exams, such as abdominal sonography or breast sonography. Cardiovascular and vascular programs include coursework in either invasive or noninvasive cardiovascular or vascular technology procedures. Most programs include a clinical component in which students earn credit while working under a more experienced technologist in a hospital, a physician’s office, or an imaging laboratory.

Certifications

Diagnostic imaging personnel who are certified are expected to have the best job opportunities as most employers prefer to hire diagnostic imaging workers with professional certification, or they may expect applicants to earn certification shortly after being hired. Many insurance providers and Medicare pay for procedures only if a certified sonographer, technologist, or technician performed the work.

Most of the certifications are for specialties in diagnostic imaging; for example, a sonographer can earn a certification in abdominal sonography. Most ultrasounds technicians have at least one certification, but many earn multiple certifications. Certification is available from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical SonographersCardiovascular Credentialing International, and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Typically, ultrasound technicians can earn certification by graduating from an accredited program and passing an exam. It is also possible to qualify through alternative combinations of education and experience and then passing an exam.

How to Become

Summary

A career as an ultrasound technician is one that is vastly growing and offers a wide range of development opportunities.

Immediate action

High school students who are interested in becoming an ultrasound technician should consider applying for courses in anatomy, physiology, physics and math.

Education and learning

To become an ultrasound technician, you can complete an associates or bachelors degree program in sonography for a college or universities. One-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals.

Skill development

Ultrasound technicians will learn the skills required through their education. They will also continue to develop skills on the job through certification.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Ultrasound Technician careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33187 Echocardiographer Male 25 $65,000 Austin, TX 01/01/2010
33021 Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Female 52 $22,000 Farmington Hills, MI 01/01/2010

Resources