Duties and responsibilities
A cardiac sonographers is a specialist ultrasound technician. They use ultrasound imaging technologies to aid the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac conditions in patients. Cardiac sonographers do not actually diagnose patients but they play a central role in detecting issues related to blood flow and heart malfunctions and in supporting physicians as they develop diagnoses and design patient treatment plans. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Conducting medical imaging procedures, such as ultrasounds and echocardiograms to capture images of patients’ hearts and vascular function
- Evaluating the medial images and deciding which ones to save based on image clarity and other functions
- Supporting diagnostic procedures by helping physicians to develop a diagnosis
- Supporting patients, answering their questions and acting as a liaison between patients and doctors
- Maintaining equipment so that it remains functional and reliable
To become a cardiac sonographer, you will need to achieve an associate’s or bachelors degree in sonography or in cardiovascular and vascular technology. Employers typically prefer graduates of programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Alternatively, one-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals.
Cardiovascular and vascular programs include coursework in either invasive or noninvasive cardiovascular or vascular technology procedures. In addition to requiring classroom study, most programs include a clinical component where you will work under a more experienced technologist in a hospital, a physician’s office, or an imaging laboratory.
Most employers prefer to hire cardiac sonographers with a 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. Certification is available from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Cardiovascular Credentialing International, and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Skills and relevant work experience
- Attention to detail as cardiac sonographers must follow precise instructions from physicians to obtain the images needed to diagnose and treat patients
- Physical stamina, as cardiac sonographers will be on their feet all day and may have to lift or turn patients
- Dexterity, as cardiac sonographers must work accurately, using complexed equipment
- Communication and interpersonal skills, as cardiac sonographers must work closely with patients and other healthcare professionals. They will need to reassure patients and clearly discuss the results and solutions with physicians
- Technical skills, as cardiac sonographers must understand how to operate complex machinery and computerized instruments.
- Organization and time management skills, as cardiac sonographers will often have busy schedules filled with multiple appointments that they must adhere to
Cardiac sonographers normally work full time. Occasionally, they may have to work evening, weekends or overnight depending on where they work (e.g., hospital, outpatient center).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual wage for cardiovascular technologists and technicians in the United States was $57,720 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,370.
Cardiac sonographers can progress to more senior positions and can gain more responsibility, such as managing a small team of ultrasound technicians.