How Do You Become an Ultrasound Technician?

Studying to become an ultrasound technician will make you qualified to operate high-tech imaging equipment to visualize organs and tissues. Also called diagnostic medical sonographers, ultrasound technicians aid in physicians’ diagnostic process by creating detailed internal pictures of tested body regions. Most technicians focus in one healthcare specialty, such as obstetric, pediatric, cardiac, vascular, or musculoskeletal imaging. Ultrasounds are becoming so efficient that they’re replacing more invasive, costly tests. Patient numbers are also increasing with older baby boomers and newly insured individuals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics believes this spells fantastic job growth for ultrasound technicians by 26 percent through 2024. Before you can apply for any of these 27,600 new positions, follow this step-by-step to satisfy the requirements for becoming an ultrasound technician.

Finish Accredited Training

Holding a high school diploma or GED isn’t sufficient for this healthcare career. Ultrasound technicians must obtain at least a post-secondary certificate or associate degree. Your major should be in sonography, radiology technology, or cardiovascular technology. Make certain the program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) for quality preparation. Coursework for two-year associate degrees will cover basics in human anatomy, biology, medical terminology, sonogram equipment, and pathophysiology. Accredited programs include a clinical component for applying skills in an imaging lab. There are currently 41 CAAHEP-approved bachelor’s programs in sonography. Earning this four-year degree will qualify you for greater autonomy and career advancement.

Gain Ultrasound Experience

After graduation, it’s time to develop your resume with relevant experience in diagnostic medical sonography. Many different healthcare facilities hire ultrasound technicians. Begin applying for jobs in diagnostic labs, physician offices, clinics, outpatient centers, and rehabilitation facilities. The highest percentage of jobs (68 percent) are in state, local, and private hospitals. Some aspiring ultrasound technicians also gain their experience by working in the military. Positions are traditionally full-time, but hours can be irregular if working in facilities open round-the-clock. Before the next step, you’ll have to acquire at least 12 months of full-time clinical ultrasound experience. Take this time to fine-tune your technical, diagnostic, analytical, and interpersonal skills.

Pursue Professional Certification

Employers often prefer hiring ultrasound technicians who have earned certification. In fact, some health insurance companies only cover tests by certified technicians. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) is the place to turn. Here you can become a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) and gain a critical edge in ultrasound practice. Having a two-year allied health degree is a prerequisite. Certification will involve passing one of five specialty exams in: Abdomen, Breast, Fetal Echocardiography, Obstetrics & Gynecology, or Pediatric Sonography. There’s also a 110-question Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) exam. These exams come with a $200 fee, or $300 price at international test centers. Certification must be maintained every five years with education.

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Ultrasound technicians are skilled healthcare workers who maximize the use of sound waves to capture picture-perfect images of patients’ internal cavities. They also keep their testing labs in order by organizing medical records, archiving sonograms, and cleaning equipment. Ultrasound technicians need minimal post-secondary education, but unlock an above-average mean salary of $70,880 each year, or $34.08 per hour. If you become an ultrasound technician, you’ll help diagnose chronic to acute medical conditions that aren’t apparent to the naked eye.