Diagnostic medical sonographers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Diagnostic medical sonographers specialize in creating images of the bodys organs and tissues. The images are known as sonograms or ultrasounds. Sonograms are often the first imaging tests performed when disease is suspected.

Diagnostic sonography uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. The sonographer uses an instrument called an ultrasound transducer to scan parts of the patients body that are being examined. The transducer emits pulses of sound that bounce back, causing echoes. The echoes are then sent to an ultrasound machine, which processes them and displays them as images used by physicians for diagnosis.

The following are examples of types of diagnostic medical sonographers:

  • Abdominal sonographers specialize in imaging a patients abdominal cavity and nearby organs, such as the kidney, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or spleen. Abdominal sonographers may assist with biopsies or other examinations requiring ultrasound guidance.
  • Breast sonographers specialize in imaging a patients breast tissues. Sonography can confirm the presence of cysts and tumors that may have been detected by the patient, the physician, or a mammogram. Breast sonographers work closely with physicians and assist with procedures that track tumors and help to provide information that will aid doctors in making decisions about the best treatment options for breast cancer patients.
  • Cardiac sonographers (echocardiographers) specialize in imaging a patients heart. They use ultrasound equipment to examine the hearts chambers, valves, and vessels. The images obtained are known as echocardiograms. An echocardiogram may be performed either while the patient is resting or after the patient has been physically active. Cardiac sonographers also may take echocardiograms of fetal hearts so that physicians can diagnose cardiac conditions during pregnancy. Cardiac sonographers work closely with physicians or surgeons before, during, and after procedures.
  • Musculoskeletal sonographers specialize in imaging muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. These sonographers may assist with ultrasound guidance for injections, or during surgical procedures, that deliver medication or treatment directly to affected tissues.
  • Pediatric sonographers specialize in imaging children and infants. Many of the medical conditions they image are associated with premature births or birth defects. Pediatric sonographers may work closely with pediatricians and other caregivers.
  • Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers specialize in imaging the female reproductive system. Many pregnant women receive sonograms to track the babys growth and health. Obstetrical sonographers work closely with physicians in detecting congenital birth defects.
  • Vascular technologists (vascular sonographers) create images of blood vessels and collect data that help physicians diagnose disorders affecting blood flow. Vascular technologists often measure a patients blood pressure and the volume of blood in their arms, legs, fingers, and toes in order to evaluate blood flow and identify blocked arteries or blood clots in the body.
Education Required
Colleges and universities offer both associates and bachelors degree programs in sonography and in cardiovascular and vascular technology. One-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 17% (Much faster than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
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. Certification is available from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Cardiovascular Credentialing International, and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Median pay: How much do Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists make?
$64,280 Annual Salary
$30.90 per hour

Careers for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists

  • Abdominal sonographers
  • Breast sonographers
  • Cardiac catheterization laboratory technologists
  • Cardiac catheterization technologists
  • Cardiac monitor technicians
  • Cardiac sonographers
  • Cardiac technicians
  • Cardiographic technicians
  • Cardiopulmonary technologists
  • Cardiovascular interventional technologists
  • Cardiovascular invasive specialists
  • Cardiovascular sonographers
  • Cardiovascular technicians
  • Cardiovascular technologists
  • Cardiovascular technologists and technicians
  • EKG technicians
  • Echocardiogram technicians
  • Echocardiographers
  • Echocardiographic technologists
  • Echocardiography technicians
  • Echocardiology technologists
  • Electrocardiogram technicians
  • Electrocardiograph operators
  • Musculoskeletal sonographers
  • Neurosonographers
  • Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers
  • Pediatric sonographers
  • Pulmonary function technologists
  • Registered diagnostic medical sonographers
  • Sonographers
  • Ultrasonographers
  • Ultrasound technicians
  • Ultrasound technologists
  • Vascular sonographers
  • Vascular technologists

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