An ultrasound technician career is an attractive option for those who are looking for a career in the medical field that provides a good salary and excellent job prospects. Ultrasound technicians (UTs) are also known as sonographers and diagnostic medical sonographers. Ultrasound technicians operate high-tech equipment that aims high- frequency sound waves at a certain part of the patient’s body. The sound waves are reflected back to the equipment, which photographs or records them in other ways for use by doctors in diagnosing and treating the patient. Functioning much like an x-ray, the sonograph gives a detailed picture of the area. The most well-known use of sonography is for examining women during pregnancy, but there are many other applications and the technology continues to adapt to new uses.
Most ultrasound technicians work in hospitals, but some work in laboratories, doctor’s offices, and medical clinics. Unlike x-ray technicians, UTs don’t typically have to worry about being exposed to radiation as a job hazard. And unlike other medical careers, there are usually no unpleasant factors in the working environment. Most jobs will require the UT to be on his or her feet all day, but otherwise the job is not normally overly strenuous. Most jobs are during the day, and consist of the normal 40-hour work week, but some UTs work second and third shifts, or weekends, and some are required to be on call when not at work. These less attractive shifts are normally filled by people with the least seniority.
There are a variety of ways to enter an ultrasound technician career. Many UTs learn the skill while serving in the U.S. military. Others are trained by hospitals, but this option is usually only available to people already employed at the hospital. Vocational or trade schools are another option, but the most common path to employment in this field is earning an associate’s degree from a college or university whose program has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Sonography is one of the few occupations in health care that don’t require being licensed by a state authority. However, most employers prefer to hire only certified ultrasound technicians, and attaining this designation will require taking and passing a test that is administered by ARDMS, which stands for the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. In coming years, it will be more and more difficult to be hired without passing this demanding ultrasound certification exam.
Salaries in an ultrasound technician career are very good and well above the U.S. average for people with associate’s degrees. Most UTs earn between $55,000 and $75,000 a year, with the median income being about $65,000 annually. These are broad averages, so it should be kept in mind that some will earn more while some will earn less. On the whole, ultrasound technician salaries should keep rising steadily for the foreseeable future, mainly due to two factors. The first one is that medical care is expected to be a much bigger portion of the U.S. economy. The second one is that ultrasound technology is spreading. As the technology improves, more applications are found for ultrasound, and prices drop, so there should be far more ultrasound machines in use in the near future than at present. All in all, it’s an excellent time to embark on an ultrasound technician career.