How To Become An Ultrasound Technician

How To Become An Ultrasound Technician

Ultrasound technician jobs are plentiful and in high demand. Almost every type of medical facility depends on ultrasounds to detect various benign and malignant conditions. Being an ultrasound technician is perfect for people who enjoy science, health, helping people, and diverse work settings. A knowledge of anatomy and physiology combined with physical agility and manual dexterity are needed to secure an ultrasound technician job. Many medical specialty facilities, including the emergency room, have ultrasound technicians on their teams. Collaborating with radiologists and other healthcare professionals while working in fast-paced and dynamic settings, ultrasound technician jobs are available in almost every size city in the United States.

What is an Ultrasound Technician?

An ultrasound technician is a vital part of the radiology department in hospitals, medical centers, free-standing radiology centers, clinics, and physician offices. Ultrasound technicians are responsible for administering ultrasound technology in a variety of medical conditions such as obstetrics, gynecology, and cardiology. Vascular and pediatric ultrasound training are part of all ultrasound technician programs.

Ultrasounds, also called sonograms, can be utilized to visualize almost any soft tissue, body part or organ except the brain since it is covered with the bony skull. Ultrasound technicians use hand-held devices, called probes or transducers, attached to the ultrasound machine which displays the images on a screen. Ultrasound uses sound wave technology to produce the images that range in colors from black, gray, to white. Ultrasound technicians are considered part an allied health professional, grouped with x-ray technicians, physical therapists, and respiratory therapists. Ultrasound technicians learn how to measure and evaluate blood vessels, look for disease or masses in organs such as the gall bladder, heart, uterus, ovaries, testicles, breasts, kidneys, and bladders.

Ultrasound Technician Requirements

Ultrasound Technician Requirements vary by the program, but associates, bachelors, or one-year certificate programs are available.

  • Anatomy, Physiology, Physics - Anatomy is the study of the appearance, size, and location of all the organs and structures in the body while physiology is the study of how the organs work and what they do for the body
  • English Composition important for charting
  • College Algebra and statistics are ultrasound technician requirements since many calculations and measurements are performed during the ultrasound exam.
  • Speech or Interpersonal Communication Courses - Interpersonal communication is essential since patients are in a vulnerable position during a test and the Ultrasound technician needs to be empathic, interactive, and culturally aware
  • Medical Terminology - Medical terms are often lengthy and hard to pronounce. Learning the proper pronunciation and spelling of these terms are part of Ultrasound Technician requirements.
  • Psychology - Understanding human psychology and the psychology of disease are both important when dealing with people under any circumstances.
  • Sociology - Cultural and social determinants of health affect the access to care and outcomes of various diseases

Ultrasound Technician Degree

Getting an ultrasound technician degree is required to get a job as an ultrasound technician and helps students prepare for their certification exams through the American Registry for Diagnostic Sonography (ARDMS). ARDMS is an independent organization that runs the credentialing examinations in the areas of diagnostic general medical sonography, diagnostic cardiac sonographyvascular technology, physicians’ vascular interpretation, musculoskeletal sonography, and obstetric ultrasound. ARDMS awards 6 credentials, two for physicians or advanced practitioners and four for all others.

Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS): Applicants must possess the required prerequisites and pass two examinations — the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation (SPI) examination and one specialty examination. Specialty areas included the breast (BR), abdomen (AB), fetal echocardiography (FE), obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN), and pediatric (PS)

Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS): Applicants must meet the required prerequisites and must pass two examinations; one is the SPI examination and one in the specialty exam such as adult echocardiography (AE), PE, or FE

Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT): Applicants must meet examination prerequisites and pass the SPI and Vascular Technology (VT) examinations.

Registered Musculoskeletal Sonographer (RMSKS): Applicants must meet the required prerequisites and must pass two examinations; the SPI examination and the Musculoskeletal Sonographer (MSKS) examination.

Ultrasound Technician Certification

Ultrasound Technician Certification programs can range from 1-2 years and are designed for people with experience as an allied health professional.

The accredited programs for ultrasound technician certification are listed on the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), which is the largest program accreditor of the health sciences professions. CAAHEP reviews and accredits 32 health science occupations. 

Ultrasound Technician Salary

The average ultrasound technician salary is $76,500 as of 2020, but the range is between $69,500 and $84,200. Salary ranges vary widely depending on the important factors, including education, certifications, years of experience, location of the service, such as a university setting. Ultrasound technician salaries are highest on the Coasts and Alaska. Massachusetts, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington pay the highest but not as much as California, up to $91,000, but the cost of living may mean that the net effect is the same as middle states’ salaries.  

Ultrasound Technician Job Outlook

The ultrasound technician job outlook between 2014 and 2024 is significantly higher than the overall job market because the number of sonography jobs is expected to increase by 26.4% nationally compared to 6% overall. Another report indicated a 19% increase between 2018 and 2028. Cardiac and vascular technicians will probably be higher due to the aging population and the associated cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, valvular problems, blood clots, and strokes.

If you want an intellectually challenging and physically active job in healthcare where your options are vast, becoming an ultrasound technician is a perfect choice. By being an ultrasound technician, you work with a variety of medical conditions, interact with patients and other medical professionals, provide patients with education about the procedures, and earn a stable salary.

Ready to start job-hunting? Search available positions.

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