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How Much Do Sonographers Make?

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Seeing the Things Not Visible to the Naked Eye

As a mom, you may well remember the first time you were able to "see" your baby, thanks to a sonographer and her ultrasound. If you would like to help others see the things they can't view with the naked eye, becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer is an interesting career option with a decent salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual wage is over $60,000 and sometimes over $70,000.

Job Description

Sonographers utilize ultrasound technology, using sound waves, to view a fetus during pregnancy, but also to view other organs. This allows the diagnosis of problems of the abdominal organs as well as issues with blood flow and the brain. A sonographer can also be called an ultrasound technologist, an ultrasonographer or a diagnostic medical sonographer. They all have the same job function.

Those sonographers who specialize in ultrasound pictures of the heart are called cardiac sonographers. Doctors can use these images to diagnose and treat various heart conditions.

Education Requirements

Education requirements for sonographers vary widely between states and employers. Generally, you have to get at least two years of training to be a sonographer and can attend a vocational school for this. However, if you earn an associate's or bachelor's degree, it's easier to get a good position. Colleges and universities offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in sonography, while some one-year certificate programs also are available. Programs often include a clinical component in which students earn credit while working under a more experienced technologist. Sonographers can specialize in one type of sonography such as abdominal, obstetrics and gynecology, or cardiac.

Most employers want to hire diagnostic imaging sonographers who have professional certification. You earn certification by graduating from an accredited program, although it is also possible to get certified through alternative combinations of education and experience. You will need to pass an exam. Requirements vary by state, so contact your state's medical boards.

Although it is easier to get a job as a sonographer with a college degree, you really won't earn much more. With an associate's degree, you can expect to earn $68,871 to $72,545. With a bachelor's degree, your salary will rise to $69,069-$72,871, while a higher degree will augment your salary to the $69,661-$73,415 range.

The median salary for a sonographer is $64,280 per year. Median means that half of the sonographers in the country earn more than this, while half earn less. Salary is determined by education and experience.

About the Industry

A majority of diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals, while most of the rest work in doctor's offices and medical laboratories. A few work in outpatient care centers.

Years of Experience

Experience counts when you are a sonographer. According to PayScale, an entry-level sonographer job (less than five years experience) will pay compensation of $53,000. When you gain five additional years experience, your salary and bonus could rise to $65,000. With a decade or two of experience, you can get $73,000, while those with more than 20 years in the field may earn $74,000.

Job Growth Trend

The job outlook for sonographers is excellent. It is projected to grow 17 percent over the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.