A diagnostic medical sonographer is often the person to watch a pregnant woman’s face light up when she first sees the child in her womb. Sonographers, who typically have an associate degree, are in high demand, with a projected job growth rate of 39 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics -- much faster than average. Salaries reflect the demand but can vary according to employer, work setting and location.
Work Settings Matter
The BLS reports an average annual salary of $67,170 in 2013 for sonographers, although the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography reports a higher figure of $78,520. Salaries ranged from $45,840 to $92,070 in 2013, according to the BLS. Most sonographers work in general medical and surgical hospitals, where salaries averaged $67,540 in 2013, according to the BLS. Physicians were the next largest group of employers, with an average salary of $66,970. Other work settings included medical and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers and colleges, universities and professional schools, with salaries of $65,330, $73,640 and $70,630 respectively.
The Big Bucks
General medical and surgical hospitals might be the most common work setting, but they don't offer the best pay. According to the BLS, the top five high-paying industries or work settings included colleges, universities and professional schools; management, technical and consulting services; management of companies and enterprises; specialty hospitals; and outpatient care centers. Sonographers who worked in management, technical and consulting services earned $71,340 in 2013, while those in specialty hospitals took home $73,220. Outpatient care centers offered the highest salary of all work settings.
Location Matters Too
Location is a major factor influencing sonographers' salaries, according to the BLS. Alabama, the lowest-paying state, offered an average salary of $47,700 in 2013. With the exception of Rhode Island, where the average annual salary was $78,750, all of the best-paying states for sonographers were in the Western United States. Sonographers in Alaska took home $80,400, and those in Washington earned slightly more, at $80,820. Oregon sonographers pocketed $80,830. The top-paying state was California, where sonographers earned an average annual salary of $86,550.
Town and Country
In addition to variations among states, sonographers’ choice of a metropolitan or rural work area can affect their income. The BLS notes that nine of the 10 top-paying metropolitan areas are in California, the best-paying state. Stockton, the lowest-paying city on the list, paid an average of $87,260, while the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City area offered $111,700. Norwich-New London, Conn.-R.I., was the only other metropolitan area in the top 10, with an average salary of $90,910. Sonographers in the northern mountains region of California earned the most of any rural area, with an average annual salary of $93,900.