Ultrasound technicians, who are also called diagnostic medical sonographers, use high-frequency sound waves to capture images inside the body. Their images can reveal the development of babies inside the wombs of mothers or problems with internal organs. Ultrasound technician jobs are essential to the diagnosis and treatment of many health-care problems.
The 54,760 ultrasound technicians across the nation earned a mean $65,800 a year as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest earners received less than an annual $44,950, while the highest-paid made over $90,640 annually. They made less than the average $72,730 yearly earned by all health-care practitioners and technicians, but the broader category also included doctors and surgeons, which were some of the best-paid occupations in the country. Ultrasound technician salaries were far higher than the mean wages for all workers, which ran $45,230 per year in 2011.
Technicians looking for the most jobs found them in areas with high populations. Among states, California showed the most opportunities with 5,320 positions. It also had the best wages at $81,750 per year. Second for salaries was Oregon, with averages at a yearly $80,190. Among cities, the most populous New York City had 2,210 technicians averaging $64,880. However, the best pay was in the San Jose, California, metro area, the center of high-tech and high living costs. Average wages here were $104,130 per year. Vallejo, California, about an hour north by car, showed the second highest wages among metro areas, averaging $102,020 yearly.
The profession requires post-secondary training, which is available from one-year certificate programs for existing health-care workers, such as nurses. Most technicians have associate degrees, and a few go on for bachelor’s degrees. Most employers prefer professional certification in particular specialties, which requires an accredited education and passing an exam. Technicians looking for the most opportunities found them in general medical and surgical hospitals, and in doctors’ offices. The former had 32,900 workers, averaging $65,870 per year. The latter offered 12,920 jobs at a mean annual $66,050. The best pay came from colleges, universities and professional schools, averaging $74,540 yearly.
The BLS expects jobs for ultrasound technicians to jump by 44 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than the 26 percent expected for all health practitioners and more than three times the 14 percent average projected for all U.S. occupations. More patients and doctors are choosing ultrasound technology as a less-costly diagnostic alternative that also avoids radiation exposure. In addition, an aging Baby Boom population will suffer from medical conditions that require sonographers to diagnose and treat. Professionals who receive certification in more than one specialty will find the best job opportunities.