Ultrasound technicians, professionally referred to as diagnostic medical sonographers, are health care technicians who are trained to operate sophisticated medical imaging equipment. Beyond having the technical expertise required to use and maintain the equipment, ultrasound techs have considerable direct contact with patients, who may be in excellent health or who may be critically ill.
Ultrasound technology is not a career that you can learn through on-the-job training. You'll need formal education, typically at the associate degree level or above. There is no national license required to work as an ultrasound technician, and because the technology involves harmless sound waves rather than potentially dangerous radiation, most states don't require licensure either. Most employers, though, prefer to hire technicians who hold professional certification, such as the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer credential offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
As an ultrasound technician, you must know how to operate and maintain the ultrasound equipment. Much of this training can be gained in school. But diagnostic medical sonography is a rapidly expanding discipline that requires its practitioners to keep up with the latest developments through continuing education.
Ultrasound technology is a hands-on career field. You'll need physical stamina because you will likely be on your feet for long stretches at a time, and you'll need to be strong enough to help lift, move or position your patients to produce the best possible image. Because ultrasound produces a live image, you'll need good eye-hand coordination to generate the most useful image. Tiny factors can have big implications when it comes to medical imaging, so attention to detail is imperative for ultrasound technicians.
Income and Employment
The national mean annual income for ultrasound technologists was $66,360 as of May 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the top 10 percent in the occupation earned $91,070 or more. Diagnostic medical sonography is a rapidly expanding career field. The statistics bureau projects 44 percent growth in new job opportunities for ultrasound techs between 2010 and 2020. Techs who hold professional credentials in multiple imaging specialties should have the best employment opportunities.