Ultrasound is one of the fastest-growing medical diagnostic technologies. The popularity of ultrasound procedures is because they are noninvasive, completely safe and can be performed in a short period of time in most cases. Ultrasound technology has also improved dramatically in the 21st century, with new devices and new techniques making much more accurate, detailed scanning possible. The rapid growth in ultrasound diagnostics has also led to an increased demand for ultrasound technologists and ultrasound technologist training programs.
Education and Certification
Ultrasound technologists or medical sonographers are generally required to have at least an associate degree. Most schools also offer sonography bachelor's degree programs, which give students a chance to specialize in more than one area and offers greater career advancement opportunities. Most employers refer candidates who have earned one or more professional sonography certifications. The American Registry for Diagnostic Sonographers and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists offer certifications, including obstetrics/gynecology, abdomen, pediatric, cardiac or neurosonography.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61 percent of medical sonographers were employed at public and private hospitals in 2012. Another 14 percent of sonographers are employed at doctor's offices, 9 percent are employed at medical and diagnostic labs and 2 percent are employed at outpatient or ambulatory care centers.
Virtually all ultrasound technologists work in a clinic or hospital environment. This means they are usually working in comfortable, climate-controlled conditions, often with easy access to food, coffee or even workout facilities. Sonographers do interact with patients a good bit in performing sonographic procedures, but actually spend most of their time examining the scans in low-light imaging rooms.
Sonographers spend a good portion of their at least eight-hour shifts on their feet. Hospital-based sonographers sometimes have to work odd hours, including nights and weekends. Performing sonographic procedures frequently requires lifting equipment and disabled patients. Ultrasound technologists also spend a lot of time in dimly lit rooms examining scanning images, which can lead to eyestrain.