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We’ve all had that friend who proudly displays their very first sonogram photo of their baby, either on the refrigerator, or increasingly, on Facebook. Sometimes we may not even be able to tell what we are looking at, but the miracle of this first glimpse of life is made possible by ultrasound technology. An Ultrasound Technician is often the person who assists expectant mothers and fathers in viewing their precious children for the first time. They can also help people on the way to recovery with early detection of diseases and cancers.
The primary role of an ultrasound Technician involves using imaging to detect conditions or aid in diagnosis. Unlike x rays or MRI, sonography captures images using sound waves. Pretty cool, huh? Ultrasound technology is most closely associated with obstetrics but it can also be used to detect any internal abnormalities, as well as measuring foreign objects detected, and analyzing the results of sonographic images. Medical Sonographer or Sonographer, or even Diagnostic Medical Sonographer is also used interchangeably with Ultrasound Technician as a job title.
An ultrasound Technician gets to work with high tech equipment that sends the sound waves into the area of detection in the body. A transducer is used to transmit the waves. This transmission is made easier by the application of that infamous freezing cold jelly on your belly or other part of the body. The images acquired from the sonogram are then saved on video, in a photograph, or sent electronically for a doctor to analyze. For some patients, a sonogram can be an emotional time, either full of joy or anxiety, so the Ultrasound Technician will need to clearly explain the procedure and put the patient at ease.
Ultrasound techs need to know what they are looking at, and which images will help the doctor the most with diagnosis. They are responsible for their equipment, and for accurate records of their procedures. Ultrasound technicians can specialize in one of the following areas: diagnostic sonography, abdominal sonography, neurosonography, breast sonography, and vascular/ cardiac sonography.
The work week of an Ultrasound Technician is usually a standard 40 hours, and they can work in several different types of hospitals and health care institutions. Some travel may be required.
Those interested in becoming an ultrasound Technician have several routes to choose from. Registered sonographers will always have the preferential job availability in the field, so it is recommended that you get the right amount of training, education and certification in Ultrasound Technology. Training can come on the job, through a vocational school or at a university. Associates or Bachelor’s degree programs are available throughout the country. Your chosen program should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Those who already hold positions in the health care field may also opt for the 1 year certificate program, to add another skill to their medical career resume.
Keep in mind that a Sonographer license is not a requirement in any state, but it is preferred by employers. Registration involves an exam, but you must first complete training. Certification as an RDMS (Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer) can be obtained through The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) after passing the exam.
Those who wish to specialize can look into certification through The American Registry of Radiologic Technologist or The Cardiovascular Credentialing International.
The salary of an Ultrasound Technician can be quite high for medical career jobs. Salaries can be anywhere from $55,000-$80,000 annually, though most make around $63,000. Couple the ultrasound Technician salary with its historic overall job security, and the outlook for this job is very good indeed.
What is the job outlook? Over the next few years, employment is expected to increase by 18%, an above average rate in the medical field. More doctors and patients are choosing sonography as a less invasive and less expensive method of detection than radiology. The growth of the elderly population and the subsequent need for more diagnostic procedures also guarantees the reliability of a career in ultrasound technology.