How to become a sonographer
- "23 High-Paying Jobs That You Can Get With An Associate's Degree," Vivian Giang, Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/high-paying-jobs-with-associates-degree-2013-12?op=1
- Occupational Employment and Wages: Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2016, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292032.htm
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm#tab-1
Many people are familiar with sonograms primarily because they are used to show a fetus as it develops in a mother's womb, but there are dozens of other uses for medical sonography beyond ultrasounds for pregnant women. The noninvasive nature of the technology makes it the preferred method for several diagnostic applications, including viewing organs and monitoring blood flow.
As imaging technology continues to improve, medical facilities will use it to replace more invasive and costly procedures, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is great news for aspiring sonographers, as it means the career outlook is fantastic: 17 percent projected growth nationally between 2016 and 2026, which is more than double the national average for all occupations and adds up to about 21,000 new sonography jobs nationwide.
How to become a sonographer
While there is not one set path to becoming a sonographer, there are some requirements that all sonographers must follow. With job growth expected to rise over the next several years, working on the requirements early may help you prepare for your career in sonography.
- Earn your high school diploma or GED.
- Earn a degree/certificate from a one, two or four-year school.
- Pass the national certification exam.
Educational requirements for sonographers
Diagnostic medical sonographers are also often referred to as "ultrasound technicians," which can be important to know when checking out different sonography degrees and certification programs for the profession. There are a number of different ways someone can become a sonographer:
- Certification programs for people already trained in a medical profession, such as a radiology technician; which typically take about one year to complete
- Associate degree programs, which typically take two years
- Bachelor's degree programs, which typically take at least four years
While you can choose to earn a bachelor's degree to become a sonographer, the most common path is earning an associate degree, and it's one of the better-paying opportunities with a degree at that education level. A Business Insider article titled "23 High-Paying Jobs That You Can Get With An Associate's Degree" features diagnostic medical sonographers as the No. 8 career.
Graduates also need to pass a credentialing test administered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, as well as a specialty examination in a certain field such as pediatrics or obstetrics and gynecology, in order to become a registered diagnostic medical sonographer.
How much can sonographers make?
In 2016, the median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers in the U.S. was $64,280, according to the BLS, and some states have salaries that are even higher. The average annual wage for the top 10 percent of workers was $99,100.
Where can sonographers work?
While you may be able to find a job as a sonographer in any state, certain states have more employment opportunities than others. The BLS reports that the states with the highest concentration of jobs in 2016 were:
- South Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
- New Mexico
Check out the infographic below to learn more about sonography training, education, earnings and advancement opportunities, and to see a complete list of sources.