How To Become An Ultrasound Technician

An ultrasound technician or medical diagnostic sonographer produces images of the inner body with ultrasound devices.

These technicians utilize imaging technology to detect hard-to-observe medical issues, abnormalities, or body changes.

As a result, they can determine an individual’s health more accurately and assist physicians with identifying health issues.

Without ultrasound technicians and imaging equipment, countless health problems and complications may go unnoticed.

How to Become An Ultrasound Technician

There are numerous steps aspiring ultrasound technicians must satisfy to acquire their degrees and certificates.

It includes acquiring a diploma, satisfying course prerequisites, completing an accredited program, and obtaining certifications.

The following section explores each stage in detail to help you better understand how to become an ultrasound technician.

1. Obtain a GED or Diploma

The first step toward becoming an ultrasound technician is to earn your diploma or GED.

Most colleges and universities require students to have a GED or diploma before joining their institution.

As a result, aspiring ultrasound technicians must meet the educational requirements to participate in their programs. 

Students who’ve met the educational conditions should look for a school with a qualified ultrasound technician program.

2. Complete The Necessary Prerequisite Courses

The next step is to apply to a CAAHEP accredited school offering an ultrasound technician program.

That said, students must complete numerous prerequisite courses before gaining acceptance into the program.

The following list is an example of prerequisite requirements constructed by ultrasound technician schools.

Common Prerequisites:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Biology/Microbiology
  • Intro to Physics
  • Medical terminology
  • Algebra/math
  • English composition
  • Psychology/sociology

Students’ prerequisite courses vary depending on the college/university, hospital, or vocational school.

As a result, you must consult the academy to determine their requirements and meet their demands.

3. Join an Accredited Medical Technician Program

Once you’ve completed the prerequisites, you must complete a two-year or four-year ultrasound technician program.

That said, healthcare specialists with previous degrees may apply for an accelerated program to complete training faster.

Students need to determine their area of specialization before picking a school.

For instance, some programs focus on cardiovascular care or abdominal sonography.

Other programs center on musculoskeletal or neurological sonography.

Researching popular jobs in your area or preferred work location may help determine the specialization best suited to you.

Two-year associate programs educate students on patient care, vascular scanning, ultrasound procedures, ethics, and more.

Four-year bachelor’s programs provide further training and education to obtain advanced positions.

You’ll find accredited ultrasound technician programs at colleges, universities, hospitals, and vocational schools.

You can also search online for educational institutes and healthcare organizations offering ultrasound tech courses.

Additional Resources:

3. Gain Field Experience

During the medical technician program, students obtain hands-on experience.

It enables them to understand how to utilize medical devices properly.

It also teaches them to identify medical issues, understand patient care procedures, communicate effectively, and many other skills.

As previously mentioned, the program takes two to four years to complete depending on the degree.

4. Complete an Ultrasound Technician Certification Exam

Upon completing the program, students may take a certification exam to qualify as certified ultrasound technicians.

You can find certification programs through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).

The American Registry of Radiology Technologists (AART)also offers certification exams for aspiring technicians.

Acquiring certification is extremely important because most employers only hire certified medical technicians.

It’s also beneficial to obtain related credentials to improve your odds of getting hired and earning more money.

Ultrasound Technician Overview

Ultrasound technicians/medical diagnostic sonographers use high-frequency sound waves to produce images of specific body parts.

These images allow them and physicians to detect hard-to-see abnormalities, medical issues, and health problems.

As a result, ultrasound technicians play an essential role in various healthcare settings.

These diagnostic specialists may practice in a particular healthcare domain.

For instance, they work in surgical and urgent care centers to track procedure recovery and detect internal injuries.

They also work in pediatrics, NICU units, and delivery rooms, providing specialized imaging for infants/babies.

Ultrasound technicians utilize diagnostic equipment, coordinate with specialists, and interpret various health issues.

Thus, they receive academic training in sonography, anatomy and physiology, biology, medical terminology, and other topics.

They also obtain numerous hours of clinical experience to ensure they provide adequate patient care and professionalism.

Where Do Ultrasound Technicians Work

Ultrasound technicians work in various settings and specializations to accommodate different patient needs.

For instance, they work at hospitals, physician offices, surgical departments, outpatient care centers, diagnostic laboratories, and universities.

They also specialize in cardiac care, gynecology, pregnancy, abdominal sonography, and other domains.

The type of ultrasounds these professionals perform varies depending on their career and discipline.

Occupational Settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Urgent care centers
  • Physician offices
  • Private practices
  • Surgical departments
  • Colleges/universities
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories

Ultrasound Technician Specializations

Ultrasound technicians with sufficient education and training may specialize in particular domains.

Each domain focuses on a distinct area to help physicians and specialists provide adequate patient care.

For instance, abdominal sonographers use imaging technology to monitor the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and spleen.

Neuro sonographers conduct brain and nervous system observations to detect neurological issues.

The following list includes several different ultrasound technician specializations.

Types of Ultrasound Technicians

  • Abdominal sonographers
  • Diagnostic cardiovascular sonographers
  • General sonographers
  • Musculoskeletal sonographers
  • Neuro sonographers
  • Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers
  • Pediatric sonographers

Depending on an ultrasound technician’s discipline, they may operate in a specific setting or field like emergency care, surgery, pediatrics, or a neurology department.

Work Schedule

An ultrasound technician’s work schedule varies depending on their employer’s needs.

However, the majority of ultrasound technicians work a standard 40-hour workweek.

Numerous healthcare facilities operate on a 24/7 basis due to the nature of patient care.

As a result, technicians in these settings work morning, noon, or night shifts and operate on weekends and holidays.

Those working in physician offices, diagnostic laboratories, or universities typically have more stable hours.

In this case, they generally work Monday through Friday and operate during the day.

Some ultrasound technicians may work weekends if the physician’s office requires them for appointments.

How Much Do Ultrasound Technicians Make?

The average salary for ultrasound technicians in the United States is approximately $80,897.

Level 2 ultrasound technicians earn even more, with a median salary of about $83,629.

Their annual income varies greatly depending on experience, education, certifications, skills, location, and arranged salary.

For instance, the bottom 10% of ultrasound technicians earn about $57,490 annually, while the top 10% make around $102,395.

Some technicians earn six-figure incomes by pursuing further education, certifications, and career opportunities.

They also work in high-paying states/locations and departments where sonography specialists are in high demand.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Ultrasound Tech?

Depending on the degree students pursue, it takes approximately two to four years to become an ultrasound technician.

It takes approximately two years or 24 months to obtain an associate’s degree in a medical sonography program.

The associate’s degree enables ultrasound technicians to enter healthcare quickly and pursue entry-level careers.

Comparatively, a bachelor’s degree in a medical sonography program requires about 48 months or four years.

A bachelor’s degree provides a more comprehensive education enabling ultrasound techs to specialize in various domains.

In addition, ultrasound technicians who obtain a bachelor’s degree earn more money and play more extensive roles.

While pursuing a diagnostic medical sonography degree, students must complete a hands-on clinical externship.

The externship ensures sonography students have adequate training and expertise to perform their duties effectively.

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Ultrasound Technician vs. Sonographer

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How Ultrasound Technology Works

Ultrasound technology uses sound waves to create an image of the inner body.

The oscillating sound travels through the subject’s tissues, and the device measures the time it takes the sound to return.

The device determines an object’s distance, size, shape, movement, location, and angle depending on the wave measured.

It allows physicians, technicians, and nurses to observe what is happening inside the patient in real time.

As a result, they can continuously monitor changes in the subject, such as watching an infant move in its mother’s womb.

The information gathered from the ultrasound is displayed on a monitor as a live visual feed.

That way, healthcare specialists can identify medical concerns undetectable by other healthcare devices and procedures.