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What does an Ultrasound Technician do?

Ultrasound technicians are part of a larger group known as diagnostic medical sonographers. Sometimes also called ultrasound technologists, these professionals operate ultrasound equipment, which uses high frequency sound waves echoing off of parts of a patient's body in order to obtain information on healthy and unhealthy internal conditions.

Ultrasound technicians can work in a variety of fields, including the following:
  • Obstetrics and gynecology: These sonographers specialize in the female reproductive system. The most well-known area of sonography, ultrasounds are administered on pregnant mothers to monitor the health of her unborn baby.
  • Breast sonography: These professionals may work with mammogram technicians in order to detect and study diseases in the breasts, such as breast cancer.
  • Neurosonography: Ultrasound technicians who focus on neurology use sonography on the various parts of the nervous system, including the brain.
  • Abdominal sonography: These professionals specialize in the abdominal cavity and administer ultrasounds on areas such as the kidneys, liver, gallbladder, pancreas and male reproductive system.
Educational requirements

While an advanced degree is not always required, it is usually preferred. However, there are several methods of entering the field of sonography. These include:
  • Formal education: There are hundreds of programs available to students who would like to receive an education in sonography. Students of 2-year college programs will typically graduate with an associate degree, and those in a 4-year program at a university will graduate with a bachelor's degree.
  • Certificate Programs: There are also 1-year vocational programs which are usually pursued by uncertified technicians already working in the field who wish to add formal education to their resumes.
  • Medical industry training: Employers may also prefer ultrasound technicians who have had experience in the healthcare industry or in the Armed Forces, even if they don't have a formal education.
Job outlook

Opportunities for employment and growth in the sonography field are "favorable," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also says that sonography will continue to be an "increasingly attractive alternative" to radiology, with sonography increasingly replacing procedures such as X-rays whenever possible.

59 percent of ultrasound technicians work in hospitals. The others may work in doctors' offices, clinics, diagnostic laboratories or they may freelance, traveling to wherever they are needed.

Communities such as the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, in which students and professionals can network and share information about their field, are also available for support to prospective and current ultrasound technicians.

Salary earning potential

Ultrasound technicians can set themselves apart and increase their earning potential with credentials such as their years of experience, a certificate from a vocational program, an associate or bachelor's degree from an accredited program, or by becoming registered in the field of sonography.

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