National Sonographer Career Outlook
Today, the Sonographer Career Outlook is strong as the healthcare services they provide to countless institutions around the world provide invaluable insights into patient health. Healthcare facilities and centers rely on Sonographers to conduct tests, operate imaging equipment and produce diagnostic images of the human body without use of radiation. These digital imaging professionals, also called Ultrasound Techs, provide these images for Physicians and Surgeons to use to diagnose medical illnesses and conditions. Due to the importance of their work and an increase in demand, approximately 15,600 sonography positions are expected to open over the next decade in the United States.
Sonographers can expect to earn between $50,760 and $99,840 annually. This translates to an hourly range of between $24 and $48 per hour. While these statistics represent national averages, the top paying states for this occupation are California, Hawaii, District of Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Sonographers aspiring to increase their annual wages should consider relocating to one of these states. Overall, Sonographers are among the highest paid healthcare professionals for whom a two-year degree is commonly accepted.
According to the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, the sonography profession has considerably expanded over the last two decades. As technological advancements continue to improve the quality of imaging devices, Sonographers are able to help patients better address symptoms with early detection (and without radiation). These advancements have led ultrasound equipment to become more efficient, generate less heat and become smaller and more easily transportable in the process. With an aging population, there has also been an increasing demand for sonography as an alternative to invasive surgery.
Among the list of 20 “fastest growing occupations,” Sonographers have become essential staff members at hospitals, offices, clinics and other healthcare facilities. Reflecting this demand, the employment of Sonographers is projected to grow 23 percent! The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent. There are both full-time and part-time opportunities. Furthermore, the states employing the greatest number of these professionals are California, Florida, Texas, New York and Illinois. Alternatively, the states with the highest concentration of jobs and location quotients in this occupation are South Dakota, West Virginia, New Mexico, Arizona and New Jersey.
To enter this non-invasive career in healthcare, prospective Ultrasound Techs must pursue either a certificate program, associate degree or bachelor’s degree program. Typically, a certificate program will take one year to complete, whereas an associate’s degree will take two years. A bachelor’s degree will take approximately four years to obtain.
Finding the Right Sonographer Program
Once enrolled in a Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) approved sonography program, students will learn the concepts and skills needed to succeed in this field. Therefore most curriculums include courses on anatomy, vascular technology procedures, laboratory imaging and medical terminology. Many programs seek to ensure that its students are prepared for the many functions of office environments as well.
According to the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, these are some of the essential questions to ask before selecting a sonography program:
- Is the program accredited by the CAAHEP or CMA?
- If the program is not accredited by CAAHEP or CMA, are graduates still eligible to take the ARDMS certification examinations?
- What is the certification examination pass rate of students who have graduated from this program?
- What is the cost and length of the program?
- What degree is awarded upon completing the program?
- What percentage of graduates achieves employment in sonography within six months of graduation?
There are also a number of different specializations when it comes to medical sonography. Sonographers certified in more than one specialty can expect to experience the best opportunities. Through passing the corresponding examination, specialty options include focus on the abdomen, breast, fetal echocardiography, obstetrics and gynecology pediatrics, vascular technology and muskuloskeletal. A midwife sonography certificate exists as well.
What Does a Sonographer Do?
In the field, Sonographers will use these skills to manipulate an instrument called an ultrasound transducer to the parts of the patient’s body that are being examined. This tool emits sound waves that bounce back, resulting in echoes. Echoes are then sent back to the ultrasound machine to be processed and transformed into images.
Sonograms, or ultrasound images, are essential in diagnosing tumors, masses, blot clots and other conditions within the abdomen, breast, heart and blood vessels or of musculoskeletal nature. They can also help Physicians and Surgeons recognize the difference between normal and abnormal tissues throughout the body.
Image quality has also been dramatically improved through more precise equipment settings. However operating sonography equipment still takes a lot of training and practice in order to be done correctly. Today, healthcare favors solutions which are cost and time efficient, pushing ultrasound into the point-of-care setting. The practice also known to cost less than CT and MRI, further pushing healthcare reform to favor the widespread adoption of sonography.
Employment as a Sonographer
Also important to consider when seeking employment in this occupation, the specific industries which employ the highest number of Sonographers include general medical and surgical hospitals, the offices of Physicians, medical and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers and specialty hospitals.Then, the industry with the highest concentration of Sonographers is reported to be medical and diagnostic laboratories, followed by general medical and surgical hospitals, Physician offices, outpatient care centers and specialty hospitals.
Alternatively, few Sonographers choose to be self-employed, but the number who are is expected to rise 18.3 percent over the next decade. Others find employment in administrative and support services, colleges and universities, ambulatory care services and temporary health services. Most employers of Sonographers tend to offer employee benefits like insurance, holiday pay and paid time off.
When actively seeking employment, Sonographers should know that Almost seventy-five percent of ultrasound technicians work in urban areas. To identify open positions, they must check job boards, network with healthcare professionals and connect with members of sonography associations and organizations. Some key professional groups in this industry include The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS), The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM), The Society for Vascular Ultrasound (SVU), The World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology (WFUMB) The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and The American College of Radiology (ACR).
Why Sonography is Such a Reward Career
Through these connections, prospective Sonographers will witness the reward associated with this position. Being able to help patients prioritize their health and reach successful, potentially life-saving outcomes is satisfying and extremely fulfilling. In this career there exists the opportunity for ultrasound career development and the satisfaction of working as part of a dedicated team of healthcare professionals.
Working with a wide array of medical cases also enables Sonographers to help many people of all ages. They rely on their Sonographer to guide them through the imaging experience while providing a sense of ease. A successful Sonographer will utilize their skills of compassion and care together to meet goals. At the end of the day, whether a Sonographer wants to advance their career for prove their effectiveness, continuous dedication to education is key.
Overall, now is a great time to become a Sonographer! If you aspire to work in healthcare, help make a difference in patients’ lives and constantly keep learning and evolving as a professional, you will love an ultrasound career!
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook