The time required to complete a degree program is important, which is why I want to answer the question, how long does it take to become an ultrasound technician? We will also look at a sample job description, salary, and education.
An ultrasound tech is another name for a diagnostic medical sonographer. The position is part patient care and part technical, using medical imaging equipment.
The sonographer uses a wand that directs high frequency sound waves into patient’s body. The sound waves are then translated through the imaging device onto a monitor, which provides a visual image of the interior of patient’s body.
A day in the life of an ultrasound technician
Ultra sound tech education
It takes two years to become an ultrasound technician. You will need an associate’s degree and then will need a certification or license depending on your state.
You do not have to study sonography to get this job, though. Many sonographers graduate with nursing degrees or start as radiologic technologists.
After they have been employed for a few years in those positions, their employer may provide them with on-the-job training. They then would need to pass the certification test or get a license to practice, though.
If you have no medical training, or are just out of high school, you can complete an ultrasound technician degree plan.
Certification and Licensing
After completing the ultrasound technician program and training, you can go through a certification and licensing process, depending where you live.
To become certified, you will need to pass the examinations administered by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
Once you successfully pass the certification examination, you will become a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS).
Some states require licensing of medical sonographers before they can practice. Licensing usually require that applicants have prior certification. Certification and licensing may need to be renewed, but requirements and regulations vary from one state to another.
Sample ultrasound technician degree plan
There are many college that offer ultrasound technician degrees. This is a two-year degree in an associate in applied science.
Curriculum will include general education courses, including composition, physics, humanities, social sciences and speech.
The bulk of the degree program will include courses in human anatomy and physiology, classroom in instruction in sonography theory and lab. Courses will also include ultrasound physics and instrumentation.
But don’t forget about patient care. Operating the equipment is a big part of this position, but so is handling patients.
The education will feature time to learn the material and then time to apply that knowledge in the clinical instruction phase.
Qualities of a diagnostic medical sonographer
An attention to detail is important for this position. A ultrasound tech must follow the doctor’s orders and get an accurate image of the patient’s body. The tech needs to be mindful of healthy and unhealthy areas when doing the procedure because the difference between the two are subtle.
Without interpersonal skills, an ultrasound tech will not succeed. The technician must image patients who may be in extreme pain or distress. They may not be cooperative. The tech needs to work with the patient to get the image.
Digital sonographers spend their work day on their feet; they may also have to move patients to get an image. Stamina is important for this position.
Because medical equipment is complex and computerized, technical skills are important, too.
Sample ultrasound tech job duties
- Take patient history and prepare them for procedure
- Prepare and maintain medical imaging equipment
- Operate and image patient’s body
- Analyze imagery to make sure physicians’ orders are followed
- Record procedure findings and patient records
Although these are broad descriptions, many ultrasound technicians specialize in different parts of the body.
An abdominal sonographer will image organs in and near the abdominal cavity. A technician who focuses on breasts will image breast tissue. Musculoskeletal sonographers focus on muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. Imaging of the brain may be done by a neurosonographer. If you are interested in being a baby ultrasound technician, you will want to consider focusing on obstetric and gynecology.
Other specialty areas in ultrasonography include the following: obstetrics and gynecology, breast, cardiac, abdominal, vascular, abdominal, and other areas. There is ample room to grow into supervisory and educator roles in diagnostic medical imaging.
How much money does a ultrasound technician make?
The annual median salary was $64,380 in 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eighty percent earned between $44,900 and $88,490. Although this is not the highest paying two-year medical career, it does rank well in pay and has a lot of future growth.
The BLS notes that it is expected to grow 44 percent from 2010 to 2020. This means that there will be an additional 23,400 more workers needed.
Where do diagnostic medical sonographers work?
More than 60 percent of ultrasound techs worked in hospitals. But as medical imaging equipment has become less expensive and more widespread, physicians have begun to employ this technology in their offices. As a result, they now account for 24 percent of locations where ultrasound techs work.
I hope this has answered the question, how long does it take to become an ultrasound technician?